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June 22, 2015

The Confederate Battle Flag: Two Views
Nikki Haley: It's Time to Take the Confederate Flag Down from the Statehouse

Update: As I was posting the Erickson-French debate, Nikki Haley announced that she was calling for the removal of the Confederate flag from the statehouse grounds.

Both opinions are nuanced, but Erick Erickson is mostly in favor of bringing down the flag (at least at the state house), and David French against that.

Erick Erickson:

The Bible tells me to love my neighbor. I have a number of black friends and I do not know any of them who would feel comfortable coming into my house if I were flying the Confederate battle flag. So I don't. In fact, in my life, the people I can think of who proudly fly the Confederate battle flag outside their homes are people in whose yards, let alone houses, I would not feel comfortable.

I think if a Christian is to love his neighbor, he cannot fly a flag that so many of his neighbors associate with the defense of slavery. I agree with my friend Russell Moore in that, but I disagree in that I do think there are places that the Confederate flag is appropriate. I think it is appropriate at Confederate soldiersí cemeteries. I think it is appropriate at Confederate memorials and museums. Frankly, considering a majority of citizens in Mississippi, both black and white, voted to keep it on their state flag, I think it is appropriate there. Mississippi, unlike many Southern states, put the Confederate battle flag on their state flag shortly after the Civil War, not in protest in the 1950ís and 60ís.

Outside of those locations, I donít think it is appropriate. You, like many of my friends and family, may think the Confederate battle flag is a symbol of heritage, not hate. But for millions of black Americans, it is a very real symbol of oppression.

David French:

. The martial history of our family is inseparable from the family story, and it includes men in gray. So Iíve followed this most recent round of debate over the Confederate battle flag with perhaps greater than normal interest. In the immediate aftermath of mass shootings, there is always a demand to "do something."

Always, that demand involves gun control -- typically, gun-control measures that wouldn't have actually stopped the shooting in question. But often there's something more. In the aftermath of the Gabby Giffords shooting, the Left demanded "civility" -- despite zero evidence that the barking-mad perpetrator was motivated by any form of political discourse. Now the demand is to remove the Confederate battle flag from a Confederate memorial in South Carolina (and presumably elsewhere). The Atlanticís Ta-Nehisi Coates, with characteristic vehemence, says, "Take down the flag. Take it down now." His call -- and others -- have resonated around the web. If the goal of our shared civic experience was the avoidance of pain, then we'd take down that flag. But thatís of course not the goal.

There's a disturbing habit on the Left of trying to find the position that renders one especially virtuous in their identity politics culture -- regardless of its real-world impact -- and then sneering from that high ground at all who dissent....

French makes a pretty case for preserving the flag, if a typical one (that is, honoring tradition, honoring those soldiers who fought with valor if not with the right).

If I were to guess -- I'm not southern, so I don't know; I guess -- I would guess that the real reason many support the flag is because they feel besieged, they feel demanded to apologize for things they never did, to view themselves, as a race, as "bad people"...

...and the flag represents, in three colors, the politically-important words "F***. You."

While that's understandable -- and, I often think, vital -- it can't be overlooked that that F*** You is not the only message being transmitted with the Confederate Flag. The left claims that a lot of things are dog-whistles, but it cannot be credibly argued that the Confederate-Flag-as-a-symbol-for-slavery-and-white-supremacy is an implausible, silly one. It's not.

Even if one does not fly the flag with that intent oneself, one cannot credibly claim that the imputation of such a message is unreasonable or fantasized.

I was thinking, hypothetically, of a guy who wears his great-grandfather's ca. 1931 Wehrmacht army shirt. The shirt is pre-Hitler -- just a year or two before Hitlerism, but pre-Hitler. It can't be said to be a Nazi shirt; it was the shirt of the Wehrmacht a couple of years before the rise of Naziism.

And the guy could explain this to anyone who sees him wearing his 1931 Wehrmacht shirt. When they say "That's a Nazi shirt," he can say -- truthfully, accurately-- "No, actually, this is a German Army shirt from two years before Hitler rose to power."

All that would be true.

And yet, this particular guy would be giving signals about himself. No, he's not wearing a Nazi shirt, and no, he's not wearing it to honor the Nazis.

And yet he knows he is plausibly confused with someone wearing Nazi uniforms, for the purpose of celebrating the Nazis.

And he's at peace with that. This is a signal he knows he's giving off, and doesn't seem to mind giving off.

Sure, you can keep explaining to people that this symbol does not symbol what most would take it to symbolize... but it does seem that at some point the most efficient course of action is to stop displaying the symbol, or to adopt a new one.

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