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Independence Day, July 4th: time for freedom from bad memories

Confederate flag still flying in Columbia, SC
Confederate flag still flying in Columbia, SC
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July 4th stands for freedom and independence. Upon reflection, those who favor the Confederate flag flying on the State Capitol grounds of Columbia, South Carolina, do have this right. But why in the name of compassion and empathy would they want to?

The Confederate Flag is a banner that yet waves over the State Capitol grounds of Columbia, South Carolina. It has been waving since 1962. It is time that the proud citizens of Columbia, South Carolina, take down the Confederate Flag. Columbia’s city slogan is “Famously Hot”. South Carolinians should be hot about this embarrassment hanging over our city.

Many people in favor of keeping this flag flying argue that it is a part of history, and as such, should not be forgotten, or removed. This, however, is a part of history that is nothing to be proud of. Many of the Confederate Soldiers fought for the cause of the Confederate states to have the right to continue owning their slaves. No one living in 2011 was responsible for this. But to many minorities, this is a painful reminder of being thought of as property, rather than human beings with the same God-given right to freedom as any other citizen of this great country. So painful in fact, that in a state that is trying desperately to boost its tourism income, this flag has actually become a burden. Several religious, political, and even athletic groups, whose events could have brought hundreds of thousands of dollars into the state, have cancelled and moved their events and conventions to other states in a boycott of the Confederate flag.

In 2000, the Confederate Flag was moved from the state house to fly in front of a monument to fallen Confederate Soldiers on the State Capitol grounds. This was a good first step, but clearly not enough. The October 28, 1999 edition of The Economist stated that “So far, the NAACP estimates that South Carolina has lost at least $43m that would have come in from visitors: more than 40 organizations have cancelled events in the state, and at least 70 families have moved reunions to other places.”

An article by Sam Eaton published on July 31, 2009 on the news website WLTX.com stated that the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) “voted to move its 2010 convention from South Carolina after the NAACP reminded them of the organization’s tourism boycott of the state over the Confederate flag.” According to this article, the Christian Church has about 700,000 members. This is a profound loss of tourism dollars to the local hotel and restaurant industry if even a quarter of the members had attended a convention held in South Carolina.

South Carolina also continues to lose out on much needed athletic tourism dollars. A July 9, 2009 article by Gene Wojciechowski on ESPN.com emphasized the long-term detrimental effect the Confederate flag is having on South Carolina’s economy. He states “The Atlantic Coast Conference has had enough of that flag: Earlier this week it pulled the 2011, 2012 and 2013 ACC baseball tournaments out of Spurrier’s (referring to University of South Carolina’s winning head football coach Steve Spurrier) state and relocated them to neighboring North Carolina. Myrtle Beach’s loss becomes Durham’s and Greensboro’s economic and tourism gain. Meanwhile, the NCAA won’t touch the state of South Carolina with a vaulter’s pole. Same goes for Spurrier’s home conference, the SEC. And all because of a Confederate battle flag that first flew atop the state Capitol dome in 1962 and still flies prominently, defiantly and wrongly at a Confederate soldier’s monument on the Capitol grounds in Columbia.”

Where do things stand on the Confederate flag in 2011? An Associated Press article by Seanna Adcox in the HeraldOnline on January 17, 2011, shows that the Confederate flag is still a hot issue. This article highlighted the views and opinions of people who attended the January 17, 2011 rally in Columbia, South Carolina celebrating the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Holiday. According to the article, “Georgia’s NAACP president, Edward Dubose, said the NAACP is renewing its commitment to “not spend one dime in South Carolina until that Confederate flag comes down.” He said he and his wife led by example on the drive, by stopping in Augusta, Ga., to order food, then waiting until they arrived in Columbia to eat it.”

From another attendee, “This is more in-your-face. That’s just heartbreaking,” said Markita Primm, 37, who, along with her 14- and 11-year-old children, boarded one of two buses that traveled overnight from Detroit to attend. Primm, who’s on dialysis and in a wheelchair because of a leg amputation, said she wanted to protest the flag in person. “This flag flying is not right,” she said. Primm came with 120 people on a trip organized by Detroit talk radio personality Mildred Gaddis, who pledged to keep coming every year with more people until the flag is down.”

The Confederate flag should be completely removed from the grounds of the South Carolina State Capitol. This building and its grounds and its employees represent all of the citizens of South Carolina. To those who somehow have fond sentimental thoughts over what this flag represents, they can hang replicas of the flag in their own living rooms or front yards. This flag can also be hung in a South Carolina museum to preserve its historical value. This is an example of a historical period that many South Carolinians are not proud of. Events represented by the Confederate flag happened so long ago, that an apology, though necessary, cannot erase the tragedy.

The best solution is to remember history, so as not to repeat it. Remember it yes, but not arrogantly wave around the symbol of that tragedy. South Carolinians must now contact their local Representatives and Senators. In the spirit of the rebels…..the Confederate Flag must come down.

*I will re-post this article every July 4th until progress is made.