The last mortal casualty of the Civil War was laid to rest over 150 years ago. Somewhere around 750,000 people died in that war. Most of the soldiers died from disease — for every three killed in combat there was another five who died from disease. Many more were maimed for life.
There is a great deal of agitation and consternation over the future of the Confederate flag and what it actually stands for. To claim that the flag stands to memorialize and honor Confederate soldiers who died in a misguided and vain attempt to preserve slavery (yes, that’s what it was about in the south) is to, conversely, dishonor and minimize the efforts and sacrifice of Union soldiers who also died in the conflict in the struggle to preserve the Union and abolish slavery. Many soldiers’ lives were cut short even if they survived the war. My great-grandfather died from complications from a Civil War injury long after the war ended. Another relative suffered thirty years of pain with a war injury until he finally had his leg amputated in the 1890s.
The Confederate flag doesn’t stand for or serve the purpose that it was originally intended. It is now mostly a tool to symbolize obstructionism and white privilege. No matter what you think of it or its history, today it is the bigot’s flag. It was once vilified as “the traitor’s rag” and has evolved into the “bigot’s rag”.
Slavery and the Civil War were horrendous things in our history. I was born and raised in Missouri, a one-time slave state. Our version of Civil War there was particularly brutal on all sides. Slavery in Missouri was not as widely practiced as in the deep south but had a particular ugly aspect — one not much talked about. Slave plantations in parts of Missouri were essentially stock farms where slaves were bred and then shipped south. Slaves could not be imported into the United States after 1807 so there was a business side to the “peculiar institution” — making baby slaves that could eventually be sold south to large agricultural plantations. I’m sure this went on all over the south but it is seldom talked about. Where do you think all those slaves came from?
The killing of the nine church members in Charleston is not directly related to the Confederate flag. The murders are related to the mindset and bigotry that the flag represents. The flag bolsters and fosters the hate and aggression that permeates the minds of too many people…not just in the south. That’s how the murders are connected. You can see Confederate flag “do-rags” on bikers in California or any state. The flag decorates pick-up trucks in Michigan or Idaho or anywhere in the country. Six-year-olds wrapped in Chinese-made Confederate flag beach towels in Texas or Cape Cod don’t (yet) know what that symbol is about but others with them or seeing them do and it won’t be long before they figure it out.
It is time to grow up and put all of that behind us. This is not “political correctness” as right-wingers like to complain about. They don’t fly Nazi flags in military cemeteries in Germany. Put the flag in a museum — there is no place for the Confederate flag in public or government institutions or business…as in state flags or license plates. It’s time we laid it all to rest.