Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Beyond A Battle Flag

It has been startling to see how quickly politicians in Southern states, including Tennessee, have stepped forward to announce that now is the time to finally remove a symbol of the failed Confederate states from government buildings. Quickly, that is, if you jump past the events of the last 150 years since the Civil War ended.

Growing up here in Tennessee, the battle flag was everywhere you looked. It perplexed me that is was so popular - especially when I'd see the image to the right, which was on beach towels, license plates, dinner plates, and on just about anything for sale. That creepy, angry old man defiantly refusing to move past the days of slavery and war and instead holding on to ideas steeped in horror was beyond my understanding. As I got older, I realized that racial hatreds were something a person had to learn from someone - and like many others, I hoped such vile teachers were disappearing. But still they hang on.

Tragically, too many Southerners carry today a wounded pride - and confused a pride in being Southern with a grim notion we should revere a society built on slavery. We should not erase the history of the cause and affects of the Civil War nor should we dismiss the reality that our nation endured beyond that war because we accepted a vital truth - no one has the right to own another human being, and that yes, we strive to create equality for each and every person. This struggle continues around the globe.

Removing governmentally endorsed symbols is a beginning point – but what is urgently needed is a long-overdue re-evaluation of beliefs. Increasing education, decreasing poverty, reforming prison and sentencing policies are just a few of the areas our society must address. 

For Southerners especially, we do have a rich and varied heritage worth celebration, but the legacy we offer needs to be much, much more than a history steeped in slavery.

Us versus Them is no legacy worth leaving future generations