Once upon a time, there was a terrible war. Fathers went to war against their sons, sons against fathers, brothers against brothers, and so on. It was all centered around a deeply divisive issue, but at the same time was portrayed as being centered around something only tangentially related. I am, of course, referring to the Civil War, but what was it really about?
In a large sense, yes, the war was over the issue of slavery. However, it wasn’t a matter of the South wanting to keep black slaves in oppressive conditions forever. Rather, it was an issue of state rights versus federal rights, an argument that we are actually having once again in our Supreme Courts now (wait for my next column for that). The states that would eventually form the Confederacy had two problems. The first problem is that completely abolishing slavery would hurt their economy, as the economic driver of the south was the plantation. The second problem was that states felt it was a state issue as to whether or not to force slavery to be illegal.
I’m omitting a lot there in recapping the events leading up to the Civil War, but history is not the point of this column – it’s the censorship and removal of history from modern culture.
That’s why, in the past couple of weeks, we’ve seen the push to remove what is commonly referred to as the Confederate Flag from all visible locations in society. In Charleston, South Carolina, a young man by the name of Dylann Storm Roof walked into a predominantly black church and shot many people to death. His aim was to start a race war, and photos emerged of him with the Confederate Flag. Nikki Haley, the governor of South Carolina, called for the Confederate Flag to be removed from its position over the state house.
And Haley is absolutely right – the flag is a symbol of something the state is no longer a part of. It belongs, as Professor Jones would say, in a museum. However, it didn’t stop there. Calls from activist groups came to completely remove the flag from society grew. Amazon, Walmart, and Ebay, just to name a few, stopped selling anything with the Confederate Flag on it. The issue is now about how the flag is interpreted. And, to be honest, the common interpretation is about race. There are not very many people out there who would hang that flag from their front porch as anything other than a sign that black folks aren’t very welcome there. It’s a sad fact, but it is true in many, many places. Certainly, we should not fly that flag over state houses and government buildings. It is wrong to do so, because it alienates people from the government that is supposed to represent them.
But to call for its removal from all walks of life runs dangerous risk of obliterating what it really meant (“Heritage, Not Hate”) and rewriting history. If we were to do rewrite the meaning of the Civil War there, what will we rewrite next?
Joe Cunningham is a conservative commentator, Front Page Editor at RedState.com, and a teacher in south Louisiana. You can find him on Twitter at @joec_esquire.