The South should be built on love

Published 12:18 pm Saturday, June 27, 2015

I am deeply proud of Southern culture — magnolias, catfish, B.B. King, faith in God, Rock ‘n’ Roll, tight-knit families and a generosity that drives us to help others without being told.

All things considered, the flag Gen. Robert E. Lee rode into battle with represents none of those things. The flag certainly represents some good, such as the heritage of that time period. Using it to revere the dead who fought in the war is also noble.

On the other side of the issue, even though many don’t want to admit it, the imagery of the flag also represents a lot of bad.

While it can certainly be looked at as a positive symbol, it’s plain denial to suggest that it cannot also be viewed as a symbol of hatred.

The flag was used by the KKK and other groups to terrorize African-Americans as homes and churches were burned down.

Then there is the actual war. While some today want to practice revisionist history, the American Civil War was primarily about slavery.

One argument is that it was about economics, and that’s true, but the financial model was based on large-scale, manual-labor-intensive agriculture. To keep profits as high as possible in absence of a technological revolution, a slave-based workforce was needed.

State rights is another argument, and that was certainly a factor, as well. But like the economics argument, looking at the declaration of causes for succession of most states, slavery was the No. 1 right on the list. Only viewing five of the states — Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia — the word slave was used 83 times in some context.

That’s not to say that every soldier was fighting for slavery, but it was high up on the list for many of the officials.

The biggest problem with this system is that it was entirely based on race — the idea that it was justified because African-Americans were incapable of taking care of themselves and that the superior white race was doing the right thing.

You don’t think that might cause some resentment toward the fight and its symbolic representation?

One of the arguments is that ‘It’s just a flag, so what is the big deal? There are real problems out there, right?’ True, there are bigger problems, and that’s why I wonder why it’s such a big deal to keep it on state property.

Again, I emphasize its official use as a nation only. Continue to fly the flag on your truck; keep it around for the Sons of the Confederacy; wear the T-shirt because you are proud of your ancestor; continue to put out flags on gravestones to honor the dead; and I’m certainly not advocating bringing down old monuments.

I wouldn’t dream of destroying any part of history, whether I agree with it or not, including the flag. Just on this issue, I fail to see any reason for this banner to fly alongside the U.S. and state flags.

No matter what you think about the Confederacy, the South is a lot more than a lost cause. Its culture is built up on God, great food, hospitality, love and music. Considering those positives of the South, it’s easy to see that African-Americans have played an important role in shaping every single one them.

So even if you ignore the hurtful aspects that the flag brings to mind for many people, flying Gen. Lee’s banner alongside the state and national imagery is still a problem.

The Confederate flag is not a symbol of unity. By it’s very nature, it’s a symbol that excludes African-Americans and the great contributions that have been made to Southern culture by many individuals.

It just doesn’t seem like the right message to send if we want to truly become a unified South that has the potential to get over the racial distrust holding us back from standing out on the world’s stage.

By no means would this end racism, but it’s a concession that makes sense and would be another step in the right direction.

We’ve all seen the truly great things that can be accomplished when we get over racism and work together as one people.

Why wouldn’t we want to work toward that happening all the time?

Cain Madden is the managing editor of The Tidewater News. He can be reached at 562-3187 or