The Confederate Flag was raised over the capitols of the South during the mid 20th Century to protest Civil Rights. It cannot be disputed that the Confederate Flag has been a consistent symbol used by Segregationists, the KKK, and even as a stand-in for the Nazi Flag by Fascist rallies in countries where the use of the Nazi flag is illegal.
Now that doesn’t mean that it should be banned. Symbols of Christianity have been used by those committing gross atrocities as well. But I think it’s important to recognize when a symbol has been tainted to the point it stops communicating the right message. The argument could easily be made that the Confederate Flag never communicated the right message, but that’s another issue entirely.
With the exception of a group consisting mostly of White Southerners, their descendants, an some modern country music fans, the entire world associates that flag with: Racism, Slavery, Segregation, or even the “white-washing” of Confederate History. Therefore, when someone proudly emblazons it on something, they should be mindful of what message they’re sending to people. They should most certainly have a right to do so, but everyone else can’t be blamed for thinking poorly of them for it.
But the core of the current controversy, is NOT whether this symbol should be banned. But whether it is appropriate for government land to display it in a position of honor. Tons of arguments could be made about the appropriateness of honoring a symbol of treason, and what implications that might have; but when it comes down to it: when the majority of people feel that a symbol does not represent what their community, state, or nation should aspire towards, then it should should most certainly be done away with.
There is definitely a place for keeping monuments up for their historical significance. I don’t see anyone clamoring to tear down France’s “Arc de Triomphe” even though it represents Napoleon’s quest to conquer the world, but I don’t think anyone wonders if the French still keep it because they are in favor of Napoleon’s quest for world domination. Similarly, San Francisco is full of monuments to the Spanish-American war — a conflict who’s historical significance is of a rather questionable nature — but I don’t think anyone wonders if San Franciscans secretly want to invade the Philippines again.
Perhaps the problem with the Confederate monuments is the ambiguous meaning they have. We are uncomfortable with them because they are used (even to this day) to represent terrible ideologies, and misguided historical perspectives. We want them gone because they are actively communicating such an ambiguous message, on a topic our government should be far from ambiguous about.
In the end it was the South’s own hubris in regards to the flag that lead to it’s categorical rejection. Had they not passed a law that made it illegal to even lower it to half-mast at the South Carolinian Capitol without legislative action, they might have been spared this cultural culling. Similarly, had they not been so adamant in their denial of the Civil War’s cause and significance (an assertion their own ancestor’s official documents contradicts) these civil war monuments may have been allowed to rust in peace, or even been promoted, like so many other symbols of our past mistakes.