In the aftermath of the church shooting this past week, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley said the “people of South Carolina need us to come together.” Coming together, however, has included massive criticism of South Carolina’s tradition of hanging the Confederate flag at the State’s capital building. Pictures of the shooter, Dylann Roof, began to flood the internet, and the Confederate flag was present in some of those photos. This connection between flag and murderer has prompted politicians such as Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush to call for the immediate removal of the Confederate flag at the state’s capital.
The history of South Carolina is interesting. The state was the first to secede from the American union, and many in the state still embrace elements of the revolution which followed. The symbol of the Confederate flag diverged at that point in histroy, with the north and the south having their own interpretation of the flag’s meaning. Many South Carolina residents believe the flag has nothing to do with racism; it is about southern pride and heritage.
The opinion that the flag isnt a racist symbol is not only held by white South Carolinians. In 2011, at the University of South Carolina, a black student named Byron Thomas was told to remove the Confederate flag from his dorm room – because the flag violated the school’s no-bigotry rule. “When I look at this flag, I don’t see racism. I see respect, Southern pride,” Thomas told the AP.” In the face of a lawsuit for violating the student’s first amendment right, the school later retracted their threat to force Thomas to take down his flag.
An unstable, hate-filled, murderous young man killed 9 people in 2015, and now we’re told that makes the dukes of hazard some kind of neo-Nazi duo, that anyone who features the rebel flag is a hate-filled version of Dylann Roof. Issues like this live in the world of the reactionary, where only hyperbole and under-thought ideas exit the mouths of pundits and politicians.
While the Confederate flag will remain divisive and might eventually be removed from South Carolina’s capital building, that decision needs to made after a proper vote – not forced down America’s throat during an emotional, reactive time. Politicians who use events like this to advace their presidential aspirations are not helping American solidarity by using polarizing issues for the benifit of their campaigns.
We see opportunists attack so many events: every snow storm disproves global warming; every hot day proves climate change; every misuse of guns is proof of the necessity of gun banns; every act of racism requires flags to be taken out. As Aerostotle wrote “Anybody can become angry – that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.” The talking points might scream out that a piece of fabric was the cause of the murder of nine people, but this author believes the fault falls at the feet of the murderer, Dylann Roof.