Flag discussion strikes a chord with readers

Sunday, 12/03/06

The Tennessean asked readers to send us their thoughts on the Confederate flag.
Following are excerpts from their responses:

Is the Confederate battle flag a symbol of hate? No more than the cross is
to these same groups who spew their hatred upon others. Should every church
in America tear down their crosses because a small group of radicals use it
to symbolize their hatred for a brother? Hatred comes from the heart, not from
symbols. When I see the Confederate flag I am reminded of a time period in our
country when brothers fought brothers for ideas and beliefs that they each held
dear. I am reminded, though crushed and bewildered, our country set aside the
hate that tore at the very core of our nation and rose up from the hatred to
be so richly blessed. Today, when I see our American flag I am reminded that
even right now our gallant men and women are still fighting for those cherished
beliefs. But greater still, when I see the cross, I see the one who loves you
and me and who knows no such hate.

Bobby Trail, Manchester

The Confederate battle flag is a crucial element of our state’s history—to
say nothing of our nation’s past. Like it or not, revere it or hate it, that
flag must not be ignored or forgotten or our sense of history, and culture will
be seriously eroded.

In a more practical sense, thousands of tourists visit Tennessee every year
to see Civil War sites, including those in Franklin. Trying to get rid of the
flag will not encourage these visitors to spend their time and money in our
community; giving into revisionist thinking may, in fact, undermine the economic
benefit of tourism. As for those who complain they are embarrassed or offended
by representations of Tennessee’s Rebel past, I point out that we have a First
Amendment that protects freedom of speech. I see things on billboards, bumper
stickers, and T-shirts virtually every day that embarrass or offend me, or that
simply seem in bad taste, but I deal with my unhappy feelings because we all
have rights to self-expression. Efforts to ban or diminish the Rebel flag are
as corrosive to our rights as Americans as they are to our national identity.

Jonathan M. Lampley,

One side says that it’s pathetic how a bunch of rednecks want to keep flying
a symbol of hate that was used to preserve slavery, that I’m a fool for wanting
to fly a flag that represented a lost cause that ended years ago. The other
side says that the flag represents more than just rebellion — it’s a symbol
of the Southern culture and its proud heritage and that I’m foolish to want
to give in to banning this flag, and, if this flag is banned, then what comes
next?. One side says the Civil War was fought over nothing but slavery and,
due to hate groups using this symbol to promote their cause, gives all the reason
needed to ban it. The other side says that the Civil War was fought for a confederate
(states rights) form of government, and, that the hate groups do not represent
the true values of the battle flag.

While I believe that the Confederate battle flag should be used and displayed
for historical accuracy, I do believe that, due to the flag’s past misuses,
it should be limited in usage, while the other symbols of the Confederacy are
showcased instead.

Bryan Collins, Smyrna

From a transplanted Michigander, here’s a perspective about the Rebel flag.
First let me point out as a 58-year-old, I grew up with the Rebel flag being
shown occasionally on pickup trucks and jackets over 50 years ago. It was more
a symbol of freedom and an expression of anti-establishment ( government ).
Hunters, bikers, students, and schools — even in Michigan — used
the flag and term Rebel for such expression. There was not a connection with
slavery or hate for blacks. If this flag design were available during the Revolutionary
War, it could have been the battle flag of the new United States of America.
We were rebels against the Crown. This flag was used during the War of Secession
(what we commonly call the Civil War). There was hate, as in every war … but
there was also valor and honor on both sides. If you were to talk with any long-term
re-enactor, they will tell you they are honoring history and those that fought.
Pride in their state, pride in their region, pride in their history.

Bill Thornton, Franklin

The meaning of any symbol is found in the eye of the beholder. If a person
looks at a Confederate flag and sees a symbol of hate, that is what it is —
for them.

But, if I look at a Confederate flag and see a symbol of courage, devotion
to home and a symbol of my ancestors, that is what it is—for me.

In a nation which guarantees free speech, the person who is offended by a Confederate
flag has no legal or moral right to silence other points of view. That person
alone does not define the Confederate flag.

I oppose those who use the Confederate flag to promote racist ideas, I also
oppose those who would curtail the Constitutional right of free speech by making
a negative view of the flag the only accepted definition.

Michael R. Bradley,

Copyright © 2006, tennessean.com

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