What amazes me about the Confederate battle flag controversy is that we're dragging this antebellum debate into the 21st Century. I have heard Southern scholars say, with a straight face, that the Civil War was not about slavery; it was a classic struggle of the little guy against Big Government. What complete absurdity. It was entirely about slavery! Read copies of The Chronicle from the 1850s and 1860s; there was no other issue. The Southern economy and lifestyle was built on chattel labor, and although only some of the people owned slaves, virtually everybody wanted to preserve the prosperity dream of the big house with white pillars and black servants.
And let's not be so sanguine about values of those who fought for the North. Some Northerners opposed slavery because they didn't want any blacks moving there, free or slave. There's plenty of guilt to go around. Yet, I believe most people who fly the Confederate flag have not the slightest hint of racism in their hearts. To them, the rebel banner is more "Dukes of Hazard" than David Duke. But the battle flag is a symbol of the white South. It represents the same kind of mentality that allows a Confederate monument to stand in downtown Augusta, proclaiming: "No nation rose so white and fair: none fell so pure of sin." The Confederate battle flag should be on historic display, like Riverwalk flags, telling of where we've been. It cannot be a pennant marking where we are, or a guidon leading us where we want to be. The South was wrong; its soldiers were fighting for an evil cause during the Civil War. Noble men and women struggled on both sides, but there was no nobility in the Confederacy. Its shame should be apologized for, not eulogized or commemorated with public symbols paid for by tax dollars.
Rev. Thomas Shepherd, Augusta
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