Opinion: Do yourself a favor, take down that flag

confederateRecently, the state of California approved a ban on the Confederate flag. It will no longer be sold in California by state agencies, and will no longer be allowed to be flown on any government building or entity. In my opinion, this is fantastic news.

There’s this old family rumor that my family is distantly related to the Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

When I was a kid, I used to think this was kind of neat. Like most Americans now days, I always grew up knowing that slavery was bad.

I was also taught that the Civil War ‘wasn’t about slavery, it was about states rights!’ Clearly this is a flawed argument, as anyone who looks even passingly into American history understands that the Civil War was about states rights to engage in the slave trade.

The Civil War was about the future of American slavery. There was also the mantra that was eternally repeated, that Lee didn’t support slavery, but fought for North Virginia to side with his home-state.

He was also a brilliant military tactician, and is revered in many places in the south.

I’ve since disowned this part of my history of any positive sentiments.

In America, there is this idea that we can separate the good from that bad in our history. That we can pay homage to our cultural roots while skirting around the issue of slavery.

It’s the idea that I can be proud of my relationship to Lee, while also condemning slavery. I don’t buy this anymore.

History is not the past, we are eternally living in history, and the past holds continuity with our current situation.

We are only a few generations removed from the most brutal, systematic and despicable slave trade the world has ever known, and some of my ancestors fought under the Confederate flag to uphold that system.

Whether or not they ‘approved’ of slavery is a moot point. They fought, killed and died defending one of the largest cesspools of degradation in the whole world’s history.

There is absolutely nothing honorable or proud about that.

Similarly, like I can’t separate the ‘good’ elements from the bad in my own history, our nation cannot separate the ‘good’ aspirations of the Confederate’s and consequently their flag from our collective history.

People who fly the Confederate flag believe they are doing so generally because they view it as a symbol of southern unity, history and anti-federal government sentiments.

They see it as a symbol of the individual triumphing over government oppression.

In reality, this banner was the rallying point for hundreds of years of the most disgusting practice in our nation’s history, rivaled domestically only by the genocide enacted against the American Indian population.

It is impossible to pick apart the one sentiment from the other.

The Confederate flag is a symbol of terror to many of our fellow Americans, and we have a responsibility and a historical debt to understand this fully.

In America, we have the freedom of political speech, and this is necessary to any functioning democracy.

You can absolutely fly a Confederate flag on or from your own private property.

In doing so, you must also understand that people will likely judge you for it, and that their judgments will often times not be what you intend.

Instead of seeing it as a symbol of anti-federalism, many will see it as a banner akin to the swastika or KKK cross.

It is, in fact, a symbol of the darkest depths to which the human soul can plummet and dwell.

If you are willing to accept that, then by all means keep your Confederate flags flying, and know that people will take note.

If you instead choose to accept the whole of what that symbol means in context to our American history, past and present, then do us all a favor, and take down that flag.