I have no affection for the Confederate battle flag and I understand that it means different things to different people. I also do not think it is a good idea for it fly over the grounds of a state government, but I also firmly believe if it does, it is the state’s business. Not mine and most certainly not the business of the federal government. Like it or not, that emblem is part of the history of this nation. Do we want to wipe away our history, most especially the ugly parts of it? Wipe away a time that split not only our country, but families too? Bury the history of the time that divided us to the point that we took up arms and started killing one another? Should not an informed citizenry want to understand all of the events that led up to that conflict so as to not repeat it? All of the reasons and events that led up to that deadly split? Certainly we would not want to bury or mischaracterize any history surrounding an important event in the life of our nation. Would we?
So let us not stop with a flag. Let us dig up long buried remains and move them somewhere – anywhere. A landfill maybe? We must tear down statues, rename schools, rename roads, rename all of those U.S. Army Bases now named for Confederate Generals…. And, if we pursue this logic to the very end, what else can we expunge from our history?
“History can be well written only in a free country.” Voltaire, May 27, 1773
From the blizzard of 1977 until July 1980, I was assigned to the ROTC Instructor Group, Gannon University, Erie, Pennsylvania. The local expression is that there are only two seasons in Erie. Winter and the 4th of July. That is fairly accurate. Considering on the July day my family and I got in the car and headed south, the temperature barely broke 50 degrees. Not to worry, it was 104 the day we arrived at Fort McClellan, Alabama. It was my first encounter with a heat mirage rising from the asphalt. But, back to Gannon. At one time in its history, ROTC was compulsory for all freshmen attending Gannon. A story was related to me by some of the long time staff concerning the Vietnam years when there was a push to ban the ROTC from Gannon the same was there was at other schools. Its proper name was the Department of Military Science. As the story was told to me, it actually came to a heated meeting of faculty and was prepared for a vote. The Monsignor, I was told, made his speech and ended it with a question. After we remove the Department of Military Science, which department do we remove next?
After we have wiped any reminders of the Confederacy from our history, what do you suppose will be next? What other disagreeable and offensive symbols must be removed from our sight along with their history.
I do not know if we are already traveling down the road of forgotten history or worse yet we are remembering a history that is racked with inaccuracies and exclusions. We must return to our beginning and revisit the missteps, otherwise we will repeat them. That is what we do.
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