Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson would hang their heads in shame
to see what their flag now symbolizes and whom it represents.
Bush and McCain discussed the flag before a South Carolina Republican
crowd that, with its rowdy howling, nourished by open bars around the debate
hall, did its best to persuade a national TV audience that the South Carolina
Republican Party is a collection of drunken yahoos.
It is not — but it sure lets drunken yahoos call the tune.
Face reality: The Confederate flag is not being flown in South Carolina as
a historical reminder of the gallantry of the South's warriors. It is flown as
a symbol of defiance against Northern-imposed racial equality.
It went up in 1962, in reaction to the sit-ins and court decisions that were
integrating the South.
We are not talking ancient history.
Until the 1940s, South Carolina plantations kept blacks in conditions of
virtual slavery. In 1941, a black worker was sentenced to death because
he shot and killed an overseer who had burst into his cabin with a gun,
trying to force him, at gunpoint, to work on a Saturday. The judge who
initially sentenced Sammie Osborne to the electric chair for his act of
self-defense was Strom Thurmond, S.C.'s Republican senator to this day.
Former Education Secretary William Bennett, an adviser to both Bush
McCain, chided them for waffling on the flag dispute. "What that flag stood
for was slavery and the separation of the Union," he said on CNN.
"And that, I think, is not something to be flown or to be hailed or to be saluted."
Bennett is an honest man and an honest conservative.
It must pain him to realize that white South Carolinians call themselves
conservatives and embrace the Republican Party in large part because it is so
tolerant of bigotry.
The Confederate battle flag may have once symbolized the bravery of
boys who died under it. But it has been hijacked in the same way the
Ku Klux Klan tried to hijack the cross.
Now it stands for racism.
Original Publication Date: 01/19/2000