The current firestorm over the Confederate flag is a product of misguided hyper-emotionalism fueled by two fallacies. The first fallacy is that a symbol can cause or inspire one to commit unspeakable acts against innocent people. The second fallacy is that the Confederate flag is a symbol of hatred and racism. If not checked and put into perspective, the threat against the Confederate flag will snowball into a campaign to rid the Southern states of all Confederate memorials and monuments, thereby erasing and then rewriting Southern history. What a tragedy it would be if New Orleans lost its iconic Lee Circle or its beautiful Gen. Beauregard Equestrian Statue facing the entrance to the New Orleans Museum of Art in City Park!
It is pure fallacy to blame a symbol for inspiring one to commit heinous acts against his fellow human beings. Symbols such as flags are just that: objects that represent or stand for something greater than the cloth and dye of which they are composed. It is the misguided individual who transforms the symbol to fit his own warped worldview and agenda of hatred. Thus, when Dylann Storm Roof posted himself on Facebook holding a Confederate flag, he transformed the meaning of a historical symbol into one that instead justified the senseless violence that he was about to commit.
The Confederate flag is a symbol of the sacrifice of our ancestors who fought for a cause that they believed in at the time. Many of them made the ultimate sacrifice of their lives. People of the Civil War era were a product of their time, just as we are today. People in mid-19th-century America considered allegiance to their state to supersede allegiance to their country as a whole, a mindset that is the exact opposite from what we believe today. Even Gen. Lee displayed this belief, when upon being offered the job by Lincoln of heading the entire Northern army, he politely declined, saying that he could not go against “his people” in Virginia.
Ridding ourselves of all reminders of the past is tantamount to rewriting history. What gives any of us the right to distort history to fit our own agenda? Just as childhood informs our adult lives, so too does a correct understanding of history inform how we live in the present.
teacher and librarian