Is the Confederate Flag the Problem?
At the moment, the talking-head pundits have decided that the Confederate flag is the reason for racial animosity in the United States.  Do they really believe that if Walmart had banned the sale of Confederate flags, it would have prevented Dylann Roof from killing those nine people in Charleston?  If Walmart and other gun shops were more restrictive in selling guns, that might have made a difference, but Confederate flags would have made no difference.

If Dylann Roof had been a member of some organized militia where the flag was an integral part of military training, then I might have thought that there was some peripheral connection.  But he was a lone, unhappy gunman, just like those who have carried out multiple killings in American schools, theaters, and other churches.  This was not an organized attack carried out in military style under a flag representing the group.  This was a sick man who should never have been sold a gun.  Those who attack the flag rather than gun violence devalue to lives of those he killed.  America doesn’t care about those nine any more than it cared about the children killed in Newtown, the movie goers in Aurora, the Columbine victims, or any of the dozens of people who are killed weekly by gun violence, most of them black men killed by other black men.

What the campaign does do is try to equate Confederate veterans with SS prison guards at Auschwitz.  It gives non-Southerners a reason to hate Southerners, but the haters of the South pour gasoline on the fires of race hatred.  They feel good about it, because they can characterize Southerners as “evil” and hence deserving of hatred.

I don’t think the Civil War soldiers saw it that way, although some may have.  I think the Confederacy was seen as a defeated army, but a respected one.  Each side knew that at certain times and places the other side had fought bravely and well.  They may not have liked each other, but I doubt that many would have described the men they fought against as “evil,” except in cases where they were evil by mistreating prisoners, mistreating civilians, etc.  Of course, there are no more Civil War veterans left to say what they really felt, but published reflections on the war don’t dwell on either side being “evil.”  Certainly Lincoln and Lee were men of high ideals, and the South would probably have fared better after the war if another lone crazy man, John Wilkes Booth, had not assassinated Lincoln.

When only one percent of Americans serve in the military today, it means that 99 percent don’t really understand what war and military service are like.  There is a tendency among the 99% to think that any war and any soldier is evil, because as they say, “War is hell.”  But at some time in its existence almost every great nation has had to fight to continue to survive.  I have often wondered what it would have been like to be forced to serve as a humble private in the German army, fight under horrible conditions on the Russian front, and then come home to Germany in a defeated army.  One difference was that after World War II, one of the victors, the United States, organized a huge relief effort, the Marshall Plan, to help Germany.  Nothing like that would happen today where there is only hatred directed at the losing Confederate army, although the Confederate soldiers fellow Americans.

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