I'm afraid that I have offended some of my friends with my strident language in recent days about the flag. I apologize to those who have taken offense. So let me explain my thinking in a less strident way.
For many South Carolinians, the stars-and-bars is a symbol of honorable men defending their homeland and their way of life. But for about one-third of South Carolina citizens, the flag also speaks to the experience of their ancestors. These forebears were ripped from their homes and their way of life, shackled and chained in the holds of ships. Those who survived the 6-week voyage across the Atlantic arrived in places like Charleston, and were auctioned off like livestock. That history is a stain on our nation, and that flag symbolizes for them the stain of slavery, the stain of lynchings, the stain of Jim Crow laws and segregation, and the stain of institutional racism that still exists.
As an American, we pledge our allegiance to a different flag, and the Republic that exists as "one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." The flag of the confederacy stands in clear and direct opposition to the notion of liberty and justice for all. Its waving on the Statehouse grounds in Columbia celebrates nullification and secession, rather than one indivisible nation and liberty for everyone. It is an affront to justice for all.
Its flying at full mast, while the flag of the United States flew this week at half mast in remembrance of those massacred in Charleston, violated Federal law. Those images sent another message, that of indifference to the suffering of generations described above, and to the tragedy on Wednesday night. Many excuses have been offered to rationalize not lowering that flag, but each of them rings hollow.
As humans, we have the unique capacity to recognize and understand the feelings of our fellow humans, all created in the image of God. Not only that, we have the unique capacity for reconciliation. State Rep. Doug Brannon, a Republican from Spartanburg County, will file a bill to remove the flag from the Statehouse grounds. I hope that South Carolinians of goodwill will support Rep. Brannon's bill. Let's hope that is a first step toward understanding and reconciliation.