Dylann Roof shot and killed nine worshippers in an African-American church in Charleston on June 17. A photo surfaced that showed him holding a Confederate battle flag, which was assumed to be a symbol of his racial hatred. The image went viral, like an unchecked malignancy, in the wake of his heinous act. The Confederate flag, before the Dylann Roof tragedy, already was an emblem that has divided and oftentimes embittered a nation that is tenuously reunited after a bloody Civil War.
As South Carolina considered and ultimately approved the flag’s removal from the grounds of its statehouse, politicians seeking the presidency quickly incorporated the controversy into talking points for stump speeches. With partisan control of the country’s government central to their newfound enlightenment, political sons and daughters of the Old South publicly abandoned the “Stars and Bars” as quickly as they could find someone with a tape recorder or TV camera willing to report their self-important transformation. When it came to the “Southern heritage” many had espoused throughout their careers, there were more flip-flops than a vacationer would see on a sunny Tybee Island Saturday.
Just as many opponents of the flag, a large number of them descendants of slaves whose ancestors lived lives of servitude under ownership of men who defended that emblem, declared themselves emotionally scarred by a symbol whose presence they said represents an unwillingness to embrace their worth as humans. The Confederate flag, these opponents declare, is as hateful to them as the swastika is to Jewish descendants whose forebears were tortured and killed in Nazi concentration camps.
On the flip side, rallies in several Southern states have drawn Southern-heritage-promoting, Confederate-flag-waving supporters out of seclusion and into the spotlight, where they’ve extolled the virtues of forefathers who bled and died for the Confederacy.