We Need Solutions, Not Scapegoats: Love in the Time of a Confederate Flag


I was in high school when Columbine happened. It was a tragedy that hit close to home because, with just a few different choices in my parents’ lives, I might be one of those kids running out of the school or lying dead. I still vividly remember for months after the shooting people formulating the “why” to why did this tragedy happen. One of the resounding scapegoats was violent music, particularly Marilyn Manson.

Warning. Marilyn Manson.

Warning: Marilyn Manson.

Now, I’m not a Marilyn Manson fan. At the time I wasn’t even sure who Marilyn Manson was (my parents are very conservative and I listened to pretty much zero secular music unless it was Johnny Cash). Yet, I couldn’t help but be amazed at the idea that music, itself, could cause anyone to shoot up their classmates.

There’s a kind of mystic power as a nation we give to symbols every time there’s a tragedy. We blame video games and music for the tragedy that stems from kids, we blame locations and weather, we blame TV and movies, and a lot of other things, but rarely do we blame the perpetrator. In our rush for “an answer” often we are looking for a solution. As a result of Columbine, our music and video games now come with warning labels (because, you know, that’s totally stopped the tragic school shootings).


General Lee Confederate Flag

With the recent rash of just wiping out the confederate flag from everything including the General Lee toys (based on the TV show Dukes of Hazzard) and every civil war game in the Apple App store because of the tragedy in Charleston, I kind of wonder if we’re so excited we have a solution that we don’t ask ourselves is it going to fix the problem?

The real problem is racism. I agree that the confederate flag is a symbol of that problem.  Much like the Nazi flag was a symbol of genocide, racism, and hate. I would be upset if the Nazi flag was flying on anything. The flags, however, did not wipe out 1 million Jews and countless others. They also did not enslave an entire race because of their skin color.

Symbols are powerful, but they are not magical. When you put on a wedding ring, that does not make you instantly a wife or husband. When you are married and you take it off, that does not make you a cheating spouse. Your actions and your heart make you a husband or a wife. The ring is just an outward symbol of that internal reality.

When Dylann Roof murdered people in Charleston, the flag flying or not flying wouldn’t have changed his mind. He was full of hate for others because he was. The outward symbol of that was having the confederate flag on his license plate. The inward reality was if it wasn’t that symbol, it would have been another one.

All this said, I’m in favor of removing the flag, but not because it’s going to instantly heal all racism. I’m in favor of removing it because of love.

I once worked recording a marriage seminar for Gary Chapman, author of The Five Love Languages. In the seminar, he said something I will never forget about what love really is, “if you can change something for someone else, then do it.” It seemed basic, but it was profound and has stick with me these 10+ years later. Of course, he meant in this case, in a marriage if your habit of dropping your socks on the floor drives your spouse insane, then break the habit and put them in the hamper.

But I also take it to a larger sense: if your flag is making people hurt from your own state (which they also call their home), then remove it. Life is way too short to value things over people. The US was born of an idea of religious and individual freedom, but it was also born out of the idea of banding together to make a country. Self-sacrifice for others is not uncommon and if removing a flag or changing the name of a building eases someone else, I’d do it in a heartbeat for the sake of love.


(I’ll side note here and say that this flag we’re talking about is actually the battle flag for General Lee’s unit, it’s not “THE” confederate flag, but Lee himself didn’t want any confederate flags flown at his funeral)

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  1. Shirley
    Posted June 26, 2015 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    I guess I can understand your desire to please others and to some point I agree. When I go out to dinner with someone I know is trying to lose weight, I don’t pile my plate high and then order desert. It just wouldn’t be a gesture of love. But what I find hard to understand is why a flag that does respresent heritage for many people has to be completely done away with. Most of the people living in the south did NOT own slaves. Indeed, my ancestors were dirt poor farmers just trying to grow enough food to feed their families. Then the “government” invaded their land and they were left with nothing. Yes, the government stole from them. The problem is that there were some rich PLANTATION owners who owned most of the slaves. Yet, we don’t destroy those plantation homes. Indeed, we repair them and set them out for all the world to see. If we need to get rid of something, we need to get rid of the instruments of slavery and that wasn’t any battle flag. I also find it disgusting that people from the North are always the first to demand that the flag be brought down yet slavery existed in the North too. I don’t see anyone wanting to take down the American flag that was flown at that time. We had slave owning Presidents, yet their statues still stand and schools are still named for them. No one is demading that those schools be renamed. Fine, let’s get rid of all symbols of slavery but let’s do that for the NORTH and the south. Love you my friend.

  2. lois
    Posted June 26, 2015 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

    In the south there are thousand of Confederate flagsflying…these are on graves of those who fought to suceed from the union. There are plaques and statues with Confederate symbols. Do we desecrate these? There was such a thing as African-American slave owners in the south… There was such a thing as a black Confederate soldier. I would allow the media to have their rant…because ignorance is bliss…. But don’t pull a Jane Fonda and spit on soldiers graves….it was never a symbol of hate until the KKK used that and the American flag in their marches…why to we pick such an easy target an allow the real culprit run free. All Groups that practice hate should be Banned!… Subject to fines…put In the slammer…. It’s obvious the group this crazy idiot belonged to practiced hate….it is not a freaking grey line…. Find fault where it is due… Disband the young nazi and the KKK…..make it unpopular…. Like the stars and bars are now…no one will because its easier to ban a flag….

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