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The Confederate Flag: A Requiem

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THE RIGHT OUTCOME … THE WRONG WAY

|| By FITSNEWS || In the weeks and months to come, the fallout from the Confederate flag’s removal from the grounds of the S.C. State House will continue to be felt far and wide across the Palmetto political landscape.

And we’ll be there to cover every aftershock …

But before we dive into the seismic impact of what we suspect will be rolling recrimination … a requiem to the flag (whose final wave was captured above) seems in order.

This website didn’t exist during South Carolina’s first debate over the Confederate flag back in 2000.  At the time our founding editor Will Folks was pursuing his fantasy of becoming the next Mike Mills – a dream he (and probably every elected official in the Palmetto State) wishes he had never abandoned.

THE CONFEDERATE FLAG

THE CONFEDERATE FLAG, 2000

That’s perhaps one reason why we always gazed upon the controversial banner – and other symbolic standards – with indifference.

To us symbols never mattered because they can so easily be manipulated … just like political labels.

“State leaders can leave it, move it, burn it or use it as a bath towel for all we care,” we wrote of the flag back in 2011.

In fact we went so far as to mock organizations like the NAACP which used the issue as a means of leveling economic sanctions against South Carolina.

But then the “Holy City Massacre” – the senseless, premeditated, racially motivated slaughter of nine black churchgoers by a 21-year-old white supremacist – occurred in Charleston, S.C.

All of a sudden our indifference turned to support for the flag’s removal …

Within 48 hours of the tragedy – before the discovery of confessed perpetrator Dylann Storm Roof‘s racist manifesto – this website became the first media outlet in the state to call for the flag to come down.

We wrote …

If the question is one of our indifference versus the legitimate angst of others – then this issue should be a no-brainer.  Irrespective of who’s right or wrong from a historical standpoint, why keep something that’s needlessly offending people?

That was our basic view from the beginning, although our founding editor soon coupled it with this history lesson – in which he argued the flag never should have been raised again in the first place (thus enabling it to be hijacked by the likes of Roof and other white supremacists).

The flag honorably laid down at Appomattox should have never been raised again, and the fact it was – in defiance of individual liberty, no less – is not “heritage.”  It is a stain on heritage.  And the fact nine Americans have now been brutally cut down by a killer claiming this banner as his symbol is – and should be – the last straw.

And it was the last straw.

State leaders not only took the flag down – they ultimately (and overwhelmingly) followed our advice in doing so sooner rather than later while refraining from muddying the issue with potentially divisive compromises.

But that doesn’t mean the process by which the banner was removed was clean, honest or fair.

It was anything but …

For starters, lawmakers and S.C. governor Nikki Haley didn’t take the flag down because it was the right thing to do – they took it down because corporate and political interests told them to take it down.  And ironically, the most aggressive flag supporter didn’t fight for his banner for similar reasons.

In other words they were politicians, not leaders.

Next, it has become abundantly clear to us that supporters of the flag – i.e. lawmakers whose position on this issue was repeatedly assailed by this website – were misled by their leaders from the beginning of the debate.

CONFEDERATE FLAG

THE CONFEDERATE FLAG, 2015

Everyone – even the most diehard flag backer – knew from the moment Roof’s Confederate-themed website was discovered that the banner was on its way down.  All they wanted, we’re told, was a chance for their constituents to be heard on the issue – to provide a contrast to the hateful strain of racism Roof embraced.

“We never got that chance,” one lawmaker told FITS.  “We all just got lumped into the same category as him.”

In fact we’re told the reason the debate in the S.C. House of Representatives grew so contentious (nearly jeopardizing the banner’s removal) was that flag supporters who had been told the voices of their citizens would be heard were lied to.  Repeatedly.

“The flag got hijacked – then its removal got hijacked, too,” the lawmaker added.

So flag supporters fought back as best they could … coming extremely close on several votes to amending the legislation approved by the State.  Any amendment could have opened a Pandora’s Box – keeping the banner waving for several more months.  Maybe longer.

According to one House leader the original plan – proposed on June 19 by S.C. Rep. Kirkman Finlay – was to immediately send a bill substituting the South Carolina State flag for the Confederate flag to the House judiciary committee.  After three days of public hearings, the committee would have sent this bill to the floor of the House – which would have spent a day or two debating it before sending it to the State Senate.

The whole process would have taken two weeks … maybe less.

And the judiciary chairman – an ardent flag supporter – actually supported the proposal as well as the expedited timetable for public debate.

“He wasn’t happy about it but he realized raising the state flag and sending the Confederate flag to the Relic Room was the best outcome possible from his perspective,” one legislative leader told us.

Instead, House leaders deferred action on the flag to the State Senate – which waited until July 6 to take up its bill calling for both the flag and the flagpole to be removed.

We consistently opposed substitute flags … especially after the Senate passed a bill taking the flag down “free and clear.” But it’s hard to imagine the Finlay compromise being voted down by either chamber.

Also it’s hard to imagine it being a bad thing if last Friday – after lowering the Confederate flag – the state flag had been raised in its place.

Imagine the roar of the crowd!

Which brings us to our final point: The disturbing lack of respect shown by flag opponents during last week’s ceremony removing the banner.

Sure, it’s easy to argue the Confederate flag didn’t deserve respect – and maybe it didn’t.  As we’ve noted, it certainly should have never been raised from a government building in the first place.  Be that as it may, though, there are tens of thousands of tolerant South Carolinians who have never “hated on” anyone due to their skin color – who never killed anyone or called anyone a “n*gger” – who nonetheless felt a familial tie or kinship to the banner.

Those people absolutely did deserve respect … but didn’t get it.  In fact the conduct of many flag opponents during the ceremony deliberately disrespected them – just as the process involved in taking the banner down stripped them of their chance to be heard.

Don’t get us wrong: The flag had to come down.  And we’re glad it is down.  And we expended plenty of our own political capital in the fight to bring it down – losing several friends (and probably several thousand loyal readers) in the process.

But there’s a right way and a wrong way to do something – even when you’re in a hurry to do it.  And while the national media is hailing South Carolina for doing something right for a change … the truth is we didn’t.

As the inexorable tug of gravity began weighing on the banner several weeks ago (rightfully sending it into a terminal velocity), it was abundantly clear the outcome of this debate was never in doubt – which makes the manner in which it was undertaken all the less commendable.

The flag had to come down: But those pushing its descent didn’t have to take the pole and ram it up the collective backside of those still clinging to a genuine – albeit misplaced – affinity for the standard.  In fact they could have gotten it down quicker – and cleaner – had they shown the same sort of respect they insisted upon receiving themselves throughout this process.

That would have likely created a real moment of unity … as opposed to merely the perception of one.

Palmetto politicians are enjoying a “Kum ba yah” moment on the national stage in the aftermath of the flag’s long-overdue descent, but don’t be fooled: The process by which this noble and necessary objective was achieved has done real damage to the real reconciliation which could have taken place.

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