Simple Questions

I think it’s time for all this discussion about the proper display of the Confederate flag … which in some quarters appears to obscure the enormity of the massacre at Charleston … to get to the heart of the matter.

You tell me …

Should the Confederate Battle Flag [CBF] (including its versions as the ANV flag, the AoT flag, and the Confederate navy jack) be flown outside, period?

Do you favor the removal of the Confederate flag flying on the grounds of the South Carolina State House? Why?

If you believe that the flying of the CBF on the grounds of the South Carolina State House should cease, are there any conditions when a CBF should appear outside?

Should the CBF be banned from public display elsewhere (t-shirts, bumper stickers, headgear)?

Are your restrictions limited to the CBF alone, or do they extend to other flags flown by the Confederacy (such as the trio of national flags)?

The comments section is open.

48 thoughts on “Simple Questions

  1. Lyle Smith June 21, 2015 / 12:36 pm

    I’ve said this before and will keep saying it.

    It’s totally appropriate for state or local governments to fly a Confederate national flag outside in a display of other historical flags.

    I don’t think state or local governments should fly a Confederate national flag or a Confederate battle flag by itself for heritage purposes.

    • John Foskett June 21, 2015 / 1:32 pm

      I understand your point but i disagree with state or local governments flying it. Unlike those other historical flags (at least those with which I’m familiar), this one was created designed for use in an illegal rebellion against our nation. I recognize its historical value but i see no basis for any governmental entity which is a subdivision of the United States flying it – any where. That’s why I believe it should be confined to museums and re-enactments/historical commemoration events. But opinions are like you-know-whats – everybody has one.

      • Lyle Smith June 21, 2015 / 3:01 pm

        It doesn’t matter that it is the flag of the Confederacy. Certain states seceded and a civil war happened. It is our history, for better or worse, and we should publicly remember it.

        • Mark June 21, 2015 / 9:12 pm

          Agreed. Now if it wasn’t merely a matter of history, it would be another matter. In other words if there were any modern adherents of what it represents that were reasonable construed a threat, it would be appropriate to ban it. There aren’t, and there isn’t. Neither romantic memories of the past rebellion, nor hypothetical future plans for a future one for different reasons (rhetoric notwithstanding) don’t serve as an adequate basis to deny the historical display of the battle flag. That would be either reality denial or paranoid fear, respectively.

          • John Foskett June 22, 2015 / 10:09 am

            “That would be either reality denial or paranoid fear, respectively”. Wrong. It’s not “merely a matter of history”. If it were, the same rationale could be used to fly the Third Reich’s flag on public property in Germany. That, of course, is the “third rail” of “historical” flag flying but the harder anyone tries to distinguish the two circumstances the more they have to rely on arbitrary distinctions. Perhaps we should start flying the Union Jack on the Capitol Mall…

        • John Foskett June 22, 2015 / 7:58 am

          It does indeed matter. You can “publicly remember it” at re-enactments, commemorations, and museums. No subdivision of the United States should lend it the appearance of official sanction of any kind. Like it or not, it has represented in the public mind (1) illegal rebellion against our nation in defense of the institution of slavery and, later, (2) virulent, and at times violent, racism and resistance to the 14th Amendment freedoms of all citizens.

          • Lyle Smith June 22, 2015 / 11:29 am

            I don’t agree with you and I don’t need you telling me what the flag symbolizes. I’ve written quite often about what it symbolizes and means to all kinds of people.

            Our local, state, and national governments can and should remember their history. This can be done appropriately when they choose to fly all the flags of that place or state, or when it is appropriately done at a state or national park that has something to do with the Civil War. The flag is a part of our history, like it or not. Americans fought a civil war. It’s history and we as a people should remember that history, and it’s important that it be done publicly and recognized by all through our very own government.

            I don’t support the Confederate battle flag being flown on the capitol grounds in South Carolina or the Confederate battle flag being a part of the Mississippi state flag. These flags should be removed, but that’s because these flags aren’t treating the flags as history, but heritage (the heritage of white supremacist government).

          • Mark June 22, 2015 / 1:06 pm

            >> It does indeed matter. You can “publicly remember it” at re-enactments, commemorations, and museums.

            Right. I was agreeing the Lyle as I understood him at the time, but in rereading I see I don’t fully understand what he meant. He mentioned appropriate use on public property “in a display of other historical flags” and later disapproved on public property “by itself for heritage purposes”. For all the talk of heritage, I don’t have any idea what that really means.

            All I was thinking of was museums or appropriately historical settings. In Germany the swastika can indeed be displayed in museums. I suppose local laws would cover license plates or whatever other uses there could be as each locality saw fit. If it is a sensitive issue it will be outlawed of course. Majority rule and all that.

          • Lyle Smith June 22, 2015 / 1:48 pm


            Perhaps I should also say for political reasons. That’s why there is a Confederate battle flag on the South Carolina state grounds to begin with. Or why the battle flag is incorporated into the Mississippi state flag and use to be incorporated in the Georgia state flag.

            My attempt to distinguish between a historical rational and a heritage rational, is that many of the defenders of governmental displays of the Confederate battle flag argue for it to continue on heritage grounds and not historical grounds. They argue it should stay up because it has been there since they were born, or since they can remember, or because it represents “the South”. They normally don’t argue for it to stay up for historical reasons alone or for it to be displayed in a historical context. And by historical I mean flown as symbol of a certain time in history or in recognition that a Confederate flag once flew there.

        • John Foskett June 22, 2015 / 3:53 pm

          This is to yours responding to mine below, since no ‘reply” link appears to that one. Given your last response, I’ll admit to being thoroughly confused by this response. You seem to agree below that it shouldn’t be flown on the capitol grounds – that’s what I said above. I also said I have no problem with it being shown at a site devoted to historical display – as opposed to a subdivision of the United States displaying it on those grounds. You and i can engage in rhetorical fencing about the precise reasoning for that but the result is the same.

      • jim June 22, 2015 / 5:57 am

        OTOH we fly British and Spanish flags in some displays and we fought wars with them. French flags might be considered endorsement for their bloody civil war.

        I think singleton displays can be eliminated, especially those put up during the 50-60s.

        • Lyle Smith June 22, 2015 / 11:30 am


        • John Foskett June 22, 2015 / 11:54 am

          What state capitol fiies those flags on its property? Note: we’re not talking about “displays” at sites dedicated to history. That fits the “museum” exception.

          • Lyle Smith June 22, 2015 / 2:00 pm

            The Louisiana state capitol hangs them inside their memorial hall which connects the Senate to the House chambers. The town I grew up in displays all the same flags right off the main road that goes through town. I’ve always thought this was pretty common. Texas does it at some, if not all, of their state line rest stops.

  2. Michelle June 21, 2015 / 1:55 pm

    I disagree with it being flown on public grounds. While I wish it wouldn’t be displayed on apparel, bumper stickers, etc., I would not support a ban on those.

    • Eek-a-mouse June 22, 2015 / 9:05 am

      Confederate flag bumper stickers, t-shirts, etc. are useful in the sense that they let me know up front people to avoid – people that really aren’t worth my personal time or energy. Kind of like a voluntary Scarlet Letter for racists.

  3. Stefan Jovanovich June 21, 2015 / 3:04 pm

    It all comes down to a question of who owns the flagpole. If it the State, then it is up to that jurisdiction’s governor and legislature unless the State’s own constitution says otherwise. The Federal Constitution gives neither the President nor the Congress nor the Supreme Court jurisdiction over what States choose to display on the flagpoles they own.

    • John Foskett June 22, 2015 / 11:58 am

      I don’t recall anybody turning this into a jurisdictional question or a “state’s rights” battle. The post simply asks whether this thing should be flown on the grounds of a state capitol. The correct answer is “no”. And as of a few moments ago Sen. Lindsay Graham appears to agree.

  4. Michael Rodgers June 21, 2015 / 3:56 pm

    Who’s talking about banning or infringing on people’s first amendment rights to affix bumper stickers or wear t-shirts? Nobody. The problem in SC is that my state government’s chosen location for flying the flag makes the display simultaneously memorial and sovereign. That’s why people are upset about the protocol. If the display was totally obviously purely (I like the Coski’s rule, and his word is “unambiguous”) memorial then SC would be just like Alabama and everyone would ignore it. The Rev. Joseph Darby from the SC-NAACP says, “Our demand and desire is that the Confederate flag be displayed in a clear and unquestionable historical context.” This is about as simple as it gets. Copy the Alabama display or follow Florida’s lead. Either way (I prefer the latter — no need to move the monument) … done.

  5. Jimmy Dick June 21, 2015 / 4:33 pm

    If people want to advertise they support terrorism and racism by wearing or waving the CBF around, that is their choice. If they want to demonstrate that they are ignorant that is their choice. It will be my choice to treat them with contempt and refuse to have anything to do with them.

    It will also be my choice to vote for people who reject the racists and terrorists and their ideology along with their symbols. I will choose who I do business with. If a racist/terrorist wants to wear or wave their CBF, then I will not do business with them. That means I will not be visiting the states of Mississippi or South Carolina.

    Personally, I think anyone who wears the CBF is mentally incompetent and should be forced to seek mental help. They are incapable of fitting into an inclusive society and that is what this country is now. They should have their firearm privileges removed until such time as they are capable of being a citizen of the United States and not a supporter of terrorism.

    • Eek-a-mouse June 22, 2015 / 3:48 pm
    • James June 24, 2015 / 1:03 pm

      “If they want to demonstrate that they are ignorant that is their choice. It will be my choice to treat them with contempt and refuse to have anything to do with them.”

      I sometimes feel the same way about anyone with an Obama sticker on their bumper, but I digress.

      The tone and diction of your post speaks volumes about you – fascistic and haughty.

      I do not wear, wave, fly, or display the CBF and do not condone its display on government buildings or property unless said property is a memorial. However, if someone from the south wants to respectfully display the flag, I respect that choice without judging them as mental, ignorant, or racist as you admit that you do.

      The fact is 1 in 3 southern households lost at least 1 family member during the Civil War, totaling approximately 260,000 casualties in the south alone. But considering you are a “History Instructor”, I’m sure you already knew this…

      History and family values run deep in the south. Being proud of our way of life and our southern heritage is not racist or hateful. The men who died under the CBF were not fighting for slavery; they were fighting northern aggression for the sake of their families and communities. The slavery aspect of the war was political and impacted the wealthy land owners and politicians, not the poor and meager solders on the battlefield. These men were no more terrorists or traitors than those who fought the British in the Revolutionary War.

      I could go on, but I do not feel the need to bang my head against the wall of arrogance and bigotry you displayed in your remarks. By the way, owning a firearm is not a “privilege”, it is a “right”.

      And before you cry foul about being called a bigot…
      Bigot – a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; one who regards or treats the members of a group with hatred and intolerance.

      YEP – You nailed it.

      • Jimmy Dick June 24, 2015 / 4:08 pm

        Fascism stems from the conservative side of politics. And you still do not know your history. I suggest starting with primary sources. You also might want to begin to learn because your post shows you haven’t. The men fighting under the CBF fought for slavery. The Union did not start the war. I’m sure you know that, but choose to ignore it in order to fit things into your belief system.

        Bigot-Anyone who flies the CBF and ignores the fact that it is a symbol of racism, terrorism, tyranny and oppression. I see your picture is there with a lot of other ones.

      • John Foskett June 26, 2015 / 7:16 am

        “The men who died under the CBF were not fighting for slavery; they were fighting northern aggression for the sake of their families and communities”

        How about actually reading what they said at the time in letters, diaries, and journals. How about the documented fact that a significant percentage may not have owned slaves themselves but came from families that did. Mythology is better than reality, sometimes.

  6. Joshism June 21, 2015 / 5:08 pm

    I think it is inappropriate for US government offices, from the White House to courthouses to public school, at any level (national, state, county, municipal) to fly the Confederate flag. For that matter, I think it inappropriate for them to fly ANY flag except the national flag and state flag (and military service flags at military bases). What the CSA stood for is irrelevant in that regard.

    An exception would be for a national park or similar site to fly the Confederate flag in the context of the site’s history. I would say it is likewise inappropriate for the French flag to be flown by the government, except at a site like Fort Caroline National Monument that has French history. It’s inappropriate for the government to fly a Spanish flag, except at a site like the Castillo de San Marcos which has Spanish history. it’s inappropriate to fly the Union Jack unless the site covers Colonial Era history and/or the America Revolution.

    As for flying or otherwise using CSA flags in non-government context (private display, shirts, bumper stickers, etc): I don’t like them because I don’t like what they stand for (even the non-racial arguments for it) and I think the people who display them are usually idiots (most commonly but not always proud-to-be-ignorant jingoist rednecks). Banning the Confederate flag will not significantly impact racism. Look at Germany: they’ve pretty effectively banned anything Nazi and the Nazis were substantially worse than the CSA yet there are still active neo-Nazi groups in Germany.

    If I had to ban one flag, I’d ban the Gadsden “Don’t Tread On Me” flag before I banned the CSA battleflag because I’m sick of it being hijacked by the Tea Party. I think the people flying the folks flying the CSA flag are almost as deluded as those who flew it 1861-1865 so in a way it’s appropriate.

  7. TF Smith June 21, 2015 / 7:33 pm

    Personally? It should not be flown anywhere, but it – and all the variants – should not be flown by any public entity or any public (in the sense of any federal, state, or local government) facility in the United States. To me, it is a flag of traitors and slavers.

    • John Foskett June 22, 2015 / 3:56 pm

      Those who defend its display tend to simply ignore its origins – as a banner representing an illegal rebellion whose ultimate purpose was the defense of slavery – and its rejuvenation as a symbol of racial oppression and violence against the Civil Rights movement.

  8. bob carey June 22, 2015 / 4:30 am

    I think that a ban on displaying the CBF would be an infringement on the right of free speech. For better or worse people do have the right to act like idiots. That being said, I do not think that State sanctioned CBF displays are appropriate in that they are unpatriotic, afterall the confederates who fought under this flag were in rebellion against the duly elected government of the United States. This rebellion resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Union soldiers, I wonder what the Union veteran would say on this issue.

  9. jfepperson June 22, 2015 / 5:03 am

    I’m kind of ambivalent about the “flags over X” displays—I can see both points of view, and could construct an argument either way. I don’t think any official display outside a museum context should occur. Private citizens can of course do what they wish to do.

  10. Sherree June 22, 2015 / 6:50 am

    Out of respect and simple human decency, the Confederate flag flying in South Carolina should be taken down now. If it cannot be taken down because of a procedural issue, then a special session of the state legislature should be called and the flag taken down before the nine victims of this massacre are buried.

    The symbolism is unmistakable: a Confederate Flag flying high over yet another atrocity against the black community.

    The dead should be respected, and politics left out of this. We can all argue the rest of it later.

    One of the victims was 87 years old. That a woman who lived through Jim Crow and George Wallace and Strom Thurmond and saw Barack Obama elected President, should then be gunned down in her own church is an American tragedy of unbelievable magnitude.

    Yet, there is hope–and the hope is right there in Charleston. Right there in the church that Roof and his virtual mentors sought to destroy.

    The response of the African American community and of their white allies is phenomenal. In this sense, it is 1965 again. It was the black church that produced Dr. King.

    • bob carey June 23, 2015 / 7:44 am

      Although I believe you to be sincere and your heart to be in the right place, I think the terms African American community, and white allies tend to be divisive. I believe that decent people everywhere were outraged by this heinous act regardless of skin color, religion etc.

      • Sherree June 24, 2015 / 5:22 pm

        Agreed. Thanks for pointing this out. Actually, in Sunday’s “Bridge to Unity” event, which I was referencing, there were men and women from all walks of life, of different nationalities, and of several races.

        It was a heinous act. In their response to the gunman, the families of the victims not only set the tone for what was to follow, they charted the course by forgiving the unforgiveable. Now it is up to us to do the rest.

      • John Foskett June 25, 2015 / 6:51 am

        Bob: Good point. I’d add that, as an American whose ancestor spent 3 years fighting in the Army of the Potomac, a flag which represents illegal rebellion against our great nation offends all right-thinking Americans unless its display is confined to museums, etc.

    • Mark June 23, 2015 / 9:04 am

      I share your hope. I just don’t see anything but a decline of a completely discredited supremacist view Roof espouses. I think we’ll look back on this tragic event as yet another day when that view just looks more irrational, stupid, and evil.

      I know many here are so steeped in history that they’re corrupted by it. They can no longer perform the most important task of a historian, which I take to be separating what people say from what they do. The latter is a better indicator of what they really think. The same is it ever was. One extreme is to deny supremacism exists, another extreme is to see it as always lurking at the door. It will die on its own if we’ll let it. It has already virtually died to the point where some feel the need to try to revive it. And then some need it as a foil. On the other hand, some people are so deferential of tradition that they just can’t believe some things widely believed in the past have no foundation in truth or fact whatever. And that is the extent of their racism. Individually they treat all people well.

      There is no logic of evil, only a psychology of it. The same is true of racism and white supremacy. It will never die if we keep pretending there is a logic to it. There isn’t. Period.

      • Sherree June 24, 2015 / 5:53 pm

        “There is no logic of evil, only a psychology of it. The same is true of racism and white supremacy. It will never die if we keep pretending there is a logic to it. There isn’t. Period.”

        I agree with this part of your statement. There is certainly no logic to evil, yet it has a mind of its own. This gunman, Roof, is not evil, though. He is indoctrinated. He is “self radicalized”. And those who indoctrinated him via the Internet know exactly what they are doing. THEY are evil. Now it is time to eliminate, once and for all, this source of indoctrination for at risk young men. Enough. No excuses. End it now, 2015.

        • Lyle Smith June 25, 2015 / 7:52 am


          How should people exercising their Constitutionally protected speech be eliminated? What do you mean by “eliminate”?

          • Sherree June 25, 2015 / 1:04 pm


            If it can be proven that hate speech incites violence, then it is no longer protected speech. This is how the SPLC crippled the KKK years ago.

            I did not mean eliminate people! 🙂 I mean eliminate this form of indoctrination. It is hate speech. It encourages violence, and sometimes incites it, and it has been around a long time. Nothing new here. (I am thinking of the CCC, specifically, since Roof mentioned the CCC in his rambling “manifesto”, according to the information we have to date)

          • John Foskett June 25, 2015 / 4:31 pm

            I think the intent is that the “speech” be eliminated. And we limit speech in all sorts of ways.Speech inciting unlawful activity, for example, has been limited under Supreme Court doctrine for many decades.

          • Lyle Smith June 26, 2015 / 8:25 am

            Hate speech is protected speech under our Constitution John. White supremacists and Islamists are free to speak in hate all they want to.

            I thought you understood this. Didn’t you recently write that you think people are free to fly the Confederate battle flag all they want to? Some people see the Confederate battle flag as hate speech itself and you are saying that citizens can fly it all the want.

        • John Foskett June 25, 2015 / 4:34 pm

          Enough with the excuses for Roof. You sound like a proponent of the “everybody’s a victim” school. They’re not. Some people are just bad seed. Same with the ISIS-joiners. That’s different from an argument that sites which spew this garbage should be free to operate.

          • Sherree June 26, 2015 / 3:43 am


            My intent was indeed that the speech be eliminated. I said as much in a reply to Lyle that did not post.

            No, I am not of the “everyone is a victim” school. You may see me that way, if you choose, but it is not so.

            Roof, and young men like him, including a young man from North Carolina who recently did become indoctrinated by Isis and threatened to kill his parents and thousands of other men and women if given the chance, may be just bad seeds and we can all sleep at night thinking well of ourselves, since none of this is our fault. Or, on the other hand, these young men may be the product of a new trend in which we are losing young people to ideologies widely disseminated via the Internet.

            Roof and other young men like him seem to pick and choose which identity they will assume at will, and then they go out into the “real world”, as Roof put it, and enact their violent fantasies. Groups like Isis and the CofCC know this. We cannot stop Isis through litigation and public pressure, but we can stop the CofCC.

          • Lyle Smith June 26, 2015 / 8:19 am

            Hate speech is free speech John.

  11. Bob Nelson June 22, 2015 / 12:27 pm

    President Obama expressed it as well as anybody when he said the Confederate flag should be “placed in a museum where it belongs.” If someone wants to fly a CBF on the stern of their pontoon boat or paint one on the top of their truck or wear one on their T-shirt, I believe that’s their right under the freedom of speech clause of the Constitution. But it has no place on government buildings, grounds, capitol buildings, schools, courthouses or any other public facility. No symbol of hatred and racism is more despised in America than the CBF and it should be permanently “retired” from the public domain.

    • Brooks D. Simpson June 22, 2015 / 1:22 pm

      Nice to see you back, Bob. I won’t tell your buddies at cwh2 that you still visit. 🙂

      • Bob Nelson June 22, 2015 / 2:57 pm

        There are only 3 active members there and I doubt they would care.

  12. Buck Buchanan June 23, 2015 / 5:35 am

    By a government entity, it should only be flown within an historical context…a battlefield, building, etc., as part of interpretation. But the US flag, either historical or current, should also be flown.

    In a private context…couldn’t care less.

    Living in southside Virginia I see enough BAFs flying to make me think it’s 1864 but I just smile and think of the 35 star flag on my car window and know which side prevailed.

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