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July 14, 2015 at 10:24 AMComments: 1 Faves: 0

A Historical Week: Reflections on The "Rebel Flag"

By Jeffrey VanWingen M.D. More Blogs by This Author

History has been made this summer. My eyes and ears have been open to our nation’s culture over the past weeks as I have seen political, media and personal lines drawn. As an observer and a human I have wrestled with the issues from every angle my mind could take me in the contexts of history, politics, faith and the heart. My blog is mostly about educating the masses about wellness and medical issues, but this is about me, putting my stethoscope down and taking my doctor coat off to get out the reckoning and weigh in. 

The Confederate Flag is Removed From the South Carolina State Capitol

This week the confederate flag was taken down from the state capitol of South Carolina.  It has been there as a symbol for countless years. Mississippi, along with several other states seceded from the union, igniting America’s Civil War.

The Civil War was America’s bloodiest conflict by far. It ripped our country in two. Family members were pitted against one another. 620,000 estimated lives were lost. The statistics and facts could go on. Frankly, however, 150 years later we simply cannot grasp with any sort of empathy the magnitude of the Civil War.

Yet, here we are 150 years later dealing with an issue relating to the Civil War and the basic powder keg issues that touched it off—race, individual freedoms and our country’s unity. Like many, I have read the commentaries, memes and political posturing since this issue surfaced. Most link the resurfaced call to remove the flag to the race-fueled tragedy in Charleston. Few, however, see the issue of unity as a driving force.

I see them both.

Yesterday, I tended to the medical needs of an elderly patient of mine. He grew up in Mississippi, served his country in Europe during World War II and eventually settled in my home state of Michigan.   I couldn’t resist asking him about his thoughts. He recalled Jim Crow and the lack of freedoms he endured, but didn’t seem to be too bothered by the flag. I was bothered for him.

I have read statistics that most Americans are not bothered by the confederate flag. But it is not about the people who are not bothered. The confederate flag is a reminder of a divided nation and slavery so much more than it is a badge of a rebel spirit or a colorful decoration.

Some people wonder "Why now, 150 years later?"

Like Rome wasn’t built in a day, so goes most arduous tasks. In Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address he discussed healing and unifying our nation. He talked of work ahead for our nation. He obviously referred to burying the dead and bringing states back together. I believe he considered even further the task of burying racism and uniting more than just territories on the map. My parents grew up in Jim Crow and now such an environment seems ridiculous.  We continue to evolve…two steps forward and occasional steps back.

Some have reasoned that a flag, of a rival school for instance, may bother them and yet they do not call for it to be taken down. But people under such flags did not seek to pull our nation apart and perpetuate the institution of denying the freedom of an entire race.

As happy as I was to see unified decision to remove the flag from South Carolina’s capitol, I was disheartened to see persons using the issue to break apart a unified stance.

Politicians have politicked and contrarians have voiced their dissent.

Kid Rock told Al Sharpton’s group to "kiss his ass" in requesting that he remove the flag. He has also reflected, “I played Barack Obama’s inauguration even though I didn’t vote for him. I didn’t agree with his policies. But there was an exciting sense of change in the air. That promise hasn’t been fulfilled- the country is more divided than ever.” 

He has, in my opinion, an unfulfilled opportunity to be the change he desires to see in a move toward unifying our country. I discovered this quote on the facebook page called Tea Party Express. Perhaps here is the more accurate source of disunity, the political circus. 

I do not feel that the confederate flag should be put out of sight in America. On the contrary, I believe it should be displayed throughout the country in museums and other venues to remind us of the toll our country paid as it reached the boiling point of disunity among our bound states and equality of race.

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1 Comment

  • Taking down the flag does NOT make our American history go away. For some, THAT flag was a constant reminder of how far we have come.

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