First of all let me say that the love, compassion and sense of community demonstrated by the people of Charleston in wake of the recent mass murders are an inspiration to the nation. The amazing families of the victims; their willingness to grant forgiveness in the face of such tragedy, demonstrates a strength of character that we can all aspire to reach some day.
If only we as a country could mirror their grace, compassion and fortitude in dealing with the important issues of our time. Instead we chase the next shiny object.
As Charleston begins the healing process the president calls on the country to deal with the gun violence that plagues our nation. But rather than focus on a deadly national disease that has taken 400,000 American lives since 9/11, the debate focuses on the Battle Flag of the Confederacy that flies in front of the South Carolina statehouse.
Inquiring minds want to know…”Why wasn’t the Confederate Flag lowered to half-staff in honor of the dead.” “Why is a symbol of white supremacy and the subjugation of an entire race still displayed in front of a government building?” Some breathlessly clarify that the flag in question is not the “official flag of the Confederacy,” but rather the “Battle Flag displayed by Lee’s Confederate troops as they road into battle during the Civil War.”…as if such a distinction matters. Others, such as Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson point out that the flag wasn’t displayed atop the South Carolina Statehouse until 1961, when it was raised as a “middle finger to the anti-segregation movement that was sweeping across the nation during that time.” South Carolina Congressman Jim Clyburn, appearing on “Meet the Press” informed us that the state legislature finally responded to the furor over the flag’s display by reaching a compromise that allowed to the flag to be displayed “behind the statehouse where it would not be seen.” The current location in front the state house “was NOT the compromise location” the congressman booms.
While this history lesson may be both educational and entertaining it misses the far more important question at hand…what are we going to do about the gun violence in our country?
Should a symbol of white supremacy and the subjugation of an entire race be displayed in front of…or behind…the South Carolina statehouse... or any place else for that matter? Its a ridiculous question and a ridiculous debate. The answer seems obvious. NO...of course not! It should be displayed in a museum where all the history of that time…both good and bad…can be brought to light for all to see. But that decision is up to the citizens of South Carolina.
Better that we as a nation discover some of the fortitude and focus shown by the grieving families in Charleston. Stop chasing shiny objects and concentrate on the weighty matters of our time.