I have significantly moderated my stance on the Confederate flag over the past couple of decades.
For the longest time I dismissed those who derided it as a symbol of hate and White Supremacy. A big chunk of my dismissal was the (correct) assumption that such conclusions about the Stars and Bars were based on emotion rather than reason. As an enthusiastic student of history, I’ve always been able to place the flag in what I feel is its proper historic context. In fact, that flag that is most associated with the Confederate States of America was only the actual design for a very brief time. The “official” flag went through several changes in the CSA’s brief history. A brief perusal of Rebel companies and brigades during the Civil War shows all kinds of permutations of the flag. Suffice to say there was no one single Confederate Flag.
As I have lived and gained wisdom, though, I have begun to realize what I actually knew all along. Symbolic interaction is inherently emotional. Your reaction to a symbol is formed in your subconscious. It took even longer to realize that not everyone thinks like I do. Long story short, your reaction to a symbol is formed by a million life experiences—juxtaposed against your very soul. As such it can NOT be wrong.
As a result, I have been forced to realize that, yes indeed, the overriding perception of the Confederate Flag has been successfully hijacked by bad people. I don’t like that. I’ve always said (and still believe) that people should be able to discern the symbolic difference between a Confederate flag at a Klan rally and one that sits over the table at the meeting of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. But again, everyone doesn’t think like me. I have begrudgingly conceded that a lot of honorable people hold an extremely negative opinion of the flag, regardless of context. Now, I have warned that this concession would likely lead to similar attacks against other iconic Confederate images like statues and road names. Looks like I was right; but that’s a debate for another day. I have conceded the flag.
That having been said, why can’t the same courtesy be extended to those who are taking a knee during the National Anthem and presentation of the colors? I have heard their arguments. They see the nation as a racist construct. They see a lack of social justice. They see White Supremacy. But like I used to do, they dismiss the thoughts of others who see something entirely different.
There are many who hear the National Anthem and see the colors and associate it with a nation that gave their immigrant parents hope. Others equate it with loved ones who served heroically in far-away lands. Still others associate it with coffins containing the remains of people they loved dearly.
To those who kneel during the anthem, I ask—is their reaction any less valid than yours? Does it make ANY difference to you that your actions evoke emotions similar to the ones you likely feel when you see a Confederate flag?
More to the point…if I can make concessions based on others’ reaction to a symbol, why can’t you? I’ve been told repeatedly what reaction I *should* have to the Confederate flag. I hope you don’t mind MY suggestion on how we should view the American flag.