Honoring Confederate Flags and Symbols
During Vietnam, while at Fort Benning, Georgia as a young enlistee, I witnessed a parade with Army historical color guards and colors from our nation’s history being paraded. I still have photos of it. As a young Southerner I was proud of the fact that a Confederate Army color guard marched with a Battle Flag in review. This color guard represented the valor and courage of soldiers who were my ancestors. Under President McKinley, a series of four acts of Congress from 1900-1958 restored Confederate soldiers’ standing as “American” soldiers ---- part of “reconciliation” of the North and South. That’s why Confederates have VA headstones. That reconciliation is now being undone by haters and people with a lack of cultural historical knowledge and appreciation despite a comprehensive national poll by Lou Harris. That poll shows that 82% of Americans have no problems with Confederate emblems. In an age of PC, the tyranny of the minority appears to be the rule.
I have taught logic and critical thinking courses at the Army’s Command and General Staff College for years. I taught in the graduate history department prior to retiring from the US Army. What amazes me is the lack of historical knowledge by graduate students. Former Under Secretary of the Army, Norm Augustine (retired chairman and CEO of Lockheed Martin) in a recent ARMY magazine article stated that “…it’s not primarily the memorized facts that have current and former CEOs like me concerned. It’s the other things that subjects like history impart: critical thinking….”. Dr. Bruce Cole (Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a member of the Eisenhower Memorial Commission) stated in a column entitled “American Amnesia” that a:
“…study of students at 55 elite universities found that over a third were unable to identify the Constitution as establishing the division of powers in our government, only 29% could identify the term "Reconstruction" and 40% could not place the Civil War in the correct century….[and]…that over half of high school seniors couldn't say who we fought in World War II.”
The poll represents “educated” Americans. Some of these are the same people mindlessly criticizing Confederate monuments, symbols and flags that they know virtually nothing about.
When Army students (mostly majors) ask me if Confederates wore gray, or blue uniforms, I know that even we, as a professional military institution, reflect the history ignorance of our society at large. In the graduate course on the Civil War that I taught, more than half of the military students were at the high school, or lower, level of knowledge about the Civil War. Unfortunately, the best educated on US history are many times our foreign military students. So what? Well, if US students don’t know the basic facts of the war, how can they understand the more complex ones? They can’t. They parrot mindless mantras like “The Confederate flag is a symbol of racism!” I guarantee they don’t know the difference between the “Stars and Bars” and the “Battle Flag”.
Granted, some racists have misused the Battle Flag. They misuse the US flag just as much, yet, under the (il)logic of Confederate flag haters, it gets a total “pass”. A number of photos of KKK rallies with US flags can be easily found online. One of the largest KKK rallies occurred in Washington, D.C. and not a single Confederate flag can be seen in a sea of US flags. This logic fallacy of stereotyping everyone with a Confederate emblem as a racist is ignorant and totally illogical except for some like Louis Farrakhan. He uses the same criteria to condemn the US flag. His logic is perfect----even if his premise is wrong. Yep, the US flag is a RACIST emblem.
Cultural cleansing is wrong. Our version of the Taliban is trying to cleanse our Southern heritage because of ignorance. The Sons of Union Veterans (descendants of Union soldiers) proclaim in a 2000 resolution that they support the flying of the Confederate Battle Flag and our Confederate monuments. They recognize the history and truth of why Southerners honor their ancestors. President Eisenhower, who recorded his views in a letter to a concerned citizen, told why he honored General Lee with a portrait in his White House office. In their convoluted reasoning, haters believe Eisenhower was a racist for doing that as well.
LtCol (ret) Edwin Kennedy is a retired US Army infantryman. He was invited to speak at the Army’s Equal Opportunity Conference at Fort Gordon, Georgia about black Confederate soldiers. He has given that presentation around the country. The views expressed in this column are his personal ones and do not reflect the official views of the US Army’s Command and General Staff College or those of the US Army.