Father of Confederate Flag Waving Daughter Responds

Over the weekend I was contacted by Ronald Creatore, whose child was photographed waving a Confederate flag on the Gettysburg battlefield as part of a school trip. After exchanging a few blog comments and emails I decided to extend an invitation to write a guest post. Below you will find his response to a post I wrote that explores what I believe is the correct context of the photograph in question.

First, in your online reply to me you make the point that your www.cwmemory.com website is “not a newspaper, (but) a blog.” I understand the distinction. Your blog gives you the right to post whatever opinion you wish to convey. I respect your right to do that, however, you impress me as a serious academician, and as you are a PhD MA graduate of the University of Richmond with an impressive list of publications, I would anticipate that you would want to engage in the type of ethics and integrity in research and publication that is expected of a serious academician. To ensure this integrity, in my opinion, requires a more in-depth understanding of both sides of a particular issue before you can contribute something of value to the public discourse, and given that you hadn’t attempted to reach out to me to understand my point-of-view on the “context” issue, I felt that this failure fell short of the standard that you would set for yourself as an academician. This point is moot now that you have graciously offered to engage in this dialogue, and given that you have extended the opportunity for me to provide a guest posting.

Regarding the issue of the photo being taken “out of context,” it is perhaps instructive for me to convey my position by way of a hypothetical analogy. For this hypothetical analogy, consider for a moment that you are a second-generation Christian family whose ancestors were subjected to the horrors of the Holocaust in Poland. You have had the good fortune of being born in the United States, are a devout member of the Christian community, and enjoy a comfortable upper-middle-class life with your spouse and three children. You have raised your children to understand their heritage because that is what you know. While you teach your children to be respectful of the heritage of others, you don’t know the heritage of others as well as your own, and as such, you rely upon those educating your children to develop and teach curricula that expose your child to all unique perspectives.

One of your children is a 17 year-old boy who has never been in trouble, does very well in school, is actively involved in sports and other school-sponsored activities, and counts amongst his many friends people of all color and creeds. Your son has been accepted into the hometown university, and is looking forward to joining the university baseball team. During your son’s senior year in high school, the spring play is The Sound of Music. Your son tries out for the school play and is awarded the role of Rolf, the German boyfriend of the eldest daughter Liesl. You are happy that your son can pursue his passion for acting, and he is quite excited to prepare for the role, studying the script every day for the better part of three months. The play is a smash hit which is well-received in the community. The school newspaper publishes a photograph from a scene in the play, and the photograph displays a Swastika. The accompanying article explains that the play was extremely well-performed, and that due to overwhelming demand, there were additional performances that had not been originally scheduled. There is no negative reaction to the publishing of the photo of Swastika in the context of performing The Sound of Music.

The drama teacher is so impressed with how the children prepared for and performed the play that he thinks it is a great idea for the children to put the play on in Austria, which is the original setting for The Sound of Music. The children are excited at the prospect of traveling to perform the play, so they set out to raise the funds to travel to Austria during Spring Break. The drama teacher is able to schedule the performance of the play at the world-famous Vienna Opera House, which adds to the excitement of the children. The play in Austria is every bit the success that it was when it was performed at the high school.

After the play, but before taking off his uniform [including the armband displaying the Swastika], your son and a few friends [some of whom happen to be Jewish] have their photo taken by another student. Your son likes his photo enough that he posts it to Instagram account with the statement “Rockin’ the Rhineland.” Another person back home, whose identity is perhaps not known to your son, sees the picture on Instagram, notices the swastika and comments “Heil Hitler. Death to the Jews.” Your son is aghast that his photo has been so misconstrued so he immediately types ^^ NO NO” as an attempt to convey that he was not making this type of statement by posting the photograph. Your son immediately begins to get negative feedback via social media, including comments calling him an “anti-semitic homosexual,” “dick,” “faggot”, etc., and because of the misunderstanding over the contextual backdrop of how the photo came into existence, as well as due to the overwhelming negative reaction, your son takes the photo down within 5 minutes of its original posting.

Unbeknownst to your son, a student at another local school sees the original Instagram posting. Even though this student knows that your son was participating in the performance of The Sound of Music in Austria, this student immediately takes a screenshot of the photo, including the derogatory comment “Heil Hitler. Death to the Jews.” This student from the other school Tweets out a copy of the screenshot with your son’s name and social media information, but even though she knows that your son was acting in the role of Rolf in a performance of The Sound of Music, she makes no mention of the context behind the photo. Shortly thereafter, your son begins receiving additional vitriolic comments from 100’s if not 1000’s of people streaming through all channels of social media. Your son, being hours away from your counsel and simply wanting the hateful language to stop, quickly drafts an apology and posts that apology to Facebook. The apology is not all that well thought-out, is made in the heat of the moment, and has a bit of a defensive tone to it because of how vitriolic and hurtful the comments have been. Total lapsed time from the posting of the original photo to the posting of the apology is 10 minutes.

After returning home from Austria, you meet with the Principal of your son’s school. The Principal assures you that he [and the school system administration] understand all of the facts surrounding the photograph, but that he has heard some rumblings that some Jewish children and other members of the Jewish community are upset by the manner in which your son appeared in this photograph callously displaying the Swastika. The Jewish children have come up to your son and said “[w]e know that you are not anti-semitic, but the photograph upset our parents, and as we discussed this further with our parents, we became upset as well.”

The Principal assures you that there is nothing that your son needs to worry about relative to negative repercussions from the school system. However, because of longstanding issues of alleged religious bias that exists between the school system and the local Jewish community, the school is hesitant to make any public statement acknowledging that your son was involved in a school-sanctioned activity under the direction of his drama teacher, nor will they acknowledge any of the specific facts explaining why your son was wearing a Swastika or that the school system actually owned the Swastika as a period-specific prop for a school-sanctioned play. All that the school system will say is that your son was participating with a group of students traveling to Austria when the photograph was taken, and that they have reviewed the matter and taken appropriate action.

Your son, saddened but ready to move forward and finish out his senior year, attempts to return his focus towards completing his senior year so that he can move on with his life. Because of the lack of disclosure by the school system, your son continues to receive negative social media posts containing vitriolic language. Your son moves on with his life having learned a valuable lesson, though he remains worried that the university may retract their admission offer, or that the baseball coach might retract his offer to have your son on the team. Within the next few days, the athletic director at the university sends word to the baseball coach that there is an issue that the athletic director has heard about – the issue appears to be that one of the incoming baseball players has posted an inappropriate photograph on social media with an inflammatory comment. The baseball coach investigates the matter and realizes that your son did nothing wrong as he was engaged in a school-sanctioned event and that the Swastika was a prop owned by the school used in the performance of a school play.

About a week passes before your find out that the local Jewish synagogue displayed a copy of the photograph and comments before a packed synagogue as part of a discussion about how people of the Jewish faith still suffer extreme prejudice within the community. Some of the Jewish parents who have had issues with the school system over a perceived bias against the Jewish community by the school system contact the Jewish Anti-Defamation League [“JADL”], and although these parents know the facts surrounding how the photograph came into existence, they convince the JADL that the school system’s refusal to punish your son represents yet another chapter in the longstanding bias that the school system has displayed when it comes to matters offending those of the Jewish faith.

The parents and the JADL begin to contact local media outlets, and again, without explaining the contextual backdrop of how the photo came into existence, the parents and JADL begin a campaign to use the photograph, and the school system’s refusal to take action against your son, as a clear sign that the Jewish community is suffering prejudicial treatment at the hands of the school system. The parents and the JADL are making demands that include, but are not limited to, the suspension of your son from school. These demands are being made even though the parents and JADL have been told the facts surrounding how the photograph came into existence, and even though the parents and JADL have been told that your son is not anti-semitic.

After the local media outlets begin to air these one-sided reports, the parents and JADL schedule a press conference during which they read from prepared statements. Again, the prepared statements provide none of the factual context about how the photograph came into existence. The prepared statements do not acknowledge the opinion of the speakers that your son is not anti-semitic. The prepared statements make no mention whatsoever of any of the exculpatory information that is so important to having a complete understanding of the exactly what is transpiring – that is, the parents and the JADL do not want the public to know that they are purposely, wantonly and willfully misrepresenting what your son has done for the sole purpose of enabling them to advance an agenda [their desire to bring about change to what they believe is longstanding bias in the school system]. They are sacrificing your son on the altar of their cause, without any concern whatsoever that your son is being harmed by the fact that he is being used as a pawn in their game of chess.

So, when I say that the photograph is being taken out of context, I am not speaking to “context” in the sense of what the Swastika means to the Jewish community [there is no denying the horrors that the Swastika symbolizes to the descendants of all people killed by the Nazi regime], I am speaking to “context” in the sense that the parents and JADL are saying that their agenda is to solely to punish your son for his insensitivity in displaying the Swastika, when in actuality they are using your son as leverage in their pursuit of an entirely different agenda, which is to force the school system to make changes to address what are perceived to be longstanding inequities in the school system [lower test scores by Jewish children, perceived insensitivity to the Jewish viewpoint on subjects being taught in the school system, etc.]. It is, in a sense, akin to a magic trick where the magician employs sleight of hand. The parents and JADL are holding out your son’s photograph and stating that they are concerned about the insensitivity displayed therein, while the other hand is working on the real agenda, which the activist parties are disingenuously failing to disclose.

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42 comments… add one
  • Marian Latimer May 11, 2015 @ 15:17

    I’m not sure if this is pertinent or not, but it was in the local Sunday paper which I did not read until today.


  • James F. Epperson May 11, 2015 @ 11:09

    Like several folks, I was a little put off by the lengthy analogy (it simply did not work for me), and like several others, I am infinitely glad that social media did not exist when I was in high school. (I got in enough trouble as it was … ) I also was troubled by the apparent complaint about “agendas.”

    That said, I see no point in anyone being “punished” for this incident, I think it should be used as a teaching moment and learning experience, not only about American history, but about the perils of social media.

    If the school has been using the CBF on its website for 2+ years, then (a) that may explain some of the heat coming from the NAACP; (b) I agree with Mr. Creatore that it is difficult to “blame” his daughter for anything—I think the school officials who made that decision have some explaining to do.

  • Larry Cebula May 11, 2015 @ 10:17

    I am very surprised to learn that the high school was staging an adaptation of The Sound of Music set in the antebellum South. Or something.

  • Al Mackey May 11, 2015 @ 7:53

    I’m glad cell phones with cameras and the internet weren’t around when I was a teenager.

    • msb May 11, 2015 @ 8:23

      me, too – not to mention amateur and professional trolls!

  • Ron Creatore May 11, 2015 @ 7:44

    Bryce, I agree with your sentiment, though the “simple thoughtless act” is (or should be, in my opinion) tempered by the fact that the school allowed a photo of the Rebel flag and the article entitled “The Confederate Flag is a Symbol of Heritage, Not Hate,” to be displayed on its website since 12/29/2012. If for most of your high school experience the school newspaper published this article and photo on its website without protestation, why would it appear to a 17 year-old that her own photo with that same flag, taken while on a school-sponsored educational trip after completing an exercise where her teacher instructed her to carry the flag, would be found by the community to be objectionable ?

    • Bryce Hartranft May 11, 2015 @ 10:42

      Agreed that the girls had every reason to believe what they were doing was acceptable, but that is why this story has garnered so much attention. This is, or at least should be, a story about the system that led to the event, not the kids who perpetrated it.

      • MSB May 11, 2015 @ 12:48

        Well said. From what I’ve seen (mostly here), the change from the school environment, where the flag and statements appear to be no big deal, to a wider environment, where many people think quite differently, seem to have touched off the explosion, and the social media setting seems to have obscured the school’s role (except to Kevin, whose eye has been on that ball from the start). That’s a shame, in view of the importance of education on this issue, and of the awful experience of being a child at the centre of a storm like this. “I didn’t know it was loaded,” is much more believable from a child than an adult, particularly an educator.

  • tmheaney May 11, 2015 @ 6:54

    As the father of a couple of boys who occasionally do less-than-smart things, I empathize with the father. But when one wanders off and ends up blaming the situation on nefarious organizations with “agendas,” you’re really in danger of losing me and the argument. And when you fictionalize those other people into the “Jewish Anti-Defamation League” that’s just kind of creepy. (And it is called the Anti-Defamation League or ADL, not the JADL.)

    Ultimately, I’m less concerned about the kid’s picture than about the pedagogy involved, but the father’s posting has left me scratching my head.

    • Ron Creatore May 11, 2015 @ 8:42

      Tmheany, I appreciate your viewpoint. However, while your “boys occasionally do less-than-smart things,” and while my children do as well, I do not believe that my daughter has done anything wrong in this situation. I’m not a conspiracy-theorist by nature, but the questions I raise given all of the facts that have occurred in our situation (i.e., the fact that the trip has been conducted the same way for 30+ years and African Anerican children have previously participated and held the flag; the fact that the girls were engaging in a school-sponsored educational event using school-owned flags under the direction of their teacher; the fact that a photo of Rebel flag and an article entitled “The Confederate Flag Represents Heritage, Not Hate” and been published on the school website for 30 months prior to this event without protestation from the community) are:

      Why here ?

      Why now ?

      Why us ?

      In light of all of the facts that I have outlined above, and in light of the recorded statements that I have heard from the NAACP and its supporters (again, many of whom have gone on the record as stating that they know my daughter is not a racist), how do you answer my three questions without arriving at the conclusion that my daughter is being used as a pawn for the NAACP to attempt to effect change within the school system on issues such as disproportionate rates of suspension/expulsion, lower test scores for African American students, etc.

      If the worse that you can do is to refer to my incorrectly appending the word “Jewish” to the “Anti-Defamation League” as “creepy,” then I’ll lay claim to success in the debate.

      Lastly, if you truly are interested only in the pedagogy then the simple takeaway for you is to instruct your sons to never participate in a Civil War re-enactment as a member of the Confederacy, and further, never allow your sons to act in The Sound of Music. While I’m sure that I could come up with a host of other examples of innocent activities that neither you nor your children should engage in lest you become falsely accused of being something that you are not, I’ll stand down and allow you to scratch your head and ponder what pitfalls of this nature could possibly belie your family in the future.

      • Kevin Levin May 11, 2015 @ 11:52

        I can’t explain why complaints were not voiced earlier, but what we now know is that the presence of the flag on this trip is considered to be offensive and for very good reasons. I think a good case can be made (based on some of the interviews that I’ve seen) that the local branch of the NAACP reacted inappropriately, but you appear to be bordering on dismissing the reactions to the flag with the back of your hand.

        • Ron Creatore May 11, 2015 @ 12:52

          As it pertains to my daughter I definitely am dismissing the reactions to the flag outright given the totality of the circumstances.

          1. Prior Precedence;
          2. Context of how the photo came into existence given that she was reenacting a battle scene using school-owned property in accordance with the instructions of her teacher;
          3. Lack of intent on behalf of my daughter;

          If looking at the flag on its own merits (or some may say ‘lack thereof’), I still have difficulty with the negative reaction for these reasons:

          A. Slavery was not the sole issue involved in the Civil War. Yes, the abolition of slavery was a very important result that came about from the defeat of the Confederacy, however, I’m sure that there was a great number of non-slave-owning white people who were truly fighting for the Confederacy because the South was where their family and property were located, and this is where their livelihoods were earned. These individuals needed to ensure that the Confederacy did not lose the war for fear that they would lose their property and livelihood. The fear would have been reasonable because of the adage that to the victors goes the spoils.

          The non-slaving-owning Confederate soldiers could never have known that in losing the Civil War the Union would allow them to maintain their property and their livelihood. I’m sure that if this point was made abundantly clear to them at the time the war was underway that non-Soave-owners would have abandoned the war and told the slave owners that they were not going to die so that the slave owners could continue to own slaves. If these non-slave-owners were righteously fighting for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, who am I to tell their descendants that they cannot take pride in their heritage if their ancestors were fighting the war for a righteous purpose and not for the purpose of maintaining the right to own slaves ?

          B. Other African Americans freely display the Rebel flag without protest from the NAACP. I think that allowing one race or class of people to practice a free speech right with impunity, while shaming another race or class for undertaking the same activity is hugely problematic–both from a Constitutional standpoint and simply from the standpoint of fair play and equality.

          This is probably the biggest determinant for me. The “do as I say, not as I do,” command has never sat well with me. Please understand, I am not a Confederate sympathizer. I have never owned a Rebel flag and have no interest in acquiring one. I was born and raised in the North, and can honestly say that I’m not even pro-Union. I consider myself pro-American.

          However, I bristle at being told by the African American community that the Rebel flag is a symbol of racism and hate, and that I would offend them if I chose to exercise my First Anendment right to display the flag, while some members of their own community do not subscribe to the belief that the flag symbolizes racism and hatred, so they get to display with flag without suffering repercussion.

          Either we all get to display the flag if we choose to, or none of us get to display the flag. I’ll all for saying that nobody can display the flag, but until there is a law that states this rule, I have to support the right of others to display the flag, no matter how distasteful that might be.

          • Kevin Levin May 11, 2015 @ 13:02

            I am sorry to see that you’ve gone from defending your daughter from a school which has probably mishandled this situation to lecturing me on a history that you don’t appear to know much about. Perhaps you can tell me what scholarly sources you are basing your judgments upon.

            There are cases of African Americans who closely associate with the Confederate flag. One of them is H.K. Edgerton who hails from North Carolina. That said, it is clear that the majority of African Americans and more and more white Americans associate the flag with an army that functioned as the extension of a government pledged to protect slavery and as a symbol of “Massive Resistance” to civil rights.

            Either we all get to display the flag if we choose to, or none of us get to display the flag. I’ll all for saying that nobody can display the flag, but until there is a law that states this rule, I have to support the right of others to display the flag, no matter how distasteful that might be.

            As a lawyer I hope you would defend an individual’s First Amendment rights, but that is entirely different from acknowledging its history.

            • Ron Creatore May 11, 2015 @ 14:04

              Kevin, my issue is not with the NAACP or any other group for taking the position that what the Rebel flag represents is negative and should not be displayed. My issue is with the selective protestation that has occurred. Either the NAACP and affiliated parties must equally shame ALL individuals who display the flag (including African Americans such as Kanye West, et al.). If they do not equally go after ALL offenders, in my opinion they lose the legitimacy to go after ANY offender.

              “I’m sorry to hear that you’ve gone from defending your daughter . . . . to lecturing me on a history that you don’t appear to know much about.”

              First off, I reread my post that you were responding to and I fail to see how anyone could say that I was “lecturing you.” I’m not sure what negative chord I struck with you in this post, but before I go to the time and effort of defending my position why don’t you tell me with specificity what exact comment I made that is unequivocally contrary to a universally-established truth ?

              • Kevin Levin May 11, 2015 @ 14:31

                I guess I don’t understand why you have transitioned from defending your daughter and criticizing the school to engaging in a discussion about Confederate soldiers and the place of slavery in the broader context of the war. This marks a sharp transition.

                I am happy to recommend books on the subject and North Carolina’s Civil War, specifically, if interested. On the history and legacy of the Confederate flag, I highly recommend John Coski’s The Confederate Battle Flag: America’s Most Embattled Symbol (Harvard University Press).

                Let me say, that I am very pleased with this overall discussion and I am glad you took the time to write the post.

                • Ron Creatore May 11, 2015 @ 17:58


                  Thanks for suggesting the book by John Coski. I will read it so that my opinions are fully-informed.

                  You stated “I guess I don’t understand why you have transitioned from defending your daughter and criticizing the school to engaging in a discussion about Confederate soldiers and the place of slavery in the broader context of the war. This marks a sharp transition.”

                  I don’t view my comments about what may have motivated some Confederate soldiers, or the expression of my viewpoint that the Civil War involved issues in addition to the issue of slavery as being a “sharp transition,” but rather, a mere extension of my other commentary. As an attorney, I have been trained under a classic Socratic method, which has trained me to be prepared to argue two equally opposing views at any given moment irrespective of whether I agree or disagree. Certainly, having a strong agreement or disagreement with a particular subject may make my argument more passionate or stimulating, but irrespective of my own personal feelings, I have a duty to advance every plausible argument for/against any particular subject. Because of my training, I feel comfortable, in the absence of complete information, to draw upon my own experiences as a human being to fill in the edges of my argument.

                  As a historian and academician you have been trained to engage in continuous, methodical research of a particular category of past events—in your case, you are an expert in the Civil War era. From my perspective, you are a bit hamstrung when it comes to practicing your profession because of a lack of information. For instance, because the Civil War was approximately 150 years ago, before we were able to so easily use video and audio as a means of memorializing every aspect of the minutiae of our daily lives, there were many people involved in the Civil War whose viewpoint was simply never recorded. Because many people from the Civil War era lacked the ability to read or write, and because there was no means to preserve video and audio commentary of those individuals, you are working from a deficit of information. Unlike my profession, I believe that your peers would disapprove of you interjecting your personal experiences in your interpretation of history.

                  So what’s my point ? Human nature being what it is, if a man living in a Confederate state during the 1850’s [a man that did not own slaves] had all of his net worth tied up in his home and land, if his family and friends were in the South, and he made his livelihood in the South, what real choice did he have to refrain from fighting for the South ? It seems to me that he had three alternatives; (1) Be a pacifist and refuse to fight for the South, which would most likely result in the destruction of his property and the death of himself and his family at the hands of his fellow Southerners; or, (2) Give up all of his property, his livelihood and his relationships to move his family to the North [where he most likely would have been viewed with suspicion by the Northerners]; or, (3) Fight for the South in an attempt to preserve his land and livelihood, while ensuring the safety of his wife and children.

                  The literary definition of a “hero,” is a man who takes a course of action knowing that it will result in his death. There aren’t many real-life heroes because the vast majority of humans have a primal basic instinct that focuses on self-preservation. To my way of thinking, this primal basic instinct translates into very few Southerners who would choose alternative 1, perhaps a slightly higher percentage of Southerners who would choose alternative 2, with the balance defaulting to alternative 3. Can I document this argument with precise historical evidence ? No, that evidence was never recorded. However, I’m reasonably confident that for the vast majority of Southerners who did not own slaves [I have been told that approximately 92% of the Southern population did NOT own slaves], they were left with little choice but to fight for the South. They may have been hypocrites for having to fight for something that they did not believe in, but ipso facto, being a hypocrite does not make one a racist.

                  Does this mean that their choice to pursue alternative 3 disqualifies their descendants from honoring their heritage under the flag for which they gave their life ? I say “no” – they should be allowed to honor their heritage using the Rebel flag if their descendant’s participation in the Civil War as a Confederate soldier was not undertaken for the purpose of preserving slavery. Whether or not I am an expert on the Civil War, I understand the real human choices that needed to be made and far be it from me to question the choices that a man makes to protect his home, livelihood or family. Especially in light of what my daughter and family have experienced over the course of the last few weeks.

                  • Bryan Cheeseboro May 12, 2015 @ 9:16

                    Hi Mr. Creatore,
                    I’m very sorry to hear about the troubles you and your family have faced from this incident. I sincerely hope that relief from this situation comes to you as soon as possible and that none of this leads to continued verbal harassment and certainly no physical harm to anyone.

                    I’m very proud of you for your efforts in standing up for and protecting your daughter, as a father should do. I have two daughters myself and God forbid anything like this ever happen but if it did, I hope I would be ready to stand behind them as you have done.

                    I also read what you wrote about non-slaveholding Southerners- 92% as you believe- fighting for or supporting the Confederacy because it would have been too difficult to oppose the CSA due to societal pressure. Many people have used this argument before. But my problem with this argument is that it’s very misleading. It portrays non-slaveholding Whites as if slavery had nothing to do with them at all and it it did not affect them in any way, shape or form. First off, people didn’t have to own slaves to rent them; or to run slave auctions; or to place ads for runaways in the newspapers they printed; or to be in the business of catching runaways. And the 92% stat itself is misleading. If a man and his wife have ten kids and they own slaves, some people have chosen to see the man as the only slaveowner, as if the other nine people in the family have nothing to do with it. But regardless, if 92% of people really didn’t own slaves, I think it’s very curious that 8% of people really held that much power to control what the vast majority did. Sounds like it was a society based on slavery, which is what it was; which is what every Confederate ultimately supported. Now, that does not mean they were all monsters or evil, sadistic racists. But it does mean that slavery was THE reason and the lifeblood for their rebellion.

                    For me, rather than focus on the number of people who owned slaves, I always try to stick to the number of people who were slaves. By 1860, it was 4 million. Does it really matter if they were owned by 4 million people or all by one person? Anyway, I’d appreciate if you could think for a minute how many of those slaves were husbands and fathers. With a Supreme Court that said in 1857 that Blacks had no rights a White person was bound to respect; and with a Confederacy that based its foundation on the “great truth” that “the Negro is not equal to the White man” and “slavery is his natural and normal condition,” how much power do you think those dads and husbands had to protect and defend their families as you have done here? I’m sorry but so often when people talk about slavery, they seem to forget the people who were actually in bondage.

                    • Kevin Levin May 12, 2015 @ 10:00

                      Well put, Bryan. The other thing that should be added, which is important, is that all white Southerners understood what would happen if slavery ended. By 1864 those nightmares were manifested throughout the South in the form of United States Colored Troops.

          • tmheaney May 11, 2015 @ 14:09

            Thank you very much, Mr.Creatore, for your thorough reply. Just a few thoughts: You are, of course, correct that you daughter meant nothing malicious in her actions which must be understood in the context of the school-organized activity.

            Why here? Well, how many other schools in the US have their students go to Gettysburg and play with the Confederate Battle Flag as a part of their curriculum in 2015?

            Why now? Because we are in the age of social media. This is the nature of communication and culture in 2015.

            Why us? See “why here?” And did anyone else share their CBF pictures on social media?

            My point about the “JADL” was that if you want to convince the public of your lack of racist intent, then constructing an analogy that ends up being vaguely anti-Semitic complete with a “Jewish” organization with a hidden agenda is probably not the way to proceed.

            Lastly, your explanation that slavery didn’t cause the war demonstrates a key problem. (Perhaps THE problem.) Ignoring the political and social realities of the crisis of the Union in 1860-61, washes away the problem of slavery and race which is at the heart of the issue here. By declaring that the Civil War wasn’t about slavery or didn’t result from the political conflict over the South’s “peculiar institution” allows you to view the CBF as simply a flag of honor for men fighting for home and property; a stainless banner, if you will.

            But this ignores that the Southern states explicitly declared that their secession was in the defense of slavery. As Kevin points out, the CBF has a history embedded in the defense of slavery (and segregation since 1865), and ignoring that historical reality (as well as others), is, I fear, making you deaf to why people are upset.

            If I might continue your own analogy: The students in the photo waving the Nazi flag apologize sincerely, but some people excoriate them in the media. In response, the father tries to explain the situation. In his explanation, he declares that the German soldiers in World War Two were just fighting for their homes and their property and that the Nazis had nothing to do with anti-antisemitism or racism.

            Pretending that the CBF has nothing to do with slavery or racism might be a key problem preventing a resolution of the issue.

            • Ron Creatore May 11, 2015 @ 19:26


              Thank you [and Kevin] for the opportunity to have this exchange. I have my own thoughts about the answers to the questions that I posed, and because my reasons are more skeptical of the motivations of those involved, it is probably best not to discuss them in this forum.

              The inclusion of the word “Jewish” before “Anti-Defamation League” was an unintended misnomer on my part. In my defense, according to the ADL’s website, the ADL “was founded in 1913 ‘to stop the defamation of the Jewish people . . .” So, though I’ll correct any future references to the ADL to preclude the word “Jewish,” I don’t think that a reasonable person would find my mistaken inclusion of the word “Jewish” in the narrative posted on this site to be offensive.

              “ . . . . your explanation that slavery didn’t cause the war demonstrates a key problem.”

              Unless I am overlooking one of the statements that I made, I don’t believe that I stated that “slavery didn’t cause the war.” What I said was that “[s]lavery was not the sole issue involved in the Civil War.” I think that you have identified the “cause” of the war, while I was speaking more in terms of “cause and effect.” Even if you were to argue that both statements are equal, is there an accepted treatise on the Civil War that is accepted by all historians that establishes slavery as the sole issue involved in the Civil War ?

              While I am admittedly not an expert on the Civil War, I do recall studying the Constitutional Law question regarding whether the federal government had the power under the 10th Amendment to impose laws upon the states that were not otherwise expressly delegated to the federal government within the Constitution. I recognize that this issue was explored in the context of whether or not the federal government could outlaw slavery, however, the underlying debate about whether the Constitution should be given a strict construction or whether federal authority could be extended to areas not expressly outlined within the Constitution, was, and is an important issue on its own merit. The fact that the U.S. Supreme Court is still faced from time-to-time with needing to debate federal versus state power under the 10th Amendment is proof positive of this fact.

              Lastly, I will refer you to my earlier discussion about what potentially motivated the actual soldiers that fought in the Civil War on behalf of the Confederacy. While vocal representatives and those in charge of the Southern states may have said that the sole reason for their secession was in order to preserve slavery, I believe that the motivations of a large majority of the actual Confederate soldiers may have been distinctly different than the motivations of those in authority who actually made the decision to secede.

              “In his explanation, he declares that the German soldiers in World War Two were just fighting for their homes and their property and that the Nazis had nothing to do with anti-semitism or racism.”

              I have a difficult time believing that 100% of the German troops in World War 2 were in favor of the Holocaust. Again, it seems that all too often the beliefs of those in charge of a nation-state is assumed to be the beliefs that motivate those conscripted to fight on behalf of the nation-state. Oftentimes the conscripts are faced with the Hobson’s choice of suffering a certain death if they refuse to fight for the nation-state, or delaying the certainty of death by going to war in the hope that they will somehow survive the nation-state’s defeat. If faced with this binary decision would you submit to a certain death or would you go to war for a cause you do not believe in while harboring the hope that you make it out on the other side ? These questions are easy to entertain in a sterile academic environment when we aren’t actually confronted with the life or death consequences of the answer, but I would question the veracity of anyone who says that the question is easy to answer.

              • Kevin Levin May 12, 2015 @ 2:21

                Even if you were to argue that both statements are equal, is there an accepted treatise on the Civil War that is accepted by all historians that establishes slavery as the sole issue involved in the Civil War?

                No, but there is a consensus among academic historians that slavery was the central issue driving secession and it proved to be an inescapable issue for both sides from the very beginning of the war to the end.

                I recognize that this issue was explored in the context of whether or not the federal government could outlaw slavery, however, the underlying debate about whether the Constitution should be given a strict construction or whether federal authority could be extended to areas not expressly outlined within the Constitution, was, and is an important issue on its own merit.

                Of course, but as you know the question of the relationship between the states and the federal government was a hotly debated topic from the very beginning of the republic and continues to this day.

                I believe that the motivations of a large majority of the actual Confederate soldiers may have been distinctly different than the motivations of those in authority who actually made the decision to secede.

                What is your belief based on? Are you familiar with the vast scholarly literature on this subject? Of course, soldiers on both sides fought for a host of reasons. Unfortunately, we only have access to relatively few accounts that specifically explore motivation. That said, it is safe to say that Confederate soldiers understood exactly what was at stake after January 1, 1863 if they failed to achieve independence. Slaveholders and non-slaveholders alike had a stake in maintaining the institution of slavery.

                The Confederate army that marched into Pennsylvania, towards Gettysburg, kidnapped hundreds of free blacks and fugitive slaves and sent them back South. The men involved were slaveholders and non-slaveholders.

                In other words, whether these owned slaves or not, and regardless of whether they declared outright that they were or were no fighting to preserve slavery, they were involved in the maintenance of a slave society.

              • tmheaney May 12, 2015 @ 17:26


                (Let’s not belabor the ADL issue. My point was that if one aims to prove that one is not racist, it is best not to invent an analogy which involves a Jewish organization with a hidden agenda. It’s just a bad idea.)

                Ultimately, your postings seem to be making an argument from ignorance by trying to find some honest soldiers worthy of commemoration as “heroes” of the South for whom there is no evidence.

                You assert that historians don’t know everything about the past because the evidence we have is limited:

                > “you are a bit hamstrung when it comes to practicing your profession because of a lack of information.”
                > “there were many people involved in the Civil War whose viewpoint was simply never recorded.”
                > “you are working from a deficit of information”

                Sure, historians don’t know everything. That’s why we’re trained the use the sources that do exist, and present evidence (as one does in a trial). But, yes, let’s accept that there were Confederate soldiers we know little or nothing about.

                > “what potentially motivated the actual soldiers that fought in the Civil War on behalf of the Confederacy.”

                Actually, there’s some good work in this regard. For example, I recommend Chandra Manning’s _What this Cruel War was Over: Soldiers, Slavery, and the Civil War_.

                > “I believe that the motivations of a large majority of the actual Confederate soldiers may have been distinctly different than the motivations of those in authority who actually made the decision to secede.”

                What’s your evidence for this?

                > “I have a difficult time believing that 100% of the German troops in World War 2 were in favor of the Holocaust.”

                True, although I didn’t mention the Holocaust. The Nazi’s did have great support among the German public for the government’s social and war policies built on the racial ideals of Aryan supremacy.

                >“Oftentimes the conscripts are faced with the Hobson’s choice of suffering a certain death if they refuse to fight for the nation-state . . .”

                Sure, but does anyone wave the Nazi flag as a way of commemorating the service of men who didn’t support Nazi ideas and were forced to fight?

                So, you’re arguing that you want to fly the CBF commemorate the soldiers who served in the armies of the Confederacy who were untouched by the institution of slavery, who didn’t own slaves and were not supportive of the institution, who were ignorant of the root causes of the formation of the Confederacy and who were unaware of its founding ideals, documents, and speeches, and who had no choice but to fight for the Confederacy under pain of death and for whom you have no evidence.

                These mythical Confederates seem odd heroes to celebrate. And as a lawyer, you must recognize this is a strange argument to make without evidence.

                Certainly, freedom of speech ensures that any person who wants to fly the CBF to honor their ancestors who fought for the CSA , but such awkward commemoration certainly has no place in the educational system.


          • James F. Epperson May 12, 2015 @ 5:04

            “Slavery was not the sole issue involved in the Civil War.”

            In Mississippi’s “A Declaration of the Immediate Causes which Induce and Justify the Secession of the State of Mississippi from the Federal Union” we find the following: “Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery — the greatest material interest of the world.” This document, and many more like it, may be found at the website:


            which I created and maintain. I would suggest you read a few of those documents.

            • Jimmy Dick May 12, 2015 @ 9:06

              I am still waiting for those other causes to be fully explained. Each time they get brought up the facts either show those causes were nonexistent, not mentioned by the people of the time in question, or deal with slavery. It keeps coming back to slavery. I love it when someone says it was about state’s rights.

              I have never seen those rights listed by the people of the time period except when it concerned slavery. Even then, it was not state’s rights that were the issue involved, but the issue of slavery and slave owners trying to use the laws to protect slavery nationwide.

  • Bryce Hartranft May 11, 2015 @ 4:57

    It is unfortunate that children are caught up in issues which are far larger than themselves. No doubt the picture was a simple thoughtless act which teens are so likely to commit but it sparks the angst of racial and historical themes that are unresolved. I think it is good to have the conversation, but once again, unfortunate that it affects the kids so directly.

  • Rob Baker May 11, 2015 @ 4:41

    I remembered the below comment when I started reading this post this morning.

    “Pickett’s Charge” on the Civil War trip has been a tradition since Fred Kiger taught in the 80’s at CHHS. The post regarding slaves is reprehensible, but the young woman’s initial post I take no issue with…

    Context is everything. Though, I wish the concerned parent was more specific as to the context of the photo in question rather than produce this lengthy hypothetical.

    • Ken Noe May 11, 2015 @ 5:28

      As a parent my sympathies are automatically with the father, but I agree that his case will benefit more from a straightforward explanation of what actually happened rather than needlessly offending a whole new group of people. This narrative made me wince.

      • Ron Creatore May 11, 2015 @ 7:20

        Ken, I took great pains to make it clear that this was a hypothetical analogy. I had very clearly stated the facts specific to our case in various other forums and did not want to rehash the facts here. The issue that led to this posting revolved around a much narrower point, i.e., Kevin’s criticism of me for saying that the photo was taken “out of context.” Because this was not meant to be a discussion of the actual event, I didn’t find it necessary to go over our specific facts in this forum. While I most certainly am prepared to do that if Kevin feels it appropriate here, I did provide Kevin with a fairly lengthy radio interview which I did that gets into all of the details of our specific situation.

        Because my narrative was speaking to Kevin, and because I knew that I provided him with the radio interview, I wanted to approach my discussion with Kevin from a different perspective. I felt that the subject of Naziism and the Swastika was appropriate as an analogy because in our situation the NAACP has likened what had occurred with the posting of the Rebel flag as being similar to if my daughter had posted a picture of herself dressed like a Nazi prison guard after just having walked Jewish death camp victims to their death. Ms. Laws of the NAACP then went on to make the statement that “Slavery is our Holocaust.”

        While I absolutely disagree with her comparison (which I am addressing in a separate writing which I will share with you if you are interested in receiving it) and the fact that Ns. Laws co-opted the Jewish Holocaust experience, the narrative that I wrote was essentially a parallel of our facts against a backdrop of a situation involving Nazi symbols which is more directly comparable to our situation.

        I expound on some of these points of comparison below:

        1. The parallels to the son are all parallels to my daughter. Great student and person, being falsely accused of something by people who have admitted that they don’t believe she is guilty of the very thing they are accusing her of committing;

        2. The trip had been sponsored/held by the school system for some 30 years without complaint, including re-enactment of battles from the perspective of the Confederate army using the Rebel flag, without protest. African American students have participated in these re-enactments without nary a complaint. The parallel being that The Sound of Music has been performed for many years without protest even though it displays symbols of Nazi prejudice;

        3. The performance of The Sound of Music, like the facts of our case, involved children being directed to do something by their teachers, while participating in a school-sanctioned event, using period-specific props owned by the school system;

        4. Regarding press coverage of the performance in my narrative, there existed in our situation an article that had been published in the school newspaper (and posted on the school newspaper website since 12/20/2012) with a photo of the Rebel flag. The article was written by a Jewish student (ironic given Ms. Laws’ attempt to inflame the passions of the large Jewish contingency that was at the school board meeting) and was entitled “The Confederate Flag is Heritage, Not Hate.” The NAACP and African American community never protested against this article or the photo of the flag that accompanied it, even though they were on the school website for 30 months (As an update, because I pointed out the hypocrisy of our situation juxtaposed with the non-protested existence of the article/photo, the school removed the article and photo this past weekend.)

        4. The group complaining about being offended has constituents whom themselves have participated in the act that they are deriding; the group complaining has not protested in the past when other parties have engaged in the same activity being complained about (by way of example the article/photo referenced above–Also, for an interesting perspective, Google Kanye West’s activity and comments relative to the Rebel flag and let me know if you can find commentary from the NAACP that are critical about his actions and statements); the group complaining about being offended is purposefully withholding exculpatory information that they know directly contradicts what they are saying; and, the group complaining about being offended actually has a completely different agenda than the act that they are complaining about.

        I stand by my methodology and the manner in which I approached this discussion in light of these points.

      • Brad May 14, 2015 @ 4:20

        I agree with Ken’s comment; seemed like a lot of time was exhausted creating an analogy for actions by his daughter that weren’t very smart. I’m sure or I hope she’s learned from it.

    • Ron Creatore May 11, 2015 @ 7:24

      Rob, see my reply to Ken below for an explanation as to why I chose to produce the hypothrtical narrative.

      • Rob Baker May 11, 2015 @ 8:21

        I appreciate the reply Mr. Creatore.

        This is the first I’ve read anything by your own hand, which appears to be the case for many others on this forum. That is why I didn’t care for the use of the hypothetical situation. Just some friendly advice, avoid the word “agenda,” especially when generalizing about a particular group. If I’m not mistaken, you are probably dealing with a local chapter of the NAACP. By claiming there is an NAACP agenda towards your particular situation, you broad paint the the entire organization. Instead, if you have the facts arranged in your case, you may want to reach out to the national organization and present them with the information to inform them that a local chapter is willfully ignoring facts and attacking your teenager.

  • Dan May 11, 2015 @ 3:49

    I DO not believe there was any dismissal at all in the end about agendas. What everyone (on the agenda side) is failing to acknowledge are the numerous apologies. These are KIDS, at a school sponsored event, who had been given DIRECTION by the teacher to, in essence, re-live the battle, by playing Capture the Flag.
    The two winning girls celebrated with a picture and posted it with a celebratory comment caught in the moment. Another response came back that was highly inappropriate by a student not on the trip but equally sensitive to others. No excuses, bad comment. Apologies also went out for that comment…immediately!
    These special interests groups are not about accepting apologies and teaching forgiveness to today’s youth. They are all about teaching hate through anger and only driving a deeper divide which will carry over for more generations.
    These girls do not understand the hurt felt because they are not of the same color. They don’t understand the struggles minorities have had to endure. BUT they DO understand when they have hurt someone. And they HAVE been taught by their parents to apologize to someone whom they have been hurt and to ask for forgiveness. In turn when something has been said negative to them and the other person apologizes, they are taught to accept that apology and move on. What else can they do?
    Yes they can turn to hate through their anger. Riot, burn, hurt others, etc., but what GOOD becomes of those actions??
    If these girls were racists they never would have waved those flags or made those comments because they would have known what the possibilities of an outcome would have been.
    To many, these girls made a mistake. To those many and to all others they have apologized. They have asked for forgiveness. The “AGENDA folks will not accept those apologies because it would stop their “march”. Now they will feed on kids and show their kids how to really hate.
    What’s enough? When someone gets really hurt…physically? These are KIDS but the lynch mob doesn’t care. They are sorry!!! When will the madness stop?

    • msb May 11, 2015 @ 8:18

      I have a lot of sympathy for the kids, as being at the heart of one of these storms must be just awful, and am deeply grateful that, when I was doing dumb stuff in my own youth, it was neither possible nor fashionable to instantly publish and share photos and comments around the world. I hope the kids can return to their normal lives and continue the process of maturation as soon as possible, and wish them well on the journey.

      That said, I have some objections to the language you are using. Being loudly condemned, factually or not, by a lot of strangers must be really terrible. It is not, however, a lynching (http://billmoyers.com/2015/02/05/isis-brutality-burning-lynching/). This is a very unfortunate comparison to draw, as the NAACP was formed in part to combat actual lynchings. I also have some doubts about “The AGENDA folks will not accept those apologies because it would stop their “march”. Now they will feed on kids and show their kids how to really hate.” Who are the people to whom you ascribe such low motives and what proof shows they are hateful and not mistaken? Using intemperate language and assuming ill intent seem ineffective ways to combat intemperate language and assuming ill intent.

      • Ron Creatore May 11, 2015 @ 9:26


        During the school board meeting on Thursday, at least one of the speakers said that if the school board doesn’t take action on their demands that my daughter (and the other girl) are punished, that the parties standing with the NAACP “may take matters into their own hands.” A number of the media outlets covering the school board meeting mentioned this sentiment in their reports, all of which are available via the Internet.

        When the writer speaks to the lynching mob mentality, the point is that we are now dealing with Internet comments such as this: (posted by an individual with the screen name TellMeImDreaming):

        “Maybe they should be strapped to a post and whipped bloody and then raped a few times for good measure… isn’t that how they would have been punished as slaves?”


        I have to think and prepare for the worst case scenario, while hoping and praying for the best. You may have the luxury of sitting high atop your horse and suggesting that those involved here combat intemperate language and assumed ill-will in a clinical fashion or as one might in an controlled educational setting, but the reality of today’s society and the express comments made by those affiliated with the NAACP allow us no such luxury.

        • MSB May 11, 2015 @ 11:58

          Ah, this is much more useful info than the extended analogy that forms the post. This is what I had hoped to learn about “context” when I understood you were posting. Nevertheless, responding to hate with hate is a poor choice of weapon in a very important fight, no matter where it is waged. (Not to mention that I was speaking to Dan and not you.)

          rape and death threats to women who have expressed opinions about, for example, Gamergate or even merely advocated featuring a woman on the currency are horribly common. And of course a parent of a child targetted by such threats must take them seriously. Once again, I hope that this terrible time for you and your family does not last long. And I hope you are reporting all threats from any source to the police, as threatening a person, face to face or online, is a crime. I think law enforcement has yet to deal with this reality.

  • wkerrigan May 11, 2015 @ 2:38

    As a parent I feel for the father whose kid’s online actions landed them in the middle of a social media storm. This could happen to anyone’s kid. As Mr. Levin did not identify the students in the photo and Confederate Memory is the subject of this blog it was a perfectly valid subject for discussion. And the comments of other students are just as much a part of the story as the image itself. I am confused as to why the father felt a fictionalized analogy about Jews and Austria was a more effective way to explain what happened than simply explaining what actually happened. And the stuff at the end about hidden agendas reads like an attempt to dismiss the real pain the incident no doubt caused among African-Americans of this community, and to suggest that their feelings of offense were not authentic.

    • Hugh Lawson May 11, 2015 @ 4:29

      Here is my understanding of the analogy. The father was explaining that the use of the rebel-flag symbol in the Gettysburg park was play-acting. He chose a Nazi symbol, all but universally execrated, to show that in play-acting it it is appropriate for an actor to wear a Nazi emblem. Nobody will think that a character in a play is a real Nazi. Even if the actor playing the Nazi character is an Austrian Christian, nobody would accuse him, due to his playing a part in a play, of seeking a revival of Nazism. Since it is conceptually possible for an Austrian Christian to play the part of a Nazi character in a play, without being condemned as a real neo-Nazi, it may be conceptually possible for North Carolina high-school kids to carry rebel flags in the play-acting of a battle without being condemned as real neo-Confederates. They father thought, it seems to me, that the audience here could easily understand this possibility for the Austrian context, and that this might help the audience here see the possibility of innocent play-acting of North-Carolina high-school kids. Is it possible for southern white high-school kids in playacting innocently to be carrying rebel flags? If anybody has doubts about this possibility, then the father must have hoped that the analogy might allay those doubts.

      • Kevin Levin May 11, 2015 @ 4:40

        Is it possible for southern white high-school kids in playacting innocently to be carrying rebel flags?

        Thanks for the comment, Hugh. I don’t think we can answer this question apart from some understanding of the teaching objectives behind this battlefield activity. From what I’ve learned – which I will be commenting on in a post – the activity is problematic on a number of levels.

        • Ron Creatore May 11, 2015 @ 9:02

          Hugh and Kevin, from my perspective, the operative term in Hugh’s query is the word “innocently.” In the law, there is the legal precept known as “mens rea” — essentially the phrase speaks to the frame of mind of the person committing the act in question. My daughter did not have any intention of harming another, provoking another, or making any statement of a racist character when she posted the photo and the comment “South will rise.” In my opinion, as it pertains to my daughter’s acts, this is where the analysis must end. If you are skeptical about my daughter’s intent, I would suggest that you look no further than the very students who are complaining that they were harmed by my daughter’s act — a number of these students have also gone on the record as stating that my daughter is not a racist. One cannot argue on one hand that an act is racist, while on the other hand admitting that the actor committing the act is not a racist. The argument collapses under its own weight.

          • Kevin Levin May 11, 2015 @ 11:46

            I was not referring to your daughter. I was referring to the image itself within the context of the trip.

      • Ron Creatore May 11, 2015 @ 7:35

        Hugh, your analysis is spot on. I was attempting to portray a situation almost exactly like our own, without relying on the “clutter” of our situation. I involved the “clutter” of an entirely different, yet parallel, set of facts, to show that our situation occurs (or can occur) in many different ways.

        I also wanted to explore the issue of Naziism and the Swastika because the NAACP actually injected these topics into our situation. Read my reply to Ken below to gain a better understanding of what I am referring to. I am planning on writing an entirely separate piece objecting to the NAACP’s attempt to co-opt the Jewish Holocaust experience in light of our situation. I disagree with the analogy that they have invoked, and wanted to be prepared to discuss Naziism and Swastika in a way that could be paralleled to our situation. In a sense, you all read part of my piece about my disagreement with the NAACP over invoking the Holocaust connection, i.e., the part of the piece that will set forth an apology that is on point when compared to the facts of our situation.

        • Ron Creatore May 11, 2015 @ 7:37

          Correction: “set forth an apology” should be “set forth an analogy”

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