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A Dubious Uniqueness: South Carolina's the Only State to Fly Dixie's Flag It's Time to "Furl the Flag," the Symbol of Our Greatest Mistake and Loss

Tom Turnipseed

Columbia, S.C. -- The flag that remains flying over the battlefield is the symbol of victory in our ancient heritage of mortal combat. When Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered his troops to United States General Ulysses Grant to end the Civil War in 1865, Lee told his defeated Confederate troops to"furl the flag" of the Confederacy. The sovereignty and flag of the United States America was restored over the vanquished rebel states. The rebellious Confederacy, its battle flag, and its cause of "States Rights" to hold black people as chattel slaves had lost. The Civil War was the bloodiest war and a most costly mistake in the history of the United States. It was caused by human bondage based on racism-an even greater mistake that continues to rend the social fabric of our nation.

Tragically, the symbol of the "lost cause" of the Confederacy, the rebel "battle flag", was placed atop the South Carolina State House in the early 1960s to defy the civil rights movement's gathering momentum against racism. It remains there today, less than six months from the new millennium. An underpinning of continuing racism is an illusory Southern heritage movement. Since the Civil War the romanticization and glorification of the Confederacy and the Confederate battle flag has helped racism flourish as we Southerners ''honor" our brave forbears who fought and died for dear ol'Dixie in the "War of Northern Aggression."

When I was the National Director for Alabama Governor George Wallace's Presidential Campaign I was a racist-in-denial, a part of the culture of Dixie that blindly accepted the Confederacy and the rebel flag as symbols of a people who were persecuted for defending our precious Southern heritage. Until 25 years ago I shut my eyes in denial of who was suffering a much worse persecution at the hands of dear ol' Dixie because I had been "carefully taught" that blacks were happy "in their place" like Uncle Remus and "Old Black Joe."

All of us who have "honored" the Dixie of slavery and segregation where the "darkies knew their place" must open our eyes to the historical fact that our Confederate ancestors made the monumental mistake of fighting for "State's Rights" to continue the enslavement of African-Americans in the Southern States and extend this "peculiar institution" westward. We must finally admit that the cause of slavery and second class citizenship for blacks was and is not only a mistake but also inherently wrong. We also need to finally understand that, thanks to the grace of God, the Confederacy lost the Civil War. Holding on to a heritage of ancestor worship and the mythology about Dixie and the rebel flag has helped to camouflage racial bigotry and oppression and kept many well-meaning Southerners in a state of denial about continuing racism in our own hearts and minds.

The continuing persecution and atrocities against blacks in "Dixie" rivals that of ethnic cleansing in the Balkans-- from the beatings, castrations and murders of slaves who tried to run to freedom or even acted too "uppity", to the lynchings and house-torchings of blacks by KKK night-riders, the firehosing and billy-clubbing of civil rights protestors by policeman, and the burning of black churches by white supremacists. The Confederate battle flag is a universal symbol of militant white supremacists, in Dixie as well Germany and South Africa where neo-nazis skinheads and pro-apartheid extremists favor the rebel flag.

I'm glad that the NAACP has called for an avoidance of South Carolina by visitors as long as the Confederate flag flies atop our capitol but sad to hear the NAACP members called extremists. As a 25-year life member I resent such remarks and efforts to use the flag as a "political football" and wedge issue. Racism is based on economic oppression by skin color so it's appropriate that economic measures be used against it.

A Mason-Dixon poll had South Carolinians favoring the flag's removal 48% to 41% in 1996 and there is a growing non-partisan, multi-racial, and religiously diverse movement of concerned citizens who will furnish "the political will" to remove the Confederate flag from atop the Statehouse and both houses of the Legislature. It includes many proud citizens of South Carolina and the United States like me who had beloved ancestors who fought and died in the Civil War but who would tell us from their graves that it's time to "furl the flag"-- for the cause of truth and reconciliation for all God's children.

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Tom Turnipseed

Tom Turnipseed

Tom Turnipseed is an attorney, writer and peace activist in Columbia, SC. His blog is

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