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The Confederate Flag: Symbol of Hate or Pride?

Updated on July 10, 2015

The Stars and Bars

The Stars and Bars made their appearance in 1861, in March as the seven star version and in November as the thirteen star. Over the years there have been multiple variants all detailing stars to represent the states which seceded from the Union, ranging from the original seven (South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas) to thirteen stars which represented the additional states of Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and North Carolina.

Thus the Confederate Flag was created to indicate the Confederate States disassociation with the United States during the Civil War timeframe. In fact, the single best known Confederate Flag was never an official flag representing the states at all. It was the rectangular Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia and flew over General Robert E. Lee. It was never recognized as the symbol of the South at the time yet over the years has come to define what the South sees as being The Confederate Flag.

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That means this flag was intended to create a rift, to symbolize the disagreement with the Union over the issues of the time which included slavery. So it has been viewed, over the years, as a sign of discontent, of disagreement, of not wishing to follow the direction of the nation at large. Of being rebellious, of not desiring to follow the guidelines of an ever more distanced government. In short, to be apart from the whole.

So does that make it a bad thing? A symbol of hatred? Of racism? To many, the simple answer is yes. To others, a resounding no.

Does the Confederate Flag cause you concern?

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Ultimately, nothing has any meaning lest a person or persons supply a meaning. The Nazi flag containing a swastika is not evil in and of itself although it did represent an evil group. Likewise, the Confederate flag is not itself evil although it represented a dark moment in our nation's history. It is a symbol, one which has gathered a dark meaning harkening back to days when brother fought brother, when our nation teetered on weak legs and came close to failing. So, do we treat it with disdain, with a borderline hatred for what it stood for? Do we attach the hatred associated with a group of people who desired to own other humans and were told no? They fought for a belief, a perceived right that one could own slaves.

In truth, slavery was quite common in the development of our nation. Of those who signed the Declaration of Independence, who authored those immortal words regarding freedom of all some 41 owned slaves, over 70% of the signees. This group included John Penn, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and even John Hancock. So, a mere eighty years prior, barely three or four generations before the Civil War erupted slavery was not only accepted, it was encouraged.

So one could respond that a right, created and reinforced by the Founding Fathers was being stripped of them. As the South held large plantations and farms slavery was a way of life. The North had more manufacturing and as such did not have the same need for the degree of slavery as in the South.

And so a war was fought to determine which direction our country would proceed.

With the war underway the tide was turning and with it the direction of the country. A Democracy was in place and this meant that We the People had voted on our representatives and as such should follow their direction. Those in the South chose not to follow this direction and knew this meant an end to their way of life and fought against it.

Thus, the Confederate Flag grew out of that belief.

Today, we should be able to distance ourselves sufficiently to agree that our country does not need this symbol to remind us of our darkness, the belief that one man could own another. It should not fly over state capitols; it should not be a part of a state's flag as it is in Mississippi's state flag. It should not represent a college or university of higher learning. Nor should it be represented in Georgia's flag, which features a variant of the first national battle flag of the Confederacy. So, how far do we go? How far do we carry the distaste, the symbolism of the old South?

Should we decide it is truly a symbol for racism, of oppression? One man over another? After all, that is basically what it stood for some 150 years ago, isn't it? Or has it evolved over time, distancing itself from the slavery issue and evolved into a simple symbol of rebellion? Should we as a people be able to fly this flag regardless of how others feel or believe?

After all, wasn't the core belief of the founding of America freedom to pursue a life free from encumbrances, a freedom of religion, of speech? The flag of the United States can be burned, spit upon, trod upon and defiled by its citizens in pursuit of their free speech. People can make fun of the President, can speak their minds without fear of reprisal (in theory, of course). How is flying the Confederate flag any different? It is an expression of the right to free speech, to disagree with one another, isn't it?

How is this any different, at the core, from forcing one's beliefs on others to what constitutes a marriage? Is it a man and a woman, or a couple made up of the same sex? I am not comparing slavery to homosexuality, merely stating that each of us has an opinion on what we feel is right and we have the freedom to state our beliefs. This right was guaranteed in blood by those who founded our nation. The Bill of Rights, the Constitution, and the Declaration of Independance all became the light before our feet, guiding us on this experiment called Democracy, where no one man is better than another, where all are created equal (even if it took some time for our nation to determine that), where each voice is just as important as the next.

Right?

How far do we go as a nation to put this period to rest? Films such as Gone With The Wind detail the period before, during and after the Civil War and seem universally adored while Song of the South produced by Walt Disney only a few years later than GWTW detail life in the post war era, where slavery is no longer in effect is not even available to be purchased in the United States due to its depiction of colored people of the time. If one wishes to purchase this fine movie, one must go to the Internet and will most likely get a pirated copy of the film on a DVD from Asia. Do we ban all films, all songs, all books which detail this period? Do we become that which we fear, a nation of lawmakers who represent a few while oppressing the majority?

Do we listen to a single voice, or a minority of voices and determine what is best for the nation at large? If so, whose voice should ring the loudest?

Personally, I am sick and tired of the voices of a few determining the direction our country proceeds. And while I do not support anarchy I do support the belief that we are a nation of many individuals, most of whom are interlopers on this continent and therefore should work together to create, build, and nurture our nation with those who came before us. There were people here prior to Columbus, prior to Captain John Smith, prior to the United States of America birth and as such we should work together to enhance, not further debilitate by destroying ourselves one group at a time. Lincoln, who is either the Great Emancipator or the one who authored the utter destruction of the Native Americans (depending on how you view him) declared that a house divided cannot stand. With each liberty removed, with each division created and enhanced, with each voice that raises itself in order to be heard over other voices we step closer to the precipice that is the end of our Democracy. People, we need to find a way to work together, not divide apart. Is the Confederate Flag really such a symbol of hatred, or is it a symbol of racism that is no longer racism? Do Southerners really believe that they should own slaves and use the flag to show that belief? Is it really an affront to all those who are descended from slavery? Do those who cry out to remove it from view truly represent every single black person? Do they even represent a majority of them?

Do we even know?

Or is this an attempt to force a view onto another segment of America? To force others to abide by the decision of a few?

Personally, I can do without the Confederate Flag. As a youth I was a "good ol Southern boy" and enjoyed the sight of the flag. But as I have aged I no longer see it as anything but a symbol of a bygone age which sadly seems to be most commonly seen in the backs of pickup trucks or in the yards of people who (my perception only remember!) may not be the smartest of the mass of humanity currently residing on Planet Earth. Their homes represent them to be not necessarily one whom I would desire to visit, often filled with discarded items and not well kept.

Do not get angry with me for this generalization! I am simply stating what I have personally witnessed! Am I saying this is everywhere, every home that displays the Confederate Flag? By no means; but it does seem to be something I have seen fairly often in my travels and as such is nothing more than my perception, not the reality.

I do feel it has no place in today's political world, federal or state. It should, however, be allowed to be shown, sold, and flown as much as it is the right to a citizen to burn the American Flag. It is a right, a freedom of speech guaranteed in the blood of those who fought for this nation. And as such deserves the protection of the law. Not everyone need agree, nor should everyone expect others to agree, but we must respect the freedom to say, to display, to feel and believe as we do as individuals. To do less is an affront to the Founding Fathers and the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and the Constitution.

If we remove this from the ability to be sold and purchased, then what is next? The books which detail slavery? Do we halt sales of Gone With The Wind, Uncle Remus, and Uncle Tom's Cabin? Do we stop selling films and documentaries of the same? How about the musical The King and I? After all, it references Uncle Tom's Cabin. What about Showboat? After all, there is a half black woman who is ostracized in it, and songs which detail the life of a slave such as Ol' Man River? Do we halt sales of belt buckles which say "The South Will Rise Again"? How far do we go to erase a history? Or would we be better served having learned from it, to be better citizens moving forward one day at a time?

Maybe we should never sing Zip a dee doo dah ever again for fear of offending others.

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    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 22 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Well, buddy. I'll weigh in on this one. I hate the Confederate flag...but I love Freedom of Speech. If I love the Bill of Rights then I have to be willing to allow people to fly whatever damn flag they want to fly and for whatever reasons. I can choose to ignore them or I can choose to be antagonized by them...that is my choice. I don't need the government telling me what I should feel. I am responsible for my own actions.

      I guess that's all I have. :)

      Have a great weekend, my friend.

    • KDLadage profile image

      K David Ladage 22 months ago from Cedar Rapids, IA

      This flag, that you are calling the Confederate flag, which is actually more associated with the KKK than anything in the South? You can own one, fly one, enjoy one... do whatever you want.

      But I do not want to see if flown over a PUBLICLY owned building. It has no place over national, State, county, or municipal property. None. The fact that is has been flown for this long is a disgrace.

      You want to fly it over your house, on your automobile, at your family-members grave-site... more power to ya! I will defend to the death your right to do so. But no one person owns the Capital building or the Court House... those belong to the people. And nothing that calls into remembrance lynchings and slavery need to displayed there.

      The 'rebel flag' of the KKK can be relegated to the history books. It has no place in modern culture.

      That is my opinion.

    • Mr Archer profile image
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      Mr Archer 22 months ago from Missouri

      Bill, while I do not hate it I do hate that which it represented: oppression, slavery, the "right" to own another person. I too choose to ignore those who fly it, as it is an expression of their freedom of speech. I actually get far more incensed and angry when our Flag of the United States of America gets burned or trampled in the name of "Free Speech" than I do at the sight of a Confederate flag. But I have to respect those individuals right to perform whatever atrocities they feel compelled to do upon it as it is within their rights as a U.S. citizen. I agree wholeheartedly with you in saying we each should be responsible for our own actions. The Bill of Rights demands we allow others their opinion, even if we don't agree with it. I feel that is part of our problem today, that we aren't willing to allow others to be individuals in their own right; rather there are those who demand we agree with them irregardless. We need to band together to support our right to be individuals who are then part of the whole rather than continually divide one another by demanding those same rights. Strange that the desire may be the same, or at least similar but the way we go about achieving that goal causes such discord. Take care Bill.

      KDLadage, I personally have never associated it with the KKK although I can see where that comes from. And I agree 100% that it has no place in our political world today as a symbol on publicly owned buildings and property. Individuals who choose to associate themselves with it, fine; but as a statement flying outside a State Capitol, or Federal Courthouse, or even a University no way! Take care, Sir.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 22 months ago from Central Florida

      History is history. However, is the Union flag flown anywhere? Those days are over and we've moved on. There's no need to fly any flag of the past.

      And when did it become okay to burn the American flag? I remember the days when it was a sin to even let it touch the ground!

      You did an excellent job on this topic, Mike. Beautifully presented!

    • Mr Archer profile image
      Author

      Mr Archer 22 months ago from Missouri

      Cheyenne, I cannot say if the Union flag is flown anywhere. Was it any different than the standard American flag of the day? Something for me to check out! Regarding the burning of the flag, it is legal although I cannot subscribe to doing it beyond disposing of one which is tattered or has touched the ground. But those who choose to do so can as it is a law allowing them their "free speech". To me, it is a sign of complete disrespect for the very reason you exist in this country and to desecrate it thusly is a gross statement of who you are as a person: but I have to allow you to have your say and burn it as this country is founded on that freedom, the freedom of speech (among others of course). You take care ok? Stay safe and sane!!

    • profile image

      retief2000 22 months ago

      I have been thinking about purchasing a "Confederate" flag for no other reason than the out right attack on the freedom of my fellow Americans to display it. It would be my act of rebellion. I am very proud of my home state's contribution to the end of the Confederacy and the contribution of the Irish in the Civil War, as owning Irish slaves was legal until 1848.

      So why own a "Confederate" flag? Freedom! We did not become a nation to throw our history down Orwell's "memory hole." We became a nation so that people may believe as they will and speak their minds. Freedom!

    • Mr Archer profile image
      Author

      Mr Archer 22 months ago from Missouri

      I understand your sentiments and reasoning, for that is the reason I wrote this hub. If we are allowed to burn the American flag due to the Freedom of Speech right, how can they in good conscience declare the Confederate Flag to be illegal to sell? Remove it from the State and Federal grounds, I understand that; but to delcare it cannot be sold? Seriously? In that context, the "Rebel" flag will become a symbol of tyranny, of oppression against the freedoms guaranteed by the founding fathers and possibly become even more popular but for an entirely different reason than before. Thank you for your stop and comment and have a safe day.

    • KDLadage profile image

      K David Ladage 22 months ago from Cedar Rapids, IA

      Who is making it illegal to sell, own, or fly this flag? The only things I have seen are State and County governments removing it from State and County property... and private businesses making a business choice not to sell it.

      At no time has anyone (that I am aware of) proposed or passed a law making the selling of this flag a crime.

    • Mr Archer profile image
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      Mr Archer 22 months ago from Missouri

      I saw a report on local TV which stated someone was attempting to garner support to make it illegal to sell the flag in the US. Already, locations are puling it from shelves and halting sales. Amazon, WalMart, Target, Ebay and Sears are but a few of the major retailers who are refusing to sell the flag and associated items. If this continues it won't be long before someone gets the support needed to make it illegal to manufacture, sell, or even own/display a Rebel flag. All because of a small group who determines this needs to go away.

      As much as I hate to say it, I won't be too surprised if this causes a major rift in America. There are far too many proud Southerners who feel strongly enough to stand up to Government and say no. And there seems to be no shortage of people willing to demand others think their way or be considered a racist.

    • KDLadage profile image

      K David Ladage 22 months ago from Cedar Rapids, IA

      "I saw a report on local TV which stated someone was attempting to garner support to make it illegal to sell the flag in the US." -- and if this starts to make headway, you have an argument. Until then, this is an idiot with no understanding of the law attempting to do something stupid.

      "Already, locations are puling it from shelves and halting sales. Amazon, WalMart, Target, Ebay and Sears are but a few of the major retailers who are refusing to sell the flag and associated items." -- and that is their right. Amazon, WalMart, Target, EBay and Sears are private companies that can sell any legal item they like, and refuse to sell any item they like. Are you suggesting that the government should force them to sell these items?

      The rest of your comments ... they are fearful thoughts and speculation. Relax. This country pushes back pretty hard. I doubt anything will come of it.

    • Mr Archer profile image
      Author

      Mr Archer 22 months ago from Missouri

      KD, I do not believe the Government should force retailers to sell something; neither do I believe they should force someone to serve who they choose to not serve for political and/or religious beliefs, yet they do. If one owns a shop selling an item one has the choice,the freedom to sell and/or serve whomever they choose to, right? It cannot be both ways. Freedom means freedom to do what you believe is right within the rigors of the law. If a person attempts to sell a flag on Amazon or Ebay, is it within their right to do so or not? Using this platform as a means to an end (selling) to another private customer is either allowed under the law or not. If no law exists preventing selling the flag, then it should be legal to use these companies to sell it, right? If not, then when a bakery refuses to sell a cake to a homosexual couple based upon their religious right, the government cannot force them to do so. Right? Yet time and again we see shops persecuted for this behavior, this acting within their perceived rights under the freedom to express themselves, this freedom of speech.

      Again, I am not comparing homosexuals and their freedoms to the freedom to sell a flag, but either America has Freedom of Speech or it doesn't. It cannot be for one this time and not another the next time. I am dead set against segregation, against slavery, against pushing someone down to gain something for yourself. I am for the right to exercise one's right to free speech ,whether it be burning a flag, selling a cake, or selling a flag that some feel is racist. We have skinheads who believe they are superior; we have Nazi's who believe they are superior; we have different minority groups feeling they are the single most important voice waiting to be heard. Every single person deserves the right to be themselves. Those who desire to sell and display the flag have an equal right as those who burn a flag, as those who do not agree with homosexuality. All I ask is for others to not force their view on everyone else. Live and let live, within the scope of the written word.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 22 months ago from Oklahoma

      The stars and bars flag is an interesting design. I think the recent ruling was the right one, but that doesn't mean you can't sport the design if you want to. Don't see the big deal. I have a Hooters shirt I like. Doesn't mean it would be appropriate for it to be hung in public buildings:-)

      As for if it is a symbol of hate. Sometimes it is. Depends on the person that is displaying it.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 22 months ago from New York

      I agree and have no reason to want to own a Confederate flag, however, does that mean we have to ban Confederate flags? From flying on Government buildings, yes. Yet, how crazy does this country go? The Dukes of Hazard television show has been pulled because there is a Confederate flag on their car! Seriously! The show has nothing to do with slavery so why ban the show? Overkill!

      Our past is just that, past. You can't hide it or change it. Will the remake of Roots be banned?

      Voted up, useful, and interesting.

    • Mr Archer profile image
      Author

      Mr Archer 22 months ago from Missouri

      Larry, I love it. Perfect example! Just because one person likes something and another doesn't does not mean the first person should not be able to enjoy it so long as it is not harming anyone. The flag is not physically harming anyone so let those who like it have it and those who don't, don't. I mean, I hate cigarette smoke and feel smokers have no regard for others when they smoke around myself and my family but the law states they have the right to smoke in certain areas; it is up to me to avoid those areas. Don't agree with it, but I have to follow the letter of the law.

      Mary, when did they pull the Dukes of Hazzard?! This country has become a nation of knee jerk reactionists who jump whenever a group of people yell "Jump!" I definitely agree with separation of the Confederate flag from governmental offices but to purge society of it altogether in the name of racism is wrong. I am sorry, but Free Speech trumps all every time. You have the right to disagree with me and I with you.

      The past is the past and we must learn from it in order to be capable of forging a better tomorrow. If we ignore it, or allow some to overshadow what the past truly was then we run the risk of either repeating it or experiencing something far, far worse. Thank you Mary and Larry (hee hee) for taking the time to stop, read, and comment. Stay safe out there!

    • KDLadage profile image

      K David Ladage 22 months ago from Cedar Rapids, IA

      "Again, I am not comparing homosexuals and their freedoms to the freedom to sell a flag" -- actually, yes. Yes you are.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 22 months ago from New York

      Hee hee is right, my husband's name is Larry and of course there's the movie, Dirty Mary & Crazy Larry! Oh dear.

    • Mr Archer profile image
      Author

      Mr Archer 22 months ago from Missouri

      KD I suppose I am not wording my response properly to allow you to understand my intent. For that, I apologize. I simply meant to say either we do or do not have the Freedom of Speech.

      Mary, I remember that film. Great car chases, right? And the ending - WOW! Take care dear Mary of Tillson.

    • Randy Godwin profile image

      Randy Godwin 22 months ago from Southern Georgia

      Having grown up in an area of the south noted for its racial divide I suppose I have a different outlook on the flag decision. I have ancestors on both sides of my family who fought for the southern cause. Some owned slaves and some did not. I am ashamed for the former and proud for the latter it goes without saying.

      My mother--who's 94 years of age--is the grand daughter of a southern belle on a slave plantation who eloped with the overseer right before the war. She's heard tales all of her life about the "Damn Yankees" and I can understand her point of view to a point. She still flies the confederate flag on her farm as she has the right to do so. Romantics is also figured into the equation I suppose.

      The bottom line is, however, we are the great melting pot as we always have been and there's no place in this country for ridiculous biases. A simple piece of cloth should not affect the harmony of a free country.

      Enjoyed your take on it. :)

    • Mr Archer profile image
      Author

      Mr Archer 22 months ago from Missouri

      Randy, I truly appreciate your point of view here. I too have ancestors who fought on both sides; some of mine also owned slaves at one time. I found a will authored by one of those and to my great shame on it found a female slave with a net worth of $0. Nothing; no value whatsoever. So on top of the shame of owning a slave, this person viewed their slave as worthless. I wish I could apologize to that family in person today for my ancestor's thought.

      As you say, we are a melting pot and bias should have no place within our country, yet for some it has always been and will always be about them, no one else. This symbol means different things for different people and there is no way we can force everyone to agree. To outlaw it across the board is simply wrong as that is a direct violation of Free Speech. That we cannot allow. To allow that is to allow tyranny to take hold and that is one thing this country will not stand. Thank you once more and have a great day Sir.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 22 months ago from SW England

      I was wondering exactly what the confederate flag was about and, thanks to you, now I know. I suppose I should have known but, as a Brit, I didn't.

      You've put both sides of the argument well and I understand.

      Like Bill, I don't like governments telling us what to believe in, how to think and the like. It means they presume we're not able to think for ourselves, something our government here does a lot. Free speech is sacred to us too.

      Great hub!

      Ann

    • Mr Archer profile image
      Author

      Mr Archer 22 months ago from Missouri

      Ann, thank you for taking a few minutes to read this; I am glad it provided you with an understanding of this situation. Free Speech should be available to all, yet for some reason not everyone thinks it should be. I agree, we can think for ourselves and do not need Big Brother or every "focus" group or special interest group telling us how to think, live, believe. To those groups I say we allow you to think and express yourselves, do not presume to tell us how we can express ourselves.

      Take care, Ann. Have a wonderful weekend.

      Mike

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 22 months ago from SW England

      Thanks, Mike. Hope you're enjoying the weekend too.

      Ann

    • Connie120 profile image

      Connie120 22 months ago

      Mr. Archer, I agree wholeheartedly with your views on free speech, especially being able to sell Confederate merchandise on platforms such as Amazon, Ebay, and Zazzle.

      One thing I'd like to point out: the people calling for the Confederate flag to be removed from public buildings want it to be removed from ALL public places, even the graves of the confederate soldiers, and the battlefield parks that keep history alive. This is very wrong. The Confederates were ruled to be American veterans by Public law (I forget the exact law number), so removing the flag they fought under is very disrespectful to American veterans.

      Like you pointed out, in public opinion, the flag most often represents dissatisfaction with the government, and fighting for personal freedom. Most of the Confederate soldiers didn't even own slaves, and many viewed slavery with distaste. But they were fighting for their homes and freedoms ,which is (or was) a very American concept. In the years after the war, the flag came to symbolize independence and freedom, and was a popular symbol of the South itself, regardless of race. Look at the WWII photos of Southern companies flying the Confederate flag in the Pacific, for example.

      Today, the Confederate flag is becoming a rallying point for people who see an ever more encroaching federal government, that is more and more out of touch with what every day Americans want (just to be left alone!) I think the attacks on the flag are backfiring on the attackers in that respect. In fact, the situation is becoming more and more divisive. You don't promote unity by repressing one side or favoring one side over another.

    • Mr Archer profile image
      Author

      Mr Archer 22 months ago from Missouri

      Thank you Connie, your comments are appreciated. What you say is sad concerning grave sites; I had not heard that. This flag means something different to many different people and while I understand it bothers some it doesn't others. Free Speech demands it be allowed yet it is being denied. That is the saddest thing to me. Take care.

    • profile image

      brian 21 months ago

      I actually saw a black dude with a confederate flag on his shirt. He had a camouflaged hat and fish hook.

    • Mr Archer profile image
      Author

      Mr Archer 21 months ago from Missouri

      To each his (or her) own. Just because it means one thing to someone does not mean it stands for that to another person.

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