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.
We just might look back and point to the wave of anti-Confederate flag fervor witnessed over the last week as marking the end of the Civil War sesquicentennial (2011-2015). A good case can be made. While the mainstream media has treated the outcry as stemming directly from last week’s shooting, a closer look reveals that the Confederate flag and other iconography have been engaged in a slow retreat from public view for some time. The flag’s retreat is part of a broader shift in our public memory of the war that has gradually taken hold over the past few decades.
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.
In the wake of the horrible shooting in Charleston, South Carolina on Wednesday evening there is a growing chorus calling for the removal of the Confederate from the statehouse grounds in Columbia. A petition is now circulating, which includes 215,000 signatures calling for the flag’s removal and State Representative, Norman Brannon, a Republican announced that he will introduce a bill to make it a reality.