PULASKI COUNTY, Mo. (June 23, 2015) — It’s not my normal practice to comment on events in other states and other places. In general, local elected officials and local community leaders know their own local situations best. People from outside those areas ought to pay much more attention to what local people say rather than listening to what outside commentators say.
I’m making an exception with the recent church shooting in Charleston and follow-up controversy over the Confederate flag.
This issue may affect South Carolina today, but it’s broader than one state. Our own county courthouse here in Pulaski County flew the Confederate flag at the beginning of the Civil War before the Union Army sent thousands of troops to build a fort on the Waynesville Hill to suppress the local rebels and keep communication lines open between St. Louis and Springfield. Even today, a group which the Charleston shooter specifically cited as one from which he drew his inspiration, the Council of Conservative Citizens, is based in Missouri, showing that this nonsense is not limited to the Deep South.
The Charleston shooter, Dylann Roof, likely would never have come to public attention without the shooting. To outward appearances, he’s a loser in life. As a high school dropout, a minor criminal, and an unemployed drug user who accomplished little for himself or for others, it’s quite unlikely that the white rulers of Rhodesia and apartheid-era South Africa whose flags he idolized would have wanted much to do with him. On the contrary, Cecil Rhodes and the sons of the Voortrekkers would have regarded Dylann Roof as a disgrace to his white race.
Dylann Roof, despite authoring a website called the “Last Rhodesian” filled with grammatical and spelling errors, is neither a Rhodesian nor an Afrikaner. He’s an American, even if he wrote that he “hate(s) the sight of the American flag.” Strangely, his website, which is filled with attacks on blacks, Jews, and Hispanics, also contains praise for Asians who he apparently regarded as potential allies of a future white revolt. He must not realize what many Asians would think of an uneducated “norang meori.”
More will come out about Roof’s views as his defense lawyers prepare for trial. Based on what is now known about him, it appears his vision included inciting race riots against black people who he believed are “taking over the world.” In his words, “We have no skinheads, no real KKK, no one doing anything but talking on the internet. Well someone has to have the bravery to take it to the real world, and I guess that has to be me.” He apparently thought shooting up a Bible study in a church would lead to white people rallying to the Confederate Stars and Bars rather than the American Stars and Stripes, rising up in revolt by taking talk of violent revolution out of racist websites and onto the streets.
Such talk is not new. Inciting white-power revolution has been a theme for years of radical racist groups. Dylann Roof has the distinction of taking his racist hate to a new level, moving from being a mere keyboard-clicker to actual killing. He thought hard-core right-wing conservatives would agree with him.
Dylann Roof was wrong. Shooting nine people in a church prayer meeting accomplished nothing of what he hoped to incite.
On the contrary, it’s led to denunciations all across the political spectrum, including from conservative Republican candidates who had received political contributions from a leader of one of the racist organizations to which Roof looked for guidance and information. To their credit, those candidates rejected contributions from the president of the St. Louis-based Council of Conservative Citizens once those contributions were called to the candidates’ attention following the shootings. Despite its innocuous-sounding name, that organization is a racist hate group and deserves no support or toleration from real conservatives.
While Dylann Roof failed in his efforts to incite his fellow-travelers to join him in violent revolution, he has succeeded in providing an opportunity for conservatives to denounce him.
Dylann Roof represents a dead-ender ideology. The flags of racist regimes which he idolized — Rhodesia, South Africa, and the Confederacy — have all met their well-deserved demise. In the case of the Confederacy, the country no longer even exists, and met its proper death a century and a half ago at the points of the bayonets and guns carried by American soldiers whose sacrifices ended slavery.
While most of America considers the Civil War to be ancient history, there was a day in the not-so-distant past when it would have been unthinkable for a governor of South Carolina to be a woman of immigrant Indian ancestry. Despite her Southern accent, Gov. Nikki Haley represents none of the racist past of South Carolina, and it is quite fitting that a “woman of color” who belongs to the party of Abraham Lincoln would call for the removal of the Confederate flag from the statehouse grounds. Gov. Haley is correct that while the Confederate flag represents the past of her state, it does not represent the future. Her very presence in the governorship proves that point.
Calls have been made for years to remove the Confederate flag as a symbol of racism, not only in South Carolina but also in Florida, Mississippi, and many other states of the Old South. Often those calls have succeeded, or have led to compromises. The current placement of the Confederate flag on a South Carolina war memorial rather than the South Carolina capitol building is a leftover from one of those earlier compromises.
However, it’s time to stop the compromise and get rid of the battle flag of anti-American rebellion.
To their credit, many on the liberal side of the political spectrum have been consistent with their principles on the Confederate flag, calling for the removal of what has been used for many years as a symbol of racism, bigotry, and hate.
Conservatives need to start becoming consistent with our own principles.
We cannot call ourselves conservative Americans while championing a flag which was created and used in battle against American soldiers. We cannot say the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag of “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all” while flying the battle flag of those who fought to destroy the Union.
For patriotic pro-military conservative Americans, giving any support to a flag used in actual warfare against the United States ought to be unthinkable. For Republicans to support the Confederate flag makes even less sense, considering the history of our party.
Of course, not all use of the Confederate flag is wrong. Just as the Nazi and Imperial Japanese flags are used in movies about World War II, the Confederate flag is properly used in historical re-enactments. While the German POWs buried on Fort Leonard Wood have their graves decorated on Memorial Day with modern German flags, not Nazi-era flags, I’m quite aware that day was set aside (at least in part) out of a desire to reunite a nation and mend the pain of a Civil War. Perhaps an argument can be made for use of the Confederate flag to decorate graves on Memorial Day or on Confederate cemeteries.
But that’s not how Dylann Roof and his sympathizers use the Confederate flag.
Distinctions must be made and rights must be respected. Even when they’re wrong, American citizens have the protection of the Constitution and their free speech cannot be silenced, even when offensive and obnoxious. There can be no doubt that American citizens can do what they want with a Confederate flag on their own private property. Apart from actual treason — levying war against the United States — nobody can be denied the right to advocate wicked and evil teachings of racism or neo-Confederate nonsense.
That means the right to be an idiot and to advocate idiocy cannot be denied to those who sympathize with Dylann Roof. What can be done is to counter their freely spoken idiocy with our own free speech advocating conservative pro-American positions.
While racists and neo-Confederates can say what they want, as conservatives, we need to make clear that we belong to the party of President Lincoln, not the party of General Lee. We fly the Stars and Stripes, not the Stars and Bars. And we certainly don’t support those who shoot people in church attending a prayer meeting.
Maybe if Dylann Roof had actually paid attention in high school instead of dropping out, he would have learned what it means to be a real American.
It is entirely American to say “America: Love it or Leave It” to people such as Dylann Roof. He’s now in prison and will probably be executed for multiple murders, but as long as he was a free man, if he could have found a racist bigoted place to live, it would have been his right to get out of America. As conservatives, we need to fly our American flag proudly and remind him that we fought a war against people like him.
Here’s some news, Mr. Roof:
We won that war. Your side lost, along with its flag.
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