This is not the first time I’ve opined on the Confederate flag issue. But hopefully it is the last.
As a southerner whose roots in Georgia run way before the Civil War on both my mother’s and father’s side, I’m pretty sure I would qualify for any of those “Sons Of” groups related to the old Confederacy out there. And I know some readers think I qualify for another “Son of a…” title from time to time! But that’s OK, too.
I personally never felt a vested interest in the Civil War, either. Other than to mourn the loss of many a distant family member who fought or died in that sad debacle that cost so many American lives, I rarely have given it a thought. And when I do, I do so with a respect for history, but also a twinge of embarrassment for at least part of what provoked Americans to fight Americans: slavery.
In 1993, as a youthful legislator in Georgia, I joined then-Gov. Zell Miller in a failed attempt to remove the Confederate battle flag emblem from Georgia’s state flag. Years later, another brave Georgia governor, Roy Barnes, successfully pushed through what Miller started and totally revamped Georgia’s flag.
Now we have South Carolina, reeling from a tragic and senseless shooting in a house of worship, where goodhearted people, who happened to be black, welcomed a young man with open arms, with prayer and love. In return, this twisted and possibly mentally ill guest shot his hosts in the Lord’s own sanctuary. In doing so, he shocked a nation.
But there is good news to be found. Upon learning of the assailant’s so-called ‘manifesto’ and the pictures of him with guns and with that controversial flag as part of his portfolio of hatred, calls to remove the Confederate flag from the grounds of the South Carolina Capitol grounds came from a bipartisan group of state leaders led by its Republican Gov. Nikki Haley.
Even better news is that in a new OpinionSavvy poll of that state, 50 percent of the respondents said they support the flag’s removal.
The disappointing news is that 46 percent of those responding said they want the flag to remain right where it is. And by breakdown of the party affiliation in the survey, Republicans were far less supportive of the flag’s removal.
This all occurs at a time when race relations in America have reached a low not seen since the late 1960s. Police are being accused of profiling and harming African-Americans in cities across the nation. Meanwhile, several white policemen have been gunned down in recent months by assailants with presumed retaliatory racial motives of their own.
And in many major cities such as Atlanta, armed black men have invaded upscale homes in well-planned attacks that have yielded little in precious loot and which police believe are more likely gang related — again, rooted in retaliation against whites.
Fanning the flame of this sad hatred are acts of stupidity and evil such as the South Carolina murders.
And all of this is augmented by a president and an administration that have often seemed anxious to keep race relations simmering at home while downplaying chaos and murder abroad.
I might add that it doesn’t help when a large portion of Republicans in states like South Carolina refuse to support the removal of an emblem that should long be forgotten. This, too, foments feelings of resentment and provides plenty of excuses to escalate this growing racial tension in our nation.
As a white southern male, arguably the most reviled and looked down upon demographic in today’s America, I must be extraordinarily circumspect about matters of race. The easy thing to do would be to espouse arguments of states’ rights and reverse discrimination. And yes, the states are afforded powerful rights under the Constitution, and yes, reverse discrimination is growing in America.
But all the better to “arm” myself with words of sympathy and a rededication to improving race relations in America. Part of that includes saying goodbye to the Confederate battle flag, once and for all. Jesus preached of forgiveness of all sins. The members of the church where this ghastly attack occurred did just that.
If they can forgive so quickly, even as they bury their loved ones, cannot others forget symbols of a past long gone and bury that flag once and for all?
Matt Towery is author of the book “Paranoid Nation: The Real Story of the 2008 Fight for the Presidency.” He heads the polling and political information firm InsiderAdvantage. Follow him on Twitter: @matttowery. To find out more about Matt Towery and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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