When South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley called for the removal of the Confederate flag from its prominent place on the state capitol grounds in the aftermath of the Charleston church massacre last year, she managed to show respect for those who see the flag as an important part of Southern heritage and American history. “That flag, while an integral part of our past, does not represent the future of our great state,” she said. Instead, the flag would be displayed in a museum, where it belongs.
But it wasn’t enough just to remove the flag from state houses and official buildings. Across the country, universities and municipal governments began floating the idea of removing Confederate monuments and renaming schools and buildings that bear the names Confederate leaders. Some protestors even called for the desecration of Confederate graves.
Now the federal government is chiming in. Last week, the House of Representatives voted to ban prominent displays of the Confederate flag from national veterans’ cemeteries, including over mass graves. Those who want to mark an ancestor’s grave with a small flag may do so, but only on Memorial Day and Confederates Memorial Day. Otherwise, the hated flag must not be flown.
“Over 150 years ago, slavery was abolished,” said California Rep. Jared Huffman, who proposed the amendment that banned the flag. “Why in the year 2016 are we still condoning displays of this hateful symbol on our sacred national cemeteries?”
Such is the logic of those who wish to purge public spaces of symbols and monuments to the side that lost the American Civil War: If the past is offensive to the present, it must be abolished, or hidden. And what could be more offensive than a rebellion to preserve slavery?
Why It’s A Mistake To Hide From The Past
The danger in thinking this way is that eventually you lose hold of the past. Some Americans, especially on the Left, would be fine with that—the past was full of unenlightened racists and homophobes, after all, good riddance to them. For them, the past is an ever-present enemy. Thus what began last year in the wake of the Charleston church massacre as a reasonable reassessment of where and how the Confederate flag should be displayed, has now become a campaign to erase the memory of the Confederacy from the public square.
But two cases in Texas show why it’s a mistake to hide from the past. Simply put, there’s more to the legacy of the Civil War than the fight over slavery. If you want to understand America, you need to understand the Confederacy—not hide from it.
There’s more to the legacy of the Civil War than the fight over slavery. If you want to understand America, you need to understand the Confederacy—not hide from it.
Two months after the Charleston shooting, officials at the University of Texas at Austin removed a statue…