It’s not just the flag. While it is amazing that in the year 2015 we still have Confederate flags flying on government property in the South, removing them isn’t enough. We need to go further.

The flags indeed need to go; right along with the statues, monuments, and streets named after Confederate leaders. Put the monuments in museums, rename the streets. Leaders of the Confederacy were traitors to the United States. They chose to fight for a terrible cause. There is no arguing that fact that the Civil War was fought over slavery.

It is completely understandable why the citizens of New Orleans in the 1880s thought erecting monuments to Confederate leaders was an acceptable idea. But why do we tolerate them in 2015? Robert E. Lee may well have been a great general for the Confederacy just as Erwin Rommel was also a great general for the Third Reich during WWII. They were both on the wrong side of history. Yet you’ll find no monuments to Rommel in Berlin or Munich. The Germans are ashamed. Which begs the question, why aren’t we?

Regardless of the shooting in South Carolina, we need to rid our public lands of anything honoring the Confederacy and its leaders. The “heritage” argument doesn’t stand the test of time. These men were traitors. We are the United States before we are the South. How can anyone begin to think that these remembrances aren’t offensive and disrespectful to African-Americans? They are offensive to me as a retired military officer. They are offensive to me as a citizen; our tax money maintains these sites. Their existence is offensive to me as a human being; the monuments to the Confederacy on our public lands are disrespectful at best. They are subtle, government-sanctioned racism.

There is nothing about our “heritage” with the Confederacy worthy of embracing. We are not who we once were. We should be proud of that. We are our brother’s keeper. I am white, by the way, a fact that shouldn’t be relevant in this argument, but we know it still is.

Richard Westmoreland

lieutenant colonel, USMC, retired

New Orleans