Columnist: Confederate flag continues its controversial legacy, part 1

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 27, 2015

It seems as if the Confederate flag debate is rearing its controversial head again. In a state that has recently become the center of attention in the media because a deranged young man allegedly believed that he could incite a race war by killing nine innocent victims, the governor has asked that the state’s flag, replete with confederate symbols, be removed from Capitol grounds. The young man allegedly chose a Charleston, South Carolina, African-American church as his killing field because of its historical significance and importance to the black community. Dylann Roof, the accused killer, is correct, Charleston is rich in history and culture. In fact, historians believe that up to 60 percent of the slaves brought to America entered through the ports in and around Charleston, also called the “Low Country.” Some, I am sure with a degree of sarcasm, have even called the “Low Country” a kind of Ellis Island for African-Americans. It is sarcasm because the Ellis Island immigrants arrived voluntarily as opposed to the Africans who were captured in the Atlantic slave trade. Can a flag really symbolize hatred under the guise of honoring a group’s heritage? In the case of Dylann Roof, he did, in fact, use flags that symbolized hatred and racism. In many of his photographs, he is seen proudly waving a Confederate flag in one hand and a weapon in another. It did not appear, however, as if he had any respect for the American flag, which a recent New York Times article reported he is alleged to have spat on and even burned. Supporters of the Confederate flag contend it is historically significant as a memorial to Confederate soldiers who died while fighting for the South, while critics say it promotes racism. Popular Charleston Mayor Joseph Riley Jr., a Democrat, said hate groups had appropriated the flag. “We can’t put it in a public place where it can give any oxygen to hate-filled people,” Riley said. However, Leland Summers, South Carolina division commander of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, issued a statement recently, dismissing any connection between the killing of nine people allegedly by Dylann and the flag. He went on to say, “do not associate the cowardly actions of a racist to our Confederate banner,” Summers said. “There is absolutely no link between the Charleston massacre and the Confederate memorial banner. Don’t try to create one.” Concomitant with the current flag debate, an Alabama governor has ordered that four Confederate flags be removed from its Capitol grounds. Some high-ranking Republicans even believe that the flag issue should be laid to rest. Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the flag “continues to be a painful reminder of racial oppression to many,” and that “the time for a state to fly it has long since passed.” It is truly difficult for some people to understand why a piece of cloth can stir the angry emotions of so many to the extent that it can cause terror in those who do not embrace or submit to the ideology in which it was created. A symbol of good luck takes on an evil meaning Everyone is familiar with the swastika. Most assume that it was Adolf Hitler’s regime that created it. If you believe this, then you are wrong. The broken cross has been discovered in caves and in other such places to include China, long before it became a symbol of fear, which embodied Hitler’s Nazi regime. It was actually not initially associated with evil, but with good luck. Wear the symbol on clothes today, and you are automatically perceived as advocating racial and ethnic divisiveness. Although Hitler was certainly a demonic individual who rose from humble beginning, he was a marketing genius who wanted to rule the entire world. He was able to persuade the Germans that their country’s bad economy and moral malaise was the result of a Jewish conspiracy. Too many Germans and other countries that aligned themselves with Germany believed in this paranoid and schizophrenic character. Hitler caused the majority of the civilized world to believe that the German people were either being held hostage or were demonic co-conspirators in his evil empire. He perverted legitimate businessmen who submitted bids to secure contracts from his government to build the best and most efficient gas ovens which could exterminate the maximum number of Jews. This was done under the banner of a flag that forced the majority of the God-fearing world, and those who just hated Germany, to come together and say enough is enough and defeated Hitler’s 1,000 year Reich. The swastika insignia on a flag, even today, causes most Jews to rally their forces in order to ensure that it will never again be accorded the status it once had under Hitler. In spite of this, it continues to be an important part of the rituals and uniforms worn by neo Nazis, skin heads and other groups who espouse racial and ethnic purity. Click here to go to part 2 of this column. Contributing columnist Glenn Dowell is an author and LaGrange native who currently lives in Jonesboro. He may be reached at