What's the controversy with the Confederate flag?

A viewer asked this question on 3/26/2000:

There is so much controversy over the flying of the Confederate flag. Was this flag the official flag of the Southern States during the Civil War? If so, it's a part of history and HISTORY CANNOT BE ERASED! If we could erase history, why not erase slavery? Now the NAACP has called on George Bush to remove and IMAGE of the confederate flag the Texas Supreme Court building. Can we not put an end to this controversy?

JesseGordon gave this response on 3/29/2000:

The controversy is not about whether the Confederate flag was a valid flag of the Confederacy. No one is trying to change history, and it's disingenuous to pretend that that's really the issue.

The controversy is about whether it's right for an official state office to fly a flag which indicates support for the oppression of blacks.

George W. Bush has never said that he supports the oppression of blacks, of course, and no one thinks that he does. What Bush says is that this issue should be left up to the states. That avoids the issue by (sort of) supporting the right of a state government to fly the flag, while not actually saying it.

The NAACP's call is for Bush to answer the question directly. They're asking if he actually supports states' flying the confederate flag, rather than asking if he thinks it should be a federal issue or a state issue. It certainly brings in another facet of the question.

Bush should be further asked, "Do you think the FEDERAL government should be allowed to fly the confederate flag on FEDERAL buildings? Say, on the official flagpole in front of the White House?" Clearly he would answer "No," or he would risk losing the vote of every black in the country, and many whites as well.

No one denies you the right to personally fly the flag of your choice in your home. For that matter, no one denies you the right to argue for the suppression of the rights of blacks. But should a state government be allowed to make the same statement, with the same implications?

I've lived in the South at times, and all the confederate flags I've seen in official places have been carefully placed as part of "Civil War Memorials." I think that's a reasonable compromise -- the confederate flag can fly on the lawn (but not on the roof) of city halls and state houses, on lawns where there's a plaque about the Civil War. That acknowledges history while not expressing explicit state support of the confederacy.

marie1080 asked this question on 5/25/2000:

Hi all,

I am a Us. citizen, that thinks its appalling that the Us. government Is
banning the flying of the confederate flag over Confederate Monuments and
government offices in the South. Because A few people are making a lot of
noise under the guise that it's raciest to do so. I guess it's true the
squeaky wheel gets the grease. Either that or the people of the south no
longer have any pride and really don't care about there heritage . I am not
a raciest but totally against the reverse discrimination under the guise of
being politically incorrect. Those men died fighting for there ideals. They
did the same thing there founding fathers did Speaking out against what they
thought was wrong. But because there monuments are in National parks rather
than state own they don't get to rest under the flag the died for. What ever
happened to majority rule and For the people. More importantly what ever
happened to be proud your a Rebel ? It looks like the only people that are
proud here are the ones getting a victory by twisting what the confederate
flag stands for, and making a name for there cause. I guess us states aren't
Sovereign after all.
Yours truly Disgusted

npscott gave this response on 5/25/2000:

You didn't ask a question, letting us know your feelings, which is good. I'd like to respond briefly to your statement.

My own feeling is that there is far too much significance attached to the Confederate Flag as a symbol of 'Heritage'.

Soldiers who fought in the Civil War are part of Southern Heritage. They should be honored for having both the courage of conviction and of the battlefield.

But, the Confederate Flag has nothing to do with their individual Heritage. The Confederate Flag, rather, is the symbol of a political movement.

That movement--you won't like this--was a counter-revolution to Democracy.

Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens, shortly after his inauguration, made a public statement in which he quoted the Declaration of Independence, and its well known phrase, "All men are created equal".

Then he said, "Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea..."
Augusta Daily Constitutionalist, March 30,1861

The American Revolution is still very much a revolutionary idea: That each person born on earth, has as his/her birth-right: 1) "life" (as much right to be here as anyone else; 2) "liberty", and 3) the "pursuit of happiness".

Governments exist only to secure these rights, which are God-given and 'inalienable'. That is natural rights belong to each person indefinitely, and are not allowing of repudiation or transfer to another.

The Confederacy was formed, after all, as a reaction to the election of Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln was elected on the promise to halt the 'outspreading' of slavery into the West.

With the election of Lincoln decided on this platform, the Southern Plantation owners saw that their economic system was threatened by majority rule.

And they then decided they did not want to abide by the results of the 1860 election.

But, everyone's three basic rights were threatened by the institution of slavery, because slavery made an exception to Declaration of Independence. And if one exception is made...where does it stop?

The Confederate Flag is not, to my mind, a symbol of Southern Heritage.

A Flag should be a symbol that everyone looks upon with the same stirring feelings of shared beliefs and shared commitment.

The American Flag which represents the phrase "All Men are Created equal" does that.

But, clearly, not all Americans can look upon the Confederate Flag with the same shared feelings.

To fly that flag on US Government property, is to endorse the government it stood for--a political counter-revolution to democracy--which sought to build a nation on the cornerstone of slavery.

marie1080 asked this follow-up question on 5/26/2000:

Hi, I respect your opinion but as long as the nations flag is flown first on top anything else is considered a fringe flag I.e. weather it be a state flag or a county flag or a confederate flag or a gay pride flag or even a POW flag. Currently there are no known laws banning fringe flags. So now by banning the confederate flag were setting precedence for a new law. Also if you feel that the confederate flag is a symbolism of revolution, Perhaps this is just the issue to wake up Americans To start a new rebellion against the garbage were being fed from Washington. Look at the decline this country is in For the last three Elections we haven't had a decent candidate to vote for the republicans seen to that this year limiting cross party voting in certain states this year during the primary which kept democrats from voting for John McCain. Abe Lincoln could not be considered for president in 2000 if he were alive because he was to poor to run by today's standards therein lies a big part of the problem only the wealthiest sleaziest stand a chance hence forth so many American voters that are registered don't vote I think they said 35 % of the nation votes. What's that tell you. I am not saying I have a problem with our constitution, but had we had any leadership in this country the Confederate flag would have never been an issue. Lets really stir the pot and go one step forward in stupidity Gun Control IT doesn't work England an Australia are proof of that, and we certainly don't need smarter guns, We need smarter parents Responsible citizens that keep the guns under lock and key away from children, And also responsible parents that actually raise there kids rather than letting someone else do it or not doing it at all In my day I was raised that if you crossed your parents well lets just say you had the fear of god and you respected them because of it.
We have government trying to raise our kids in schools because parents aren't so then no learning takes place because were taking classes in morals. We have a wondering dick for a president that so happy to do anything to try to draw attention away from his sex sprees and a congress and senate that cant pass any bills threw because the lobbyist and special interest have so many other things tied to them that usually have nothing to do with the bill itself. Oh and did I forget to mention the 30 million dollar chip lab we can afford to spend while Vietnam vets live homeless in the streets and even the ones that aren't, most get screwed out of there agent orange compensation. Contrary to the way it may sound I am not a raciest red neck. But when is this country going to start over and get back to a more constitutional form of government? When are we going to see patriotism in this country again, when people can put forth an once of faith in there country and not just die for other countries as pawns in Us. Red tape. I don't expect perfect from our government Id just be happy to see it and the people running it actually doing there job rather than getting in office glamour and greasing there own pocket and not taking into consideration the country they serve!
So again bring back the confederate flag, and bring back a people that are willing to stand up for what they believe in rather than sit idly by and watch everything go down the tubes and then complain about it!
I know theses are personal feelings rather than questions but maybe others will start asking themselves the same questions?

npscott asked for clarification on 5/26/2000:

Would you provide some clarification on your original message? Please give, if possible, the exact source of your information about the Federal government adopting a policy not to fly the government flag.

There is more than one government agency involved here. If it is a newspaper article, please give the name of the newspaper, and the date and page the article appeared.

npscott gave this response on 5/29/2000:


This is Memorial Day, a good day to follow-up on your expression of dismay over the 'banning' by the Federal Government of flying the Confederate flag over Southern federal government property.

I did what should have been done in the first place, namely to see if you had read, or head, valid information.

Apparently the information you received is wrong.
A spokesman for the National Park Service told me the NPS had "adopted no policy" regarding the flying of the Confederate flag.

However, "there might be a park in the system where the park superintendent thought it more appropriate to display the Confederate Flag in circumstances other than on a staff."

He referred me to the GSA (General Services Administration) also know as "the nation's landlord" because they supply (rent) property to the federal government and are responsible for its maintenance.

The Federal Protective Service of GSA sets their policies. Both a Public Affairs spokeswoman and a GSA official said their only policy is to follow TITLE V of the U.S. Code.

Now, there are have no federal laws regarding the treatment of the U.S. Flag. There is, in the U.S. Code, a section that sets standards, but has not legal enforcement.

[I'm in agreement here with both you and Bluefeather, here. It would be appalling if we passed 'flag laws'. If there is such widespread disrespect for the flag that laws are needed to insure proper respect, it's already too late.]

We should make a distinction, however, between an individual's right to free expression, and government policy over what is appropriate to fly over U.S. property.

It is freedom of expression to carry any flag a person wishes, including on federal property in a demonstration, and treat it as he wishes, as political commentary.

But, I also think it proper for the government to follow Title V about the treatment of the U.S. Flag and the relations of all other flags to it, in flying flags over U.S. property. (See Chapter 7, in particular)

We're all Americans here.

I'd like us (I suspect you agree) to focus on what unites us, including our common heritage.

The Civil War, like American itself, is a multi-cultural heritage.

My feeling is that on Memorial Day we can honor those, from Normandy to Antietam, who fought and died as Americans.

A reporter overheard a woman say, viewing Gen. Robert E. Lee from her second story window as he passed on his way to Gettysburg, "Oh! How I wish he were ours!"

Well, he is ours again.

Lee told his son to "move on" as he himself did.

Given the controversy surrounding the Confederate flag, by de facto evidence, it remains a symbol that divides.

Today, I'm honoring both the Confederate and Union dead--along with the hundreds of thousands Americans who died in other wars--under the one symbol that unites us: the United States Flag.

marie1080 asked this follow-up question on 6/4/2000:

Sorry I was traveling over the holiday, and just got back. The first park in reference and also closest to me is Point Lookout. We have a confederate memorial, a monument, and there not allowed to fly the confederate flag there, also there was a piece about this at

Which is a link for Sons of the Confederates Veterans
Yea I know sounds a bit bias but both sides are represented at there one site concerning this issue alone its worth a look not any real content though.

But I just went to look for it and can no longer find it.

npscott gave this response on 6/4/2000:

It's always best to go to the original source, if you can.

If you check directly with the Point Service park, you might find a different 'take' on it by the Park Superintendent. He may have concluded not to 'ban' the Confederate Flag, but to display it in other formats than on a staff.

I understand that the Confederate Flag is tied up emotionally for many white southerners with much more than a counter-revolution to Democracy.

This feeling was addressed last Monday on PBS' "NewsHour With Jim Lehrer," which was reprinted in the Washington Times.

Read it today, Sunday (if interested), for it will be archived Mon., and will cost $1.95 to download.

npscott gave this follow-up answer on 6/4/2000:

PS-- I just caught a typographical error. The Flag Code is under Title IV (4) of the U.S. Code; not Title 5.

Title IV (4) of the U.S. Code at Cornell Univ. web (See Chapter
7, in particular)

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