Props to Alabama Gov. Bob Bentley, who this week became the first governor beyond ground zero in South Carolina to order removal of Confederate flags from state grounds.
Bentley directed work crews to haul down the four flags over a Confederate memorial at the state capitol in Montgomery. He said he did not want controversy surrounding the mostly red “Stars and Bars” to distract from current legislative issues, particularly the state’s deflated budget. A governor’s office representative said the flags will not go up again.
The Alabama chief executive acted two days after South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley approached Tar Heel State legislators to lower the Confederate banner from the state capitol in Raleigh. Haley was concerned that violence and unrest over a the multi-fatal church shooting in Charleston, S.C., might proliferate across the state as the question smolders about whether the Confederate flag should continue to fly above state property.
Government real estate usually is active property. The Confederate States of America is a permanent part of U.S. history; the CSA in defunct and long gone. As such, its symbols are best displayed in museums and historic archives, not on or in structures where today’s state government activities are being carried out.
All of us now fly under Old Glory – the Stars and Stripes should be our flag of choice as well as allegiance.
In the same vein, a strong argument can be made for renaming public schools that bear the identities of Confederate luminaries, mainly because our public schools are tax-funded institutions and, as such, should abstain from any display or activity that does not promote the public good – for all of the public.
Which is not to say that the Sons of Confederate Veterans should stop meeting. Nor should Confederate flags be lowered from above privately owned memorials and monuments to Confederate soldiers. Likewise, we ought not to rush to revoke the charter of the Confederate Heritage Trust. Or outlaw vanity license tags made and sold by private industry. Or unschedule the Confederate Heritage Festival in Charlotte, N.C.
These fall into the domain of the private sector and are protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
But it would help if we emphasize the heritage of the Confederacy more and allow it to take its rightful place in history. At the same time, those among us who holler “racism,” with fire in their eyes as they look with disdain at an inanimate piece of cloth, need to turn down the volume.
UPDATE: On July 9, the South Carolina House followed the lead of the state Senate and voted — by a two-thirds margin — to lower the Confederate flag that has flown over the state capitol for more than 50 years.