This has been a tough week for folks who reduce the history of the South and Confederate heritage to the display of the flag. Yesterday evening the Danville City Council passed a flag ordinance with a vote of 7 to 2 limiting the flying of flags on city-owned property to the national, state, city and MIA/POW flags. I believe this is what the city of Lexington did as well to bring closure to this issue.
Update: I totally called it. The Confederate flag was intended to honor the men of the 54th Massachusetts and was not a pro-Confederate statement.
Late last night a Confederate flag was discovered displayed on the Shaw Memorial on Beacon Street across the street from the Massachusetts State House. The flag remained displayed for a couple of hours before police arrived. While it is unknown who placed the flag on the monument or for what purpose it does not appear to be a pro-Confederate flag message. The flag is clearly dangling from Colonel Shaw’s sword. It certainly does make for a powerful image.
Most people know the story of the 54th Massachusetts from the movie “Glory”. The movie’s narrative ends with the regiment’s failed assault at Battery Wagner, outside of Charleston, South Carolina in July 1863. What often goes unnoticed, however, is the crucial role the regiment – along with its sister regiment, the 55th Mass. – played during the immediate postwar period. Both regiments were stationed in South Carolina from April through August 1865. Their responsibilities included managing relationships between former slaves and owners to ensure the arrival of a new crop and safeguarding government buildings and supplies. Most importantly, the two regiments played a vital role in protecting former slaves from their former masters who hoped to rebuild white supremacy on a new foundation. Continue reading “54th Massachusetts Called to Duty Once Again”→
This morning Bree Newsome scaled the gate around the Confederate flag in Columbia, South Carolina and removed it. She was aided by an individual, who apparently disguised himself as a maintenance worker.
I assume a legal fund will be created on her behalf and I hope lawyers will step up to the plate and take on her case pro bono.
What a wonderful example of our long history of peaceful protest.
In the wake of 9-11 very few Americans shuddered at the idea of trying to explain why terrorists flew planes into buildings. It was not enough to say simply that they ‘hated us’. We wanted to know why. In the months that followed the mainstream media and commentators of all stripes looked into the immediate and remote past to try to understand why such a horrific event occurred. There were few, if any outcries that this somehow disrespected the memories of the victims. In fact, many considered it a fitting tribute as well as a necessity – even as a matter of national security. That was certainly the case for me as I both mourned the loss of my cousin, who was killed in the South Tower, and struggled to understand the relevant history.
We can do the same for the nine men and women whose lives were cut short last week in such a brutal and senseless fashion. It’s not enough to say that Dylan Roof hated just as it was not enough in the case of the 9-11 terrorists. Roof hated for a certain reason and he told us in explicit language. His hate was built, in large part, around a certain understanding of the past and wrapped in the iconography of the Confederacy. As a nation we have a responsibility to come to terms with all of this.
We honor the victims by grappling with these very thorny issues and asking the tough questions that all too often hide behind platitudes and a self-serving politics. Let’s keep going.
Later this afternoon South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley will announce her support for the removal of the Confederate flag from the state house grounds in Columbia. Lindsey Graham will also make the same announcement after his earlier and even expected waffling. Additional calls for its removal have come from other state politicians as well as the president of the University of South Carolina.
It should come as no surprise that I applaud this move and even consider it a courageous decision. Republicans and other conservative voices will have to deal with the fallout from their constituents who continue to identify with the flag.