There are very few human symbols that find absolute approval or, in the alternative, disapproval. Symbols are called that because they represent something far larger than themselves. An unknown symbol is an oxymoron. At present, the symbol that is seemingly most under attack in this country is the Confederate battle flag albeit other flags that represented that short-lived, tragic nation, the Confederate States of America are also under assault—especially those that contain the battle flag in their canton.

But the battle flag in particular is under attack by the politically correct because they say that it is a symbol of “racism”—a Trotskyite term invented to sow discord between the races in the United States. Because of the power of political correctness these days, the claim of racism is far stronger than any claim that the flag represented a standard for treason. That claim together with the claim of the flag being “racist” are untrue. The battle flag represented neither racism nor treason, but a struggle by the People of the South for independence from a tyrannous central government, a struggle that was little different from that waged eighty-five years earlier against the British Empire. From that struggle came the American flag against which an actual claim might be made regarding the institution of slavery. For no flag of the Confederate States of America ever flew over a slave ship but the Stars and Stripes most assuredly did—and that on ships from northern ports!

But this debate about the battle flag is at this point, irrelevant. What needs to be pointed out is something so large that people cannot see it. For the “elephant in the room” in this debate is not the flag or the reasons that the flag is both condemned and upheld, but the means by which the debate is resolved. From the onset of the so-called “civil rights movement,” Southern heritage—including the battle flag—went from being an honored piece of American history to an example of bigotry and violence. The flag hadn’t changed neither had its place in history. What had changed was history itself—or rather, the presentation of that history. What had been a fairly honest interpretation of the ante-bellum period and the War that ended it, became an effort led by academia and the heritage establishment to turn the people and the States of the South into villains whose only desire was the preservation of slavery and the destruction of that glorious Union created by the Founders. But even that debate is irrelevant as it, too, has been so well covered that only the ignorant can claim to be unaware of the facts brought forward to counter these unjust and mendacious assertions.

No, there is something else here—something that nobody seems to demand from those involved before the flag poles are emptied and the monuments ploughed under. Most people today identify the United States as a “democracy.” We aren’t—or at least we’re not supposed to be. We are a representative republic—or, as noted, we are supposed to be one such. Of course, we are not. We are actually, alas, a democracy, a form of government that is one step removed from tyranny. Benjamin Franklin defined a democracy as two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner! Of course, in this country we have believed that the will of the majority should prevail, but only so long as it did not trample on the rights of the minority. In other words, the wolfish majority cannot legally vote to eat the sheepish minority! But, still, the will of the majority is supposed to prevail.

And that’s what makes this particular “elephant” so difficult to explain. For the consignment of Confederate symbols, including the battle flag!—never seems to come to a vote to determine the will of the majority! Indeed, flags that have been censored, removed and otherwise consigned to oblivion along with monuments, heroes, icons and even music (!) attributable to the CSA have been excised from the culture at the behest of a tiny minority of people whose demand is based on the claim that they are “offended” by that which they demand be removed. Furthermore, all efforts to address these concerns have met with rejection on the part of the chronically offended. History means nothing. Facts mean nothing. The rights of the majority of their fellow citizens mean nothing. All that matters is that a small minority (white and black) who are “personally offended” by a symbol and a heritage about which they neither know nor care is carried out and the hell with everybody else!

One cannot imagine anything less American than a small coterie of ideologues and race-mongers inflicting their agenda upon their fellow citizens virtually unopposed. It is also interesting to note that when these matters have actually been brought to the people in referenda, the “offensive objects have remained! Equally interesting is the fact that the votes to do so crossed racial lines! Thus, those who reject a referendum with the claim it tramples on the rights of a particular race are proven wrong. On the other hand, removing them absent the opportunity for the people to speak certainly does trample on the rights of the majority, white and black!

Supporters of the battle flag and other Confederate symbols, heroes and history have brought the facts forward. Those of good will and objectivity can learn those facts if they so desire. Those who are neither, will not be swayed by them anyway. Therefore to continue to debate this matter as if it were one of ignorance is futile. We must look not at what is being done, but who is doing it and how it is being done! We must put a stop to a small coterie of ideologues with an agenda robbing the people of a voice in their own culture. At this point in time, the removal of any Southern symbol from a place of honor should be determined democratically—that is by a vote of ALL those involved and not just a chosen few such as judges. If the symbol is publicly displayed, any attempt to remove it should be on the ballot. If it is privately displayed, all those who are part of the institution involved should have a voice in the decision. The time has come to stop the destruction of a culture at the hands of an elite few. Yes, the lamb does not wish to be eaten, but the wolves don’t wish to be silenced either.

Valerie Protopapas

Valerie Protopapas is an independent historian and the former editor of The Southern Cavalry Review, the journal of The Stuart-Mosby Historical Society.

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