The recent tragedy in Charleston, South Carolina, has once again stirred up the controversy about flying the Confederate battle flag in public. I've stayed out of the conversations, calmly watching from afar. It seems to me that a few extremists, on both sides of the issue, have inflamed the passions of the masses - much like abolitionists and secessionists did in the late 1850s, leading to the war of 1861-1865. Hmmm. If we don't learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it.
A couple of years ago a colleague called and asked me if I'd be willing to speak on the subject of flying the battle flag. He was writing a piece for the Chattanooga Times-'Free Press. I responded that I do not believe the flag should be eradicated. It is a part of history. However, I feel it should be taken down from public places. It should only be flown and displayed in historic locations, such as museums, Civil War re-enactments and battlefields. People choose to visit those locales. It shouldn't be flown just anywhere. It does offend a good many people. And for good reason. No one can get around the fact that the war was fought. Why was it fought? Money. Plain and simple. And for the southern agricultural economy, that wealth was tied directly to slavery. Now, the rich men could not very well ask all of the poor farmers to fight their war, so the boys had to be sold on something else. That something else was states' rights. Back then, the majority of people in the United States thought of themselves as citizens of their state first, country second. Fighting for home was considered honorable. Once invaded, the Southern men rushed to arms.
History needs to be taught. Not some idealized version. The truth. We need to learn from the past in the present, so that our collective futures will be brighter. Common sense, people.
On a closing note, I hope you will read my book A SECESSIONIST CHRISTMAS CAROL. It's a Civil War twist on the Charles Dickens classic. The three ghosts of Christmas past, present and future visit a fire-eating secessionist orator on Christmas Eve of 1860 in Columbia, South Carolina and warn him of the evils to come should the old Palmetto Republic pull out of the Union. What if it had remained loyal? That is the big question these days.