Wednesday, May 23 , 2018, 4:50 am | Overcast 57º


Ron Fink: Confederate Flag a Reminder of How Inconsiderate Our Ancestors Were of Their Fellow Man

In America, as with the rest of the world, we have many symbols that represent different aspects of our daily lives. There are police officers' badges that demonstrate authority, Boy and Girl Scout patches, advertising logos that identify where we shop or eat, and various flags that represent national pride.

The Confederate flag is a symbol of a long-ago insurrection and it means different things to different people. To some it represents a moment in history when the South was united against the North in battle; to others it is a sign of racism and a failed attack on the United States.

Many people forget just how this flag wound up on government buildings in the Deep South.

The times were turbulent in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Black citizens had been routinely treated poorly by Anglo politicians, citizens and shopkeepers — something had to change. The black voice needed to be heard and the issue needed to be resolved.

But bad habits are hard to change. Democrats of the South were strongly supportive of the status quo so when President John Kennedy, another Democrat, launched an all-out war on racism they revolted.

According to Time magazine, there was little question about the segregationist views of some South Carolina political leaders at the time. South Carolina U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond, a Democrat, famously launched a 24-hour filibuster of the Civil Rights Act in 1957. South Carolina state Sen. John D. Long, another Democrat, reminded a crowd that hanging the Confederate flag in the state house, which he supported, was about more than regional heritage.

Others like Gov. Orval Faubus, a Democrat from Arkansas, stood on the steps in front of a state university to stop the integration of the all-white institution. President Kennedy sent federal troops, and Faubus had to step aside.

But that turbulent time is behind us. As a nation we have matured to the point that black people are tightly woven into the political and business fabric of our nation — that’s the way it should be. After all, we are the United States of America and not the divided states of America.

So the Confederate flag that has hung on the South Carolina state Capitol for the last 60-plus years has become a symbol of those backward times. Many have protested it being there for decades, but it has withstood all the complaints until last month when a seriously flawed young man strode into a church and calmly executed a group of innocent, God-fearing Christians who were just finishing a Bible study class — just because they were black.

This tragic event reignited the call to remove the Confederate flag from public buildings and all other government property. It also united a community as they prayed for the souls of the innocent victims and agreed that it was a time for change.

So, what did the politicians do this time? Did they boldly stand on the Capitol steps and defend the Confederate flag? Not this time.

According to many sources like CNN, “State legislators across the South are now taking up the debate over the prominence of the Confederate flag in their states after conservative leaders displayed a sudden swell of support on Monday for removing the Confederate flag from the State House grounds in South Carolina.”

Finally the dinosaurs have awakened and it appears that a once heralded symbol of past injustices will no longer be displayed on government property. Even many retailers who hawked the flag to willing buyers will no longer market this product.

I wonder if it will disappear from ball caps, T-shirts, 18-wheelers, and race car hoods and drivers' uniforms, too.

Once when I was young and stupid, the Confederate flag and disdain for authority seemed to go together. I thought this flag represented disrespect for authority. It was the 1950s and immature teenagers like me didn’t have as many symbols or venues as the youth of today have to express our frustration with the rules. As I said, I was ignorant of the true meaning of the symbol, but as I grew older and wiser I couldn’t understand why people passionately defended its presence.

We need symbols in our lives to represent what we stand for. But failed attempts to split our proud nation and representations of a failed political philosophy shouldn’t be one of them. If you are insensitive enough to fly this flag at your own home, display the symbol on your jacked-up pickup truck or wear a ball cap with it emblazoned on it, then go ahead.

While free speech allows the ignorant to flourish in our society, this symbol has no place on government property. Maybe we should replace this symbol with the Ten Commandments; that might restore some semblance of peace and dignity to our country.

We can’t erase history, but we don’t need to keep reminding ourselves of how inconsiderate our ancestors were of their fellow man.

— Ron Fink, a Lompoc resident since 1975, is retired from the aerospace industry and has been active with Lompoc municipal government commissions and committee since 1992, including 12 years on the Lompoc Planning Commission. He is also a voting member of the Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Association. Contact him at [email protected]. The opinions expressed are his own.

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