We're talking about the flag that was the banner of an enemy power that bombed American soil and started a war that took the lives of between 640,000 and 700,00 American soldiers and 250,000 civilians, right?
The Battle of Gettysburg left approximately 7,000 corpses in the fields around the town. Family members had to come to the battlefield to find their loved ones in the carnage. (Library of Congress)
Can you imagine a seat of government in this country today flying the flag of Hitler's Germany or Hirohito's Japan, the flag of North Vietnam, Al Quaeda or ISIS, or the flag of any other enemy, past or present, of the United States of America?
But to be flying that flag, the one that stood for human enslavement, for black lives as property to be bought and sold, used and abused, shackled, worked, beaten, bred, raped, traded, bartered for then disposed of according to the wishes of the owner? To be honoring the flag that stood for lives lived from birth to death in restraint and hard labor for the profit of people who had legal claim upon their bodies as well as the bodies of their spouses and children?
Does the flag that once enshrined the most reprehensible racial oppression imaginable really yet wave o'er the capitol building in a state where one-third of the population is African American?
And the citizens of South Carolina are fine with this?
I'm stunned. I suppose I believed that, other than in historical presentations, display of the Confederate flag was relegated to kitsch art and "Dukes Of Hazard" - syle comedy.
But no, the Confederate flag flies high and proud in the city of Charleston, even now after a sick, twisted young racist, inspired by the ethos represented by that flag, walked into a church last Wednesday night and murdered a group of black people at prayer with a Glock 42 handgun that had been recently given to him, deranged as he was, by his father as a gift for his 21st birthday.
And now legal experts are quibbling over whether this was a hate crime or an act of terrorism.
As if this point were so important, as if it mattered to the heartbroken families, friends, and community left behind.
And that flag still flies.
I understand that controlling the availability of guns is out of the question because guns don't kill people and if we all weren't permitted to own all the guns we wanted and to carry them everywhere we went then our country would collapse and life as we know it would cease to exist.
But could the South Carolina General Assembly, out of respect for the 9 African Americans dead in Charleston and the 45 million still alive in this country, not take down that flag?
1. "Civilian Deaths Civil War", Civil War Talk, April 19, 2011, http://civilwartalk.com/threads/civilian-deaths-civil-war.23466/
2. "Civil War Casulaties", Historynet, http://www.historynet.com/civil-war-casualties