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OPED: Confederate flag display was appropriate
I feel compelled to respond to your editorial of June 27 concerning the Flag Day incident at the state Capitol, in which Rep. Vanessa Lowery Brown took down a Confederate battle flag that was part of a historical display.
As a native Pennsylvanian, and one whose ancestors fought on both sides of the American Civil War, I regard the Confederate battle flag as emblematic of a particularly tragic time in our nation's history. While no one in his or her right mind would today defend the concept of slavery, it is too simplistic to assume that in that war the South was wholly in the wrong.
My wife, Bonnie, is originally from Atlanta; last summer, we tracked down the graves in Richmond, Virginia, of two of her great-great-uncles who died of disease while in the Confederate army, placing a small battle flag at each grave. These two young Georgians — barely out of their teens — were from poor farming families who owned no slaves. They were simply defending their native state.
Nor was the North wholly in the right. In many northern cities, desperately poor immigrants toiled in factories under appalling conditions that were little better than slavery. There was a lot of good and bad on both sides of that war.
I agree with the editors that the Confederate battle flag, understandably, provokes strong emotions in many, and by no means is always displayed in good taste (being flown from the back of a pickup truck comes to mind). However, it is perfectly appropriate for the battle flag to be displayed as part of a historical exhibit — yes, even in a government building — as was the case with the Hanover Area Historical Society's Flag Day exhibit.
The Confederate flag is certainly a part of Hanover's history, as a cavalry battle was fought there on the day before the opening of the Battle of Gettysburg. A display such as this one is clearly meant to educate, not to intimidate. The editors twice erroneously state that the battle flag was "flying in the state Capitol"; the picture accompanying the editorial clearly shows that the flags were hung as part of a historical display. There is a difference.
That brings us to the actions of Rep. Brown.
The representative is certainly entitled to her opinion as to the appropriateness of the battle flag's presence as part of the display, though I believe that, in this context, she is wrong. What she was not entitled to do was to act in the way that she did. The editors state that Rep. Brown "... took it (the flag) down and turned it over to House officials." Actually, what she really did was this: She removed an authentic, historic artifact that did not belong to her, crumpled it up in a ball, and tossed it on the House speaker's desk. Simply put, her actions were unlawful, and she should have been arrested.
By the way, since the editors seem inclined to hold up Rep. Brown as some sort of a hero in this incident, it might interest your readers to know that she is currently under indictment and awaiting trial on corruption and bribery charges. To add insult to injury, the flag, after being restored to its rightful place in the display, was then again removed by order of Gov. Tom Wolf, who once more demonstrated his talent for choosing political expediency over common sense.
The Civil War remains a huge event in our nation's history, filled with countless examples of heroism and pathos. In sad contrast, the Flag Day incident reflects credit on no one except the good people of the Hanover Area Historical Society.