Grant a thought experiment in light of yesterday’s momentous lowering of the Confederate battle flag. Imagine you are a Civics teacher who has discovered a magical ability to raise historical figures from the dead. You are immediately excited because now your guest speakers are much closer to the events you teach about in class than that ACLU rep just trying to get a plug in to a group of sophomores. As you start your unit on the importance of the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments to the Constitution you think now would be a great time to bring back one of the most venerated presidents in American history, Abraham Lincoln. Upon your incantations ole Abe forms before your eyes. After some explaining you catch President Lincoln up as much as possible before class begins. Of course, the class is an instant success. The kids just can’t believe how realistic the guest “impersonator” is. But just before class ends one student towards the back raises her hand.
“Mr. President, or whoever you are, what do you think of the call to lower the Confederate battle flag from the capitol grounds in South Carolina?”
“Excuse me, dear. Did you say the Confederate battle flag?” Lincoln answers with a certain degree of incredulity.
Lincoln turns to you and says, “What it is this, that the flag of our enemy is still up?”
Historical perspective is something that always helps, in most cases anyway. If you were to walk with a risen Abraham Lincoln through the streets of modern Columbia, South Carolina he would undoubtedly notice and comment on all the progress, both technological and social. But what do you think he’d say about the flag of insurrection still flying over the first state of secession?
Let me briefly introduce you to another thought experiment to see if I can drive the point home a little more forcefully. If you were able to raise a black Union soldier from the dead, one who died in combat, only for him to discover the flag he met on the field of battle still flew in the breezes over South Carolina what do you think he’d say? I know the arguments about heritage and Southern pride. But what heritage? And pride in what? As Americans are we not proud of Lincoln and the black (and white) Union soldiers who gave their lives? What about that heritage and pride? When Dylan Roof brandished the Confederate flags in his photos he was appealing to a heritage that would have approved of his cold-blooded murder. I would suggest to all those (exclusively on the Right) who are either defending the flag of our enemy or who are expressing sympathies that they show a little more loyalty to a legacy of unification and freedom.
What struck me most about the ceremony yesterday was how American it was and how proud I was to be one.