This editorial appeared in the Post-Star on July 20:
GLENS FALLS — We are among those puzzled by the habit among upstate residents of displaying the Confederate flag.
As bad as it is, anywhere in the country, to march around with a flag of treason and disunion — a flag emblematic of chattel slavery, our country’s deepest shame — it’s worse to do it here, where every community sent young men to fight and die in battles against that flag.
Yet you see pickup trucks emblazoned with Confederate flag stickers, or with the Confederate flag flapping wildly from the side, all over the region and, at times, driving by the Civil War monuments that stand in the center of our towns, commemorating our dead ancestors.
This tendency to celebrate what we should condemn reached a low point a couple of weeks ago in Ticonderoga, when a participant in the town’s Fourth of July parade, promoted as “the best Fourth in the North,” dragged a trailer holding a fancy four-wheeler and adorned with several flags, including a Confederate flag.
Maybe it’s fitting that a celebration of American independence would be stained by memories of the Confederacy, because slavery was the urgent national issue the signers of the Constitution failed to resolve. That failure bore terrible fruit less than a century later in the Civil War.
We cannot seem to shake free of this legacy of oppression and exploitation, so maybe the way these flags of hate pop up all over our communities — in people’s windows and on their cars and in our parades — serves as a reminder of the racial injustice we refuse to acknowledge and atone for.
Probably, whoever was towing that flag through the streets of Ticonderoga was not thinking about reminding us of racial injustice. Probably, whoever towed that flag through the streets of Ticonderoga was not thinking.
But there is something to consider here, beyond feeling outrage and offense at the public display of a flag of rebellion against our country and hate against our fellow citizens.
How did the Confederate flag become the default display for angry men who want to give the finger to polite society? Why is that display widely tolerated?
The Confederate flag stands, among other things, for the violent subjugation, sexual abuse, assault, rape and murder of human beings. Those acts were part of the system of slavery the Confederacy sought to preserve and expand.
Other flags — spelling out vulgar insults, for example — would carry a far less offensive message. Yet flags spelling out vulgar insults would never be tolerated in the “best Fourth in the North” or any other Fourth of July parade.
Do you know this is not the first time the Confederate flag was displayed in the Ticonderoga July 4th parade, and the previous time, policies were changed in response? Yet again this year, the flag flew, and no one moved to stop it.
The Confederate flag flies in many of our neighborhoods. If challenged, the people flying it will offer some specious defense: they like the way it looks or they were a fan of “The Dukes of Hazzard” or they have a right, it’s a free country, the First Amendment, etc.
We are just not that offended by Confederate flags — not as offended as we should be. Until we get to the point where we see the flag for what it really represents, and refuse to tolerate it, then we will all continue to be oppressed by the hatred and horror of its legacy.
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