By Jim Kempton
Once again the subject of Confederate flags has stoked a divisive debate.
The arguments on both sides seem to have missed the actual function these flags filled.
Disregard for a moment the fact that these colors were used by a culture bent on continuing to enslave African Americans. Put aside that they are memorials to brave southern soldiers or that they symbolize a way of life that devastated millions of humans by making them chattel.
The larger question is this: Weren’t these flags flown by armies attacking the United States? Weren’t they raised after the bombing of a U.S. Naval port and brandished by assassins of a president? The secessionists express the reason for declaring war on the United States of America was “hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding states to the institution of slavery.”
The justification for displaying rebel ensign on state flags is, “We just want to honor the brave men who fought on the side of the South.”
Memorials to the fallen men are fine. Yet gallantry is not an automatic excuse for celebrating an unjust cause. No doubt there were brave Nazi soldiers, courageous Korean reds, valiant Viet Cong and tough Taliban fighters. Should we have special commemorations and a special flag for each of them?
Mississippi, Arkansas, North Carolina, Alabama and Georgia incorporate rebel banners used to kill “Yankees” and enslave African Americans. Are battle colors used to bomb Fort Sumter any different from Pearl Harbor? Aren’t they the same as a swastika, rising sun or crescent moon of ISIS? Hitler, Tojo, Bin Laden and Jefferson Davis do have one thing in common, they all attacked America.
Invading Rebel regiments tried desperately to reach Washington, D.C. and burn it to the ground. Wouldn’t that be classified today as terrorism? When U.S. citizens today join an opposing army and take up arms against our country, isn’t it considered treason?
My forefathers died defending the Union—and these festivals, license plates and flags celebrate men who bayoneted them. Confederates were responsible for the deaths of over 600,000 Americans. That’s more than Germany, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan combined.
Confederate flag supporters honor ancestors who were on the side that assassinated our greatest president. Wouldn’t they be described in today’s terms as traitors? Rebel armies killed loyal Americans so they could keep their slaves. In the process they tried to destroy the home of the free and the brave. Is not flaunting these symbols a declaration of defiant disrespect to the brave men who still defend us; a statement of arrogant hubris and an insult to the USA?
As with all righteous American wars, the USA and freedom triumphed. The slave owners lost. The greatest nation on earth was saved. If we are true patriots, isn’t that what we should all celebrate?
Jim Kempton is a writer and 35-year resident of San Clemente. He loves southern food, southern music, southern servicemen, southern hospitality, southern horse races, southern humor and Southern Comfort. But he sees no place for Confederate colors in our state capitals.