“Remember, we are all one country now. Dismiss from your mind all sectional feeling, and bring them up to be Americans.”
A private citizen can be a Confederate supporter, but the U.S. Government must not be. Confederate statues, or any other Confederate memorabilia for that matter, do not belong on government property, with the exception of museums, because not only are they off-putting, but more importantly, they endorse treason.
In the U.S., private citizens, on their private property, should be allowed to fly any flag or let any statue stand (unless public nuisance law is at play). Such freedoms should not be abridged for virtuous-abstract reasons: we are the land of the free, liberty for all, etc. But more importantly, such freedoms should be allowed because it would likely be unconstitutional to violate them. In our country, the 1st Amendment allows us to burn Old Glory, so why would it disallow private citizens to display Confederate flags on their property? Personally, I despise the Confederate Flag; it makes me uneasy every time I see it. However, I respect the Constitution and understand that for me to have the right to legally decorate my property as per my liking, I must respect others’ rights to do the same. For example, if I wanted to hang a cross on my front door, I wouldn’t want the government to have the right to rip it down because others were offended.
When it comes to government property, however, the rules are different and Confederate symbolism should not be glorified. There are no concerns of free speech in this context. The 1st Amendment does not apply to the government as it does to private citizens. In other words, the 1st Amendment limits the government’s regulation of private speech, but it doesn’t discuss the government’s own speech. Thus, when it comes to statues and flags being on government property, it is strictly a matter of policy preference.
Looking to policy, it is vacuous to think that it is shrewd to exhibit Confederate memorabilia on government land because such memorabilia is offensive and simply treasonous.
There is no getting around it; the Confederate flag is offensive. What do you see when you look at the Confederate flag—the renowned battle flag? Some see it as an homage to the South. Some simply see a red flag, with a blue X, and 13 stars. Some see their family history. Most of America, on the other hand, sees a red flag painted with the blood of slaves, a blue X symbolizing divisiveness, and stars that represent the states that were willing to die in order to perpetuate an unjust America. Now, I understand the pleas of some that take pride in the Confederate flag. There are truly people who are not racist, do not hate minorities, but still take pride in the Confederate flag. For some, the meaning of the flag has nothing to do with its roots in hatred, but rather, the flag is just a symbol of unity or respect for Southern culture and values. For others, the flag runs deep throughout their history: their ancestors fought in the war. To them, the flag is simply a connection to their past, which every human desires. However, as I said earlier, these sentiments for Confederate memorabilia belong on private property. As a matter of policy, because of the Confederacy’s past, the cost clearly outweighs the benefits when it concerns exhibiting Confederate relics up on government property. For most Americans, Confederate memorabilia is either pointless or highly disturbing.Those who support the imagery will only be nominally affected by the removal of these exhibitions of the Confederacy because they can still exhibit Confederate articles on their private property.
I realize that it is not a robust argument to simply state that something should be taken down because it’s offensive. There are many things that are offensive, and you cannot make everyone happy. But the flag is not simply offensive; it supports treason. The Confederates were treasonous; they broke from the Union and fought to take it down. Some witty individual could say: “Well, they wouldn’t be treasonous had they won.” But that is neither here nor there. The fact is that the Confederates lost and they lost to the United States of America. It seems ludicrous for any U.S. government (federal, state, or city) to raise memorials in honor of Confederates because doing so honors treason, and honoring treason promotes divisiveness. After all, we are the United States, not the divided States.
If citizens want to place Confederate flags in their front yards or place Confederate symbols on their clothes and cars, let them. As far as the government is concerned, it is time to move on. This discussion has gone on long enough. If we were still in the late 19th century, I would be more sympathetic. But the war is done; the Union won. There is no more South versus the North or “us versus them.” We are one nation, and as one nation, it is time for the government to put Confederate memorabilia where it belongs: in a museum.