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Lexington, Virginia, Chooses Not to Fly the Confederate Flag

by Professor Will Huhn on September 3, 2011

in Bill Jordan,Constitutional Law,Freedom of Speech,Wilson Huhn

Does a city have a constitutional right not to fly a particular flag?

Lexington, Virginia, is an historic city of the Confederacy.  Robert E. Lee and Thomas ("Stonewall") Jackson, the two greatest generals of the Confederacy – and two of the greatest military tacticians America has produced - are buried there, and the city is home to both the Virginia Military Institute, a storied military college whose students fought valiantly in the Civil War, and Washington & Lee University, renamed when Lee became President of the college after the Civil War. 

Lee's defensive schemes stymied the vastly larger and better equipped Union armies, while Jackson's brilliant offensive strikes drove them back.  Neither man wanted Virginia to secede from the United States, but their loyalty to their state outweighed their loyalty to their country.  Had these two men led national armies instead of those of Virginia the Civil War would not have lasted a year.

Jackson died at Chancellorsville, but Lee survived and left military life behind, choosing instead to instruct our nation's youth.  When Lee's army surrendered in 1865 Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy, vowed to continue the struggle and encouraged southerners to mount a guerrilla war against their government, but General Lee simply told his soldiers:

"Boys, I have done the best I could for you. Go home now. And if you make as good citizens as you have soldiers, you will do well. I shall always be proud of you. Goodbye. And God bless you all."

On Thursday evening, the city council of Lexington, Virginia, voted 4-1 to permit only three flags to fly from public light poles downtown – the American flag, the Virginia flag, and a yet-to-be designed municipal flag.  This ordinance was the result of dissent that arose when the Confederate flag was displayed on public light poles during the annual Lee-Jackson Day festivities in January.  Many city residents – particularly African-American residents – complained that the Confederate flag is a symbol of slavery and as such the city should not officially display it. 

The Lexington ordinance does not restrict private displays of the Confederate flag.  It is clear that individuals and private organizations have the right, under the First Amendment, to fly any flag they wish – or to burn or trample upon a flag.  Displaying or destroying a flag is symbolic speech – expressive conduct – and it receives the same constitutional protection as speaking or writing.

Cities and all other governmental units also have constitutional rights under the First Amendment.  Governmental entities are restricted in one respect that individuals and private organizations are not; because of the separation of church and state, the government may neither endorse nor attack religion.  The government must remain neutral with respect to religion.  But in matters relating to social issues or foreign or domestic policy the government is nearly as free to issue communications or express its views as any citizen.

So the City of Lexington is perfectly within its rights to restrict public light poles to the display of only three official flags.

Was its decision wise?  Did city council do the right thing?

Roberta Anderson of the local News-Gazette, in Lexington Council Approves Flag Ordinance, and  Steve Szkotak of the Associated Press, in Lexington, Virginia Limits Confederate Flag-Flying, report on reaction from people supporting and protesting the city's decision.  On the one hand, the Southern Cross is a painful reminder of the period of slavery.  The southern states seceded for one reason, and one reason only – the institution of slavery was under attack.  By 1860 the rest of the country had decided that slavery would not be extended westward, and as a result the slave states would henceforth be outvoted in the House of Representatives, the Senate,  and the Electoral College.  The south had largely controlled the federal government since the founding of the country, and that control was now slipping from its grasp.  It was only a matter of time before slavery itself – the principal source of wealth in the agrarian, feudal economy of the south – would be abolished.  Southern leaders clamored for war, and when war came, ordinary southerners fought not so much for slavery but to defend their homeland from invasion. 

They fought with courage against great odds.  Approximately one-fourth of all southern white males of military age were killed, and most of the rest were wounded in that conflict.  Even more Union soldiers were killed and wounded.  For many southern whites the Southern Cross is an emblem of the pride they justly feel for the perseverance of their ancestors.  I share that pride, for both Union and Confederate soldiers, white and black, who fought so bravely.  That is why I visited the Jackson House and Jackson's grave in Lexington.  It is humbling to remember the sacrifices that the Civil War soldiers and their families endured.

There is one more factor to consider.  The Confederate flag is not merely a reminder of the Confederacy.  It was also seized by terrorists like the Ku Klux Klan and segregationists like Alabama Governor George Wallace.  It is not simply an historical artifact.  In living memory it was wielded as a flag of hatred – of discrimination – of racial supremacy.  This cannot be denied or overlooked.  Those who wish to fly the Southern Cross only to pay homage to their Confederate ancestors are burdened with this legacy as well.  I believe that it is because of this more recent use that the Southern Cross was abandoned by the City of Lexington.  There is no lack of pride in the Confederacy.  But the City refuses to fly a flag that has acquired another, more sinister, meaning.  There are surely other symbols of the Confederacy – even other flags – that could be used on occasions like Lee-Jackson day.  While it is appropriate to honor Generals Lee and Jackson and their soldiers, in so doing it is not necessary to inflict harm upon the victims of slavery and discrimination.

Professor Huhn has taught Constitutional Law at the University of Akron for over a quarter century. You may access his websites on Constitutional Law and Health Care Financing Reform for additional materials and information about those subjects. Drafts of his scholarly work are available from his author page at ssrn: http://ssrn.com/author=83790.

{ 18 comments }

larry d. September 3, 2011 at 10:08 am

Agreed.

Now when is the Democrat party going to change it's name? Isn't it time?

Quidpro September 6, 2011 at 8:15 pm

What is the "constitutional" issue? Not every legal issue raises constitutional questions, Professor.

Billy Bearden September 16, 2011 at 9:31 am

Professor Huhn,

Dear Professor, you apparently are unaware of any details of this situation, due to the very fact of your comment here:
"There are surely other symbols of the Confederacy – even other flags – that could be used on occasions like Lee-Jackson day."

The flags that were used, fell under attack, and were the cause of the banning ordinance were NOT the common rectangle Battleflag misappropriated by the klan, they were in fact the "even other flags" you mention:

Robert E. Lee's Headquarters Flag (sewn by his wife with unique star pattern)
2nd National CSA States Flag (also called "Jackson Flag" 1st use on Jackson's casket)
1861 Virginia State Flag.

These were specifically chosen for 2 reasons – DIRECTLY related to both Lee and Jackson
and not the more 'offending' flag – because neither Lee nor Jackson fought under that version.

It took just 1 complaint – that of WLU Professor Anna Brodsky, who complained on January 10th 2011 of her "embarrassed feelings" to the media.

So, a woman from the north who teaches Russian at WLU with no appreciation of the local history made a complaint of emnbarrassed feelings (and whose husband is a donor to a liberal progressive candidate in Oregon via ActBlue), the Mayor, who is a supporter of the Southern Poverty Law Center and progressive democrats took it upon herself to have the town atty to draw up the flag ban ordinance.

Anna Brodsky's petition she drew up in her WLU classroom and had 350 students and faculty sign was offered to the Mayor for the ban. A counter petition with 1,670 names opposed to the ban was presented to the council.

Embarrassed feelings and 350 people were enough to override more than 1,670 opposing voices and a rally with approx 200 participants. Sad day for democracy and American Veterans

Professor Will Huhn September 18, 2011 at 11:10 am

Dear Mr. Beardman,
Thank you for the comment, and I greatly appreciate your agreement that alternative flags should be flown to honor Lee and Jackson as well as other Confederate veterans. But I do not believe that you have accurately described the situation in Lexington.
First, I was not at the rally protesting the city council's decision. However, I personally heard from an eyewitness that there were in fact a large number of what has come to be known as "the" Confederate flag flown at the rally.
Second, you characterize those persons opposed to the official display of the Confederate flag as comprising only a few hundred students who signed a petition at the urging of a single "woman from the north." This greatly understates the nature and scope of opposition to the Confederate flag. But even if you right that supporters of the flag outnumber opponents, have you considered the feelings of African-American residents of Lexington and surrounding area? Even though they constitute a minority of the people of Lexington or Rockbridge County, this particular flag is for them not simply a relic of the Civil War, but a symbol of White Supremacy – because it was used for that purpose in the century and a half since the Civil War.
In my original post I had hoped to convey my admiration for Generals Lee and Jackson; I should add the VMI cadets who fought courageously at New Market and elsewhere, and the residents of Lexington who bravely withstood invasion. It is necessary and appropriate to remember the sacrifices they endured. But in honoring them it is also necessary and appropriate to be respectful of all American citizens. Both Lee and Jackson were men of honor and I am confident they would agree with me.

Rich Bidlack September 26, 2011 at 10:14 am

Dear Professor Huhn and Mr. Beardman,

I am a long-time resident of Lexington and faculty member at Washington and Lee University. I attended the city council meeting that you described. Let me clarify a few details. The Confederate battle flag was not displayed in the city-owned flag holders along our Main Street and on the bridge over Route 11 last January. The flags were state flags of the Confederacy for the most part. At the rally before the city council meeting on September 1, the Sons of Confederate Veterans carried many Confederate battle flags. There is no ban on the private or individual display of the stars and bars. Each year on Lee-Jackson Day there is a little parade down Main Street with folks in period dress carrying battle flags. The city council vote pertained only to town-sanctioned official display of flags. At the city council meeting, the overwhelming majority of Lexingtonians who spoke during the public hearing supported city council's proposal, including several whose ancestors fought for the Confederacy. City council graciously allowed out-or-towners to speak. Opposition to the council's decision came almost exclusively from non-Lexingtonians.

larry d. September 19, 2011 at 7:09 am

You seem to like to speak for other folks a lot, Professor. Was your eyewitness friend affiliated with the university Mr. Bearden spoke of? Or perhaps another university?

Billy Bearden September 24, 2011 at 4:47 pm

Professor Huhn

Thanks for the reply.
Family lineage places myself and Thomas Jonathan Jackson as cousins. I live in Georgia, but did travel the near 500 miles to attend the city council meeting to oppose the flag ban ordinance, defend against attacks on both Lee and Jackson, and to participate in the rally.

While it has been said a flag only holds the meaning to which an individual attaches to it, at Lexington on that day the majority of individuals saw only a respectable symbol of honor.

Were there 'a large number' of the commonly referred to Confederate Flag present. In rectangle form probably a total of 10. One was under control of a young black woman named Karen. Of the square version a good guess would be approx 12. Of those one was flown by a black man named Mr Edgerton.

A nice gentleman named Grayson passed out 144 free Second National Confederate stick flags. I did see probably an additional 20 Second Nationals, 4-5 Lee HQ flags, about 10 First National Confederate Flags, and a few 1861 Va State Flags.

There are plenty pictures of the Hopkins Green Flag Rally not offered by the Associated Press to show I speak the truth. I am seriously questioning your witnesses description, perhaps they embellished or exagerated….

However, since only 1 media outlet even dare mention Mr Edgerton and Karen, and no national media even showed thier picture, we who attended the event knew the slanted bias of the media.

Yessir, on January 10th, 2011, a woman named Anna Brodsky, who invoked her title of Professor at Washington and Lee, stated to the local Lexington TV station she had "Embarrassed Feelings" for the town to allow to fly Lee's HQ flag, the 2nd National "Jackson" flag, and the 1861 Va State flag for the Lee-Jackson Day.

W&L student journalism students wrote a story about how Mrs Brodsky drew up a petition and had aquired 350 signatures on it. This can also be seen from the Lexington City Govt thru the FOIA – more than 80% of them are itenerant students NOT residents.

When I spoke to the city council, I noticed there were approx 10 attendees who were black that spoke in favor of the flag ban.

As stated previously, the majority of letters to the editors of all 3 area newspapers, the counter petition had 1,670 names to oppose the ban, a media poll was done that showed 89% were opposed to the ban, and yet here we are, the ban was rammed thru against the will of the majority.

Protests and a proposed boycott of the town is underway. Letters still flood the papers against the actions of a few govt officials, and all this for what?

Not because of any racism or hate, Not because of any case of discrimination. Not for any bias or lawsuit, but because of "Embarrassed Feelings" of the New York born professor of Russian. Mrs Anna Brodsky.

She didn't even show up for the council hearing…

Timothy D. Manning September 24, 2011 at 7:08 pm

Professor Huhn:

Your points are what many of us have come to expect from the great number of egalitarian social engineers that now staff so many of America's universities.

This city of Virginia now joins the ranks of those who suppress the rights of a conquered and subjugated Confederate Virginia. Such suppression is common in many parts of Europe of their various minorities leaving many segments of Europe angry and believing that freedom and liberty is for other people but not for them. To us this is just another face of the continuing tyranny over the Southern States.

True freedom is often sloppy and most always readily recognized by its level of what it tolerates. Virginia is clearly becoming less diverse, less tolerant and less multicultural. People like the Sons of Confederate Veterans, the Military Order of the Stars and Bars and the United Daughters of the Confederacy have become much less tolerated than we were in the past. Our continued and enhanced subjugation causes us pain and anger. The USA thought it could subjugate the CSA with overwhelming military force, and it did. Our ancestor's surrendered their swords, but not the principles that so distinguish the Founder's of the USA and the writer's of our original constitution. The Founder's American view is extinguished in government of the USA today, but those principles are still held and cherished by many of us who are proud our families resisted U.S. tyranny during the 1860's by fighting in the behalf of the Commonwealth of Virginia.

These actions by the Lexington City Council and the support of Big Brother Marxist academic's like yourself simply confirm that we are a subjugated people without a country that tolerates us and without a country of our own. Our flags of the Confederacy represent not just the past, but also they represent many of us. We see nothing but hatred from people like you who support the denial of our rights. We will not go quietly into the night. The flags you and the City Council of Lexington, Virginia censure do not just represent the past. They represent many of the finest sons and daughters of Virginia today.
Timothy D. Manning
Professor Emeritus of Religion and Ethics

Mark Brown September 24, 2011 at 7:59 pm

Professor Huhn,
The United States flag flew over the institution of slavery, particularly where it existed in the North for many more years that "the Confederate flag" ever flew. Furthermore, it flew over the genocide and extermination of the native American population long after waging total war on Southern women and children. This particular flag (the stripped banner) is for them (native Americans) not simply a relic of the "Indian" Wars, but a symbol of White Supremacy and destruction of their people– because it was used for that purpose in the two centuries leading to their total submission and still is a painful reminder of their great loss today. Furthermore, it flew over the incarceration of the entire captive Japanese American population, who were rounded up and imprisoned by their country. Im sure I could cite many more instances, and i wonder whether you have considered the feelings of the millions of descendants of these wronged citizens who see those stripes as a reminder of the atrocities inflicted upon their forefathers, living and dead ? That the Stars and Stripes carries this baggage cannot be denied or overlooked. Those who wish to fly the United States Flag only to pay homage to their heritage and for their patriotism remain burdened with this legacy as well. Professor Huhn, are you prepared to be even handed in your condemnation of the United States flag, which the people of Ohio used to wage an unjust and criminal war upon my people, native Americans, Japanese Americans and others ? General Jackson was quite clear what should be done to invaders. He said to "KILL THEM ALL." Lee sent his men home to " be good citizens" because he feared retaliation for our people by a vindictive radical regime, which in the end brought ruthless treatment in their "reconstruction". He knew that further effort was futile and sent them home to their communities and States to be good citizens, while loathing what had become of the republic. I can assure you that Gen'ls. Lee and Jackson would have nothing to do with your views.

Michael Lamb September 24, 2011 at 10:33 pm

Mr. Huhn,

I take issue with many things you stated and I can defend my assertions as well or better than you can defend your statements. However to cut down of the length of posting and to state a fact that is incontrovertible, I'll make this statement concerning the war being over slavery and that being the reason it is offensive to blacks.

I quote you an excerpt from the NY Times, dated May 19, 2011.
"Days before Sumter, with his state still in the Union, a North Carolina West Point cadet prepared to leave school as “there will be no compromise, and . . . the border states will be compelled to secede however unwilling they may be to do so.” Once Lincoln called for troops, secessionist Gov. John Ellis dismissed the government’s “gross usurpation of power,” and the legislature called a May 20 convention and began to prepare for war.

Meanwhile, Unionism in the state crumbled. Congressman Zebulon Vance, a western Unionist, was gesturing to the heavens “for peace and the Union of our Fathers” when someone handed him news of Lincoln’s call for troops. “When my hand came down,” Vance recalled later, “it fell slowly and sadly by the side of a secessionist. I immediately, with altered voice and manner, called upon the assembled multitude to volunteer, not to fight against but for South Carolina.”

The middle states of North Carolina, Arkansas, Tennessee and Virginia did NOT secede because of slavery, but because they considered their powers were being usurped by the Federal Government. These states had no intention of being forced to attack anyone, but fight to defend their beliefs concerning sovereignty.

Slavery was mentioned in this article but it was under completely different reasonings than you and other revisionists suggest, of which your POV is currently in public education. It was actually thought in theses state's that the best chance to keep slavery was by staying in the union, and NOT by seceding. According to this thinking, these state's seceded for principles that had NOTHING to do with keeping the institution of slavery as an institution. (I have much more information supporting this, but this article being from a liberal Northern paper removes much doubt since Southerner's are not make the assertions.)

In short the four upper Southern States listed was NOT going to fight South Carolina over her actions and they were NOT going to be forced to do something against their moral principles. They would secede before they would be forced to fight anyone and slavery be damned!

Michael–Deo us Vindices

Susan Hathaway September 25, 2011 at 12:48 am

Professor Huhn,

I am afraid that it is you that has not accurately described the situation in Lexington, not Mr. Bearden. The flags that were flown from City Light Poles in honor of the Lee-Jackson State holiday in January, 2011, are exactly as he describes. You offer as proof of his inaccuracy the fact that battle flags were used in the rally on September 1st, to protest the (at that point) proposed ban. Yes, there were battle flags displayed at the rally, but that had nothing whatsoever to do with the flags that the ordinance directly attacked, which did NOT include the Confederate Battle Flag.

Secondly, I would like to see and hear from the African-Americans whom you claim 1) view all Confederate flags as a symbol of white supremacy and 2) believe they should be banned because of this misconception. It has been my personal experience that the only people who make these types of claims are those who either profit from the exploitation that always accompanies it, or misguided, guilt ridden whites, who feel they have been somehow called to "speak for" the black man. In the case of Lexington, it was most certainly the latter, as Mr. Bearden has already detailed, not the "particularly African-American residents" that you describe.

Honestly, sir, when I read through your original comments, there are so many factual errors, and errors of assumption and omission, that I would respectfully suggest that it would be in your best interest to remove it and start from scratch. Those of us who actually attended the rally and the Council Meeting directly following, would be more than happy to assist you in making the needed corrections.

Sincerely,
Susan Hathaway
Richmond, Virginia

C. W. Roden September 25, 2011 at 1:06 am

Far too often these days it seems, just the display of the banner has been enough to create impassioned debates that are (verbally speaking) almost as intense as the very War that gave birth to that noble banner. No matter if the debate is about its display on, or at, the South Carolina Statehouse, on State banners of certain Southern States, at Confederate monuments, in cemeteries, on battlefields, on the clothes of high school students, or even the display of them outside private homes or personal vehicles at workplaces, the real questions about why these arguments are often lost in the talking points of both those who support its display and those who oppose it.

To most Southerners the Southern Cross of Dixie—patterned after the original battle flag of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia—is a living symbol of Southern regional and cultural identity and memorial to the memories of Southern men and boys of all races and religions who served not only in defense of the independence of the Confederate States of America, but more importantly in personal defense of their Southern homeland of their birth and the family.

However for other Southerners, mostly African-Americans, the modern display of the Dixie Cross sadly brings to mind only the feelings of the worst of their fellow Southerners and—mainly for older ones—terrible memories of some past injustice (personal or otherwise) where the perpetrators of those outdated social codes and racial prejudices often displayed that same flag.

To those of us who still call ourselves proudly Southern and who display the Dixie Cross battle flag our beloved ancestors served under, we are all too aware of both the proud history, as well as the negative history, of that embattled banner. We honor the positive aspects of our Southern heritage and history in regards to the flag, while at the same time condemning the negative aspects.

I consider myself honored to be among the millions of Southern-born descendants of a Confederate soldier, an Alabama farmer who left behind a wife and four children to defend his native land from an invading army wearing the blue uniforms of the Federal Union. He fought in many of the major campaigns of the Army of Northern Virginia, was wounded once, returned to fight again at Gettysburg and was later killed at Chickamauga, Georgia in September 1863, possibly buried in an unknown grave somewhere near the site of the battle.

For me his descendant, his service to that family he left behind, the personal duty he felt to his native Southland, all he fought for, all he suffered through, the Christian faith in the God he worshiped, and the very memory of all which he was is forever a part of the Southern Cross he served under.

Every stitch of that flag holds a piece of his memory, of who he was as a man, a father, a brother and a son. It holds the spirit of his ancestry, Ulster Scots, who came to America before the American Revolution seeking a new life, making South Carolina and later the rest of what became Dixie their own; who laid their roots down in this glorious land and defended that same Southern homeland from an invading army wearing the red uniforms of the British Empire.

I am proud to fly that Southern flag beside the flag of the country of my birth, to remember seeing both of them that I am both an American and a Southerner.

That does not mean, however, that I am blind to the fact that individuals with less than noble ideals and goals have misused the Southern Cross as a symbol of intimidation against men and women I call my fellow Southerners and Americans. Worse yet, that many of the people who have disgraced the flag, and with it the memories of the men and boys who served under it, were people who likewise called themselves Southern, Christians, and Americans—though not by the definition I would personally use to describe those individual traits.

Nothing angers me more than the willful misappropriation of the flag of my Southern identity and—by extension—the memory of my ancestors themselves, either by people who call it racist and harmful, or by people who wave it in the faces of fellow Southerners of color.

For the last 20 years of my life I have stood up to both groups of individuals who attack the Southern Cross in many ways, usually with direct action. I have struggled along with my fellow Southerners who honor the true identity of their Confederate historical heritage against the misconceptions regarding the symbolism of the flag, its history and what it stands for today. My weapon is nothing but education for those willing to listen and learn beyond the stereotypes.

Likewise I listen to those who feel the display of the Southern Cross is offensive to them personally. In doing so I have learned a great deal, as well as taught a great deal to such folks, helping them to see, with time and patience, that not all who display it do so out of hate and fear—with what I hope has been some moderate success.

My anger has never been against those who believe the flag is a symbol of bigotry based on much more than what they were taught, nor has it ever been against those who were personally wronged years ago by those who stained the flag with the scars of hate.

I feel only pain and sorrow, both for them and for the Southern people as a whole for allowing such negative uses of our flag for so long without speaking up—aside from those few voices even during the Civil Rights Era who did in fact speak up against such misuse, but whose pleas fell on deaf ears with those caught up in the heat of the moment on both sides.

It is only those who choose to remain ignorant that offend me, individuals or groups who refuse to look beyond their own ideology and prejudices. Who hide their hatred and fear behind a mask of “tolerance and progress” or behind white sheets and brown shirts. While both ideological polar opposites, they have become one in the same as enemies of Southern identity to those who defend the honor of that flag and the other symbols of the South’s Confederate past.

One may believe that to be a harsh—even a radical viewpoint, but it has been one earned through years of stereotypical abuse of the Southern people and its symbols by those who advance both trains of thought, without (and in spite of) the proper objective education concerning the banner’s symbolism. It is a view I have found validated whenever I have been called one of the following ridiculous terms from those who tarnish this flag: racist, bigot, redneck, white trash, race-traitor, n***er lover, Jew-whore, f***ot, trailer trash, honky, cracker, terrorist, and oh my most recent personal favorite term of less than endearment….a “traitor to America.” It was also affirmed from the physical abuses I have suffered from one group of said people, and threats of death from the other (and sometimes from the first too).

All for no better reason than defending and honoring who I am, where I was born, my personal faith in God, and who my family was. I am sure I am not alone in any of this.
And yet I continue to honor those positive things that the Southern Cross stands for and will continue to display it, continue to defend it and to teach those who will listen and reason what the flag truly stands for, knowing full well that more of the same abuse is always coming or maybe worse than just verbal or physical abuse someday. Many of us who honor that flag do.

Do you want to know why?

Because no matter how tainted that flag has been from misuse as a racist symbol, so long as there are those who honor its true meaning hate will never claim it fully. I know that tainted does not necessarily mean damaged, just scarred. Scarred does not mean dishonored forever.

This Southern Cross flag that I hold as dear as the flag of the country which game me the freedom to express my opinion here, I know will always be tainted with the stains of slavery and racism—just as the flag of the United States bears its own deeper scars of the same American and human sins, and over a much longer period of time. Yet as Americans and Southerners we have looked beyond those scars for the latter and exalted the honorable and noble whenever we can. Is it really too much to ask that the same respect and tolerance to be shown not only to the Southern Cross of Dixie, but to the people of the South who honor it?

Of course that does not mean forgetting the scars of racism—far from it! We must never forget those scars in either flag, but neither should we condemn and consign the flag and the memories of all those who fought under it forever to those who would continue to use this uniquely American flag to attack and offend fellow Southerners and Americans either. If we as a proud Southern people surrender that flag, if we “let it go” for the sake of “tolerance” or “social progress” then the only winners here are the very agents of hate and bigotry who disgrace the South and America respectively.

Now in closing let me add one more little history lesson.

Two thousand years ago the Roman Cross was the worst symbol of tyranny and oppression the world had ever known. Under it tens of thousands were brutally murdered and enslaved, all in the name of imperialism. All it took was one remarkable man, and after him hundreds and thousands of others to turn the terror that blood-tainted symbol evoked in people around the world into a symbol of the best of human nature and love for fellow man. Today the Christian Cross stands as the most recognized symbol of sacrifice in the name of brotherly love.
And of course that was a symbol that started out as a negative one, not just one that was misused as a negative one. As I said before, tainted does not mean tarnished beyond redemption.

Proper education and the advancement of true tolerance to change perceptions is the only honorable and decent way to end this debate. We who honor the living symbol of our Southern identity are in this for the long haul. Even if it takes a generation or longer, we have both the will and the determination to see it through, because we know that the stakes are condemning the very memories of those who served the South in war and handing them over to the worst of humanity—and for us, that is too high a price for momentary tolerance.

C. W. Roden

Sherwin September 25, 2011 at 2:01 am

Dear Professor Bill,

The gentleman's name is Bearden, not Beardman.

Thank you for your honesty in confessing upfront that you don't know what you're talking about because you were not here in Lexington. That saves time. September 1, 2011 was a 17-hour day for me beginning at 6:30 as I marched 10 miles with several Sons of Confederate Veterans and two Black Americans carrying their Confederate battle flags from Buena Vista to Lexington. I was there. The march took just at 3.5 hours.

The march began with a welcome and send-off from the Mayor of Buena Vista and a police escort. A second police escort began at the Lexington city limits. between the two we were escorted by the local fire department. Honking horns, waving arms, thumbs-up signs greeted us from one end of the route to the other. Not a single epithet or insult, obscene gesture or negative comment was voiced at us.

Upon arrival in Lexington, we were welcomed by smiles and waves from African-American workers at the local Wendy's who had stepped outside to greet us and we stopped at Evergreen Cemetery and paid our collective respects to 3 Black Confederate soldiers buried there. I was there as the Chief of Police, an African-American welcomed us to Lexington with a few warm, kind words.

I was at the Save Our Flags Rally which, naturally, featured many historical flags inclusive of the National and Battle flags of the Confederacy, period virginia Commonwealth and Gadsden flags and the contemporary Virginia flag I carried myself.

I was at the Council Meeting from before the beginning until after 11:00 p.m. when the 4 to 1 vote was taken in the dark of night. I heard every word every defender of the flag ban and its opponents uttered and I addressed City Council for 3 minutes myself.

The three local news publications have printed over 3,700 words I've written and, in one week, another 1,500 are already confirmed for publication. I think I am in a position to speak with firsthand authority of the day's events you missed and of my town and county of which you are not a resident. I also spent 41 years in Ohio where I was raised and schooled by the victorious side in the War Between the States.

Other posts here have already accurately stated that both Blacks and Whites were present at the Save Our Flags Rally and in the Council Meeting. Pity this site won't permit me to post the photographs the AP hid from you. I watched their photographer carefully choosing and framing his shots to create the "right" impression while ignoring the context and bypassing the angles that might have revealed who was actually there.

The local African-Americans of Lexington had 150 years to petition City Council if they were offended, but it took an imported transplant to inform them they were "offended". It was she, not they, who initiated the petition loaded down with fraudulent signatures from transient college students who are not residents of the City and can not vote. The actual count, including the Russian, was 15. Fifteen people dividing a town of 7,000 and demanding that their sensitive feelings not be offended before they head back where they came from. Doc Brodsky cared so deeply that she didn't show up at the final meeting.

I put hard questions to the supporters of the ban in my 3,000-word essay in May, but only one resident responded—and he agreed with most of my comments and, last week, retracted his other objection in the press.

You should read my comments in next month's Rockbridge Advocate to understand the local problem before professing to understand what you clearly do not.

Your position that the Confederate flag, though it has an honorable past, has been sullied by subsequent abuses by domestic terrorist groups like the Ku Klux Klan defies much more than logic. In short, you are calling for the Sons of Confederate Veterans and other friends of the South and students of history to unconditionally surrender to the KKK. Your premise necessarily dictates that whenever and wherever bad men make an ill use of good things, it is the duty of decent society to capitulate and hand over any sacred symbol thus defiled. Would that include the Christian cross a Delaware man woke to find covered in racial epithets this month? Must crosses be banned because some fool has abused one? Shall Virginia strike her Latin motto from her banner because it was quoted by Lincoln's assassin once? Has Old Glory not also been co-opted by the KKK, Doc? Why the double standard? Because some people claim the title of professor unmerited shall we drop the title for all?

I haven't troubled myself to check what you claim to be professor of, but I will extend the benefit of the doubt it isn't English. After all, surely an English professor would comprehend the difference between a symbol's denotation and its connotation.

Your own arrogance, Professor, is only surpassed by your own racial stereotyping and patronization of African-Americans. Conceding that the Confederate flag stood for decent and noble things, you then argue that it, nevertheless, can't be flown because Blacks aren't as educated as you and (wink-wink) I and while WE know the facts, THEY are benighted and uneducable and will only fly into an emotional snit in their ignorance. Since they are offended by it, it cannot be displayed, you hold, whether that has any basis in history or only in modern media. Sir, I am apalled at your patronization of Americans of African ancestry in your tacit suggestion that the SCV must retire its banners because you feel that Blacks won't be able to distinguish a battle re-enactment from a Klan rally. Who DO you think you are to demean and so denigrate Americans of color with your smug prejudices? Isn't it just POSSIBLE in your tidy little world that a Black man in America might just crack a history book and reach an independent conclusion? Or do you insist that all Blacks must think alike? Could any position be more offensively racist than yours?

The Black Americans with whom I proudly marched into Lexington (and by whom we were welcomed) are slaves no more to your demand for a single perspective for an entire race. They know their history and love their Southland. "God bless Dixie," said Mr. Edgerton to Channel 13. These Black Americans know the truth of history and it has set them free; free from your stereotyping, free from your bigotry, free from your plantation mentality that regards any indepedent thought about the Confederate flagby a Black man marks him as a runaway gone rogue. Can you dare imagine Dr. King or Dr. Washington would view your tiny provincial mindset as anything but racism in its most virulent form?

Equality means no longer being a demographic bloc, but a man, Professor. An individual with his own mind. Every American of African ancestry ought to take offense at the audacity you have—no, the GALL in demanding that they spout the party line and let old White Professor Huhn do their thinking for them! You should have heard the passionate remarks of Karen Cooper, the teenaged Libertarian Black Confederate who informed Council with veteran boldness, "I am sick of Political Correctness ruining my country and my Southland. I am NOT an African-American! I am an AMERICAN whose skin happens to be Black!"

If you'll review John Clark Ridpath's "United States History", you'll find out a few thins about the war that revisionists won't say. Published just 11 years after Appomattox, its author was a Hoosier who graduated Indiana Asbury University just before the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863. He chaired as Professor of History and Political Philosophy at a northern university, Depauw. the book was published by Jones Brothers & Company in Cincinnati, Philadelphia and Chicago, all Yankee turf.

In his section on causes of the war—and remember, unlike you, he witnessed the years before, during and immediately after it—he names 12 causes. Slavery he places at #3, #4 and #12. In countdown fashion, the top three were:

3. "The different system of labor in the North and in the South. In the former section the laborers were freemen; in the latter, slaves."

2. "In the earlier history of the country the doctrine of State sovereignty was most advocated in New England. Afterward…the people of the South took up the doctrine of States' rights."

1. "The most general cause of the civil war in the United States was the different construction put upon the Constitution by the people of the North and the South. A difference of opinion existed as to how that instrument was to be understood. One party held that the Union of th States is indissoluble; that the States are subordinate to the central government; that the acts of Congress are binding on the States; and that all attempts at nullification and disunion are disloyal and treasonable. The other party held that the national Constitution is a compact between sovereign States; that for certain reasons the Union may be dissolved; that the sovereignty of the nation belongs to the individual States; that a State may annul an act of Congress; that the highest allegiance of the citizen is due to his own State; and that nullification and disunion are justifiable and honorable."

That isn't "Lost Cause revisionism" or "neo-Confederate propaganda". It is a northern textbook published by a northern press and written by a northern professor who saw what he was writing about firsthand.

I am not abandoning the cross because some teenage redneck in Delaware misused it. I am not forsaking the Bible because Jim Jones in Guyana long ago twisted it. I will not take down Old Glory because Franklin Roosevelt defiled it by flying it over the detainment camps where he had rounded up loyal Japanese- and German-Americans and denied them due process solely because of their race. And there is no more reason on God's earth to view the noble Southern Cross with a jaundiced eye simply because some people are so ill-read as to confuse it with racism because a racist has abused it.

One would expect the halls of academia and professors to be dead last in demanding that society curtail its liberties in deferrence to the ignorance of the few who refuse to learn their country's true history. The ignorance you defend, Sir, it was your profession, duty and privilege to dispel through accurate historical education. How about earning that paycheck from this day forward by doing so?

Do your students know about Mr. Henry who once lived at Natural Bridge here in Rockbridge County? Henry (whose first name happened to be Patrick) lived in a cabin at the attraction and was its caretaker for several years. In 1815, Mr. Henry rode into Lexington and bought himself a woman. The slave girl's name was Louisa. The following year, he married her.

Mr. Henry, your students should note, was a Black man then the property himself of Thomas Jefferson. Have you taught them about Black slaveholders, Sir? Did you tell them about Auguste Donatto the Black plantation owner who owned 70 slaves? Did you acquaint them with William Ellison of Sumter County, South Carolina—another Black owner of another 70 slaves? Do they know of the 168 slaves owned by Madame Ciprien Ricard in Ibeville Parish, Louisiana? Forget to tell them that New York City in 1830 boasted 17 slaves owned by 8 resident Black slaveholders? When were you going to get around to telling them about the Blacks that owned Indian slaves? Or the 27,000,000 people held in bondage around the world today?

Professor, if society needs to put away all reminders of slavery because it is hurtful, your "logic" is its own undoing because it necessarily means banning Blacks themselves because of a chapter of our past some find far too painful to recall.

Michael Lamb September 25, 2011 at 9:25 am

Read the following quote carefully. Apply it to today and consider what people are saying in regards to the Southern Cross, including Mr. Huhn. After the quote I will followup with a update for what it means today.. Remember, this general wrote was wrote about 150 years ago and it's more relevant today than when he wrote it. The reason it is proved true is because of the history revisionists, including Mr. Huhn, and the groups of agnostics, atheists and humanists who wishes to suppress and destroy the truth as it really was.

Consider this quote for today:
"Every man should endeavor to understand the meaning of subjugation before it is too late… It means the history of this heroic struggle will be written by the enemy; that our youth will be trained by Northern schoolteachers; will learn from Northern school books their version of the war; will be impressed by the influences of history and education to
regard our gallant dead as traitors, and our maimed veterans as fit objects for derision… It is said slavery is all we are fighting for, and if we give it up we give up all. Even if this were true, which we deny, slavery is not all our enemies are fighting for. It is merely the pretense to establish sectional superiority and a more centralized form of government, and to deprive us of our rights and liberties." — Maj. General Patrick R. Cleburne, CSA, January 1864, –writing on what would happen if the Confederacy were to be defeated.

Gen Cleburne, a great man and much loved by his people. Why couldn't the North produce such men of integrity, honor, morals and foresight? The North has no equals to Lee, Jackson, Breckenridge, Stuart, Ewell, Davis and many others, yet they were great at producing drunks, vain and immoral leaders; why? And history must be rewrote to honor such men as Grant, Lincoln, Sherman and many more of their drunks and immoral leaders just to lend them credibility for destroying another group of people.

And the relationship to the quote as it concerns today..
We are ALL now subjects of the US Government, for it is too late. It has meant our history has been wrote by the victors; ALL our youth is taught from Government approved books and schoolteachers; having been taught their versions of self-righteousness; that have been impressed upon them regarding our dead patriots are traitors and our followers as being lunatics.. It is being said that slavery was what we fought for, that we have not given up the fight for slavery. This is not true for our enemies are fighting over much more than slavery. It was a pretext in establishing a Federal Union with an all powerful central government that has taken away our rights and liberties.
—-Michael—- In explaining the original quote to the current tense.

Mr. Huhn along with many other teachers are actively rewriting history in order to make the statements justify their cause and their sense of righteousness. From their revisions the liberal left and supporters of a central power takes their revisions and redistributes it through the educational system, from which whole generations of children is "impressed by the influences of history and education to regard our gallant dead as traitors, and our maimed veterans as fit objects for derision."

In the above process every last vestige of Southern culture and heritage is attacked, including their faith in God. Every monument, every flag, every bit of Southern history is attacked, all in order to "establish sectional superiority and a more centralized form of government, and to deprive us of our rights and liberties."

Mr. Huhn, you have a brilliant job in revising our history and proving my gallant dead and maimed as being objects of derision. In the process you have also included every vestige of dishonoring my Southern culture and heritage. But have overlooked on thing, the truth never dies as it is deathless. You have the minds of the children and most of society but there are still those where the truth holds true. One day in the not to distant future this truth will raise its' head again and then we shall see who are the objects of derision, who has been dishonest and who has no honor….

Michael–Deo us Vindices

Bill Vallante September 26, 2011 at 12:33 pm

Another pompous academic tells us how it is. Well Mr. Huhn, could you please elaborate a bit on your statement that "many" African American residents of Lexington "complained" about the flag; specifically, HOW "MANY" IS "MANY"? I hear the word "many" more times than I can count in articles like this one but no one seems to want to quote a figure or a percentage. Perhaps you could enlighten us on this matter Mr. Professore, instead of expecting us to simply nod our heads in mindless approval?

Next, assuming that a percentage of black folks do find the flag to be offensive, where is it written that those folks who do not find it offensive must bow to their wishes? Are not those who would like to see the flag of their ancestors on public display in the city, also tax paying citizens? Do they not have the same rights as those that disagree with them? Again Mr. Professore, please point out where it is written that those from the second group must bow to the wishes of the first group.

Finally, as regards your point about the flag being "seized" by the kkk and by segregationists…. my answer would be "SO WHAT"? The kkk and similar groups don't just use the Confederate battleflag, they use the stars and stripes. I don't hear you p***ing and moaning about that.

And as far as segregationists go, allow me to give you a history lesson on the flag. It was a flag carried into battle by one of the most defiant combatants ever to grace the pages of military history, the Confederate soldier. He defied a military power which outnumbered him 4-1 in manpower and 10-1 in industrial capacity. He fought a courageous fight for 4 long years and if you doubt his tenacity, then I suggest you check the diaries and letters of yankee soldiers and officers. "Defiance" was the key word in his struggle. And as such, the flag that he carried has been adopted by many groups and individuals over the last 150 years who have been looking to express their own defiance for whatever the reason. Segregationists used it to defy federal laws they saw as unconstitutional. Outlaw bikers have used it to express defiance to the rules and mores of the larger society. It has been used by Sudanese rebels in Southern Sudan and it was waved at the Berlin Wall and in the streets of Eastern European cities when the peoples in that region overthrew their Communist dictators.

It was and it still is, a symbol of defiance. And as long as there are self-righteous, self-serving, know-it-all doctrinaires like yourself running around, it will most likely continue to be used in this way.

Michael Lamb September 27, 2011 at 2:19 pm

As I have always experienced. I don't care how many titles or doctorates one claims for himself. I don't care how little or how much one claims to know about Lincoln's War against the Sovereign states of the CSA, one thing remains constant. No armchair historian, no teacher and no "so-called" PROFESSOR of history or anything else can defend against upholding their assertions against the CSA and the South as a whole. They cannot and will not debate the facts, but instead runs from them as they cannot and will not explain their reasonings. Yet in the background they continue to revise history and to mold society into the humanistic and materialistic society that they dream of as being their utopia.

All the facts of history is in the favor of the South and what it fought against. All the quotes from the famous and not so famous men of that time exist to prove without doubt that the war was a war of money and power. While the armchair historians can be somewhat over-looked for not having enough knowledge and enough capability to defend the positions of the Northern side, it becomes a sorrowful and disgraceful undertaking when "so-called" phd's in the field of American history cannot even defend the positions they revise to substantiate the Northern "self-righteous" attitude they take in continuing to demonize and regulate the actual righteous sides assertions, culture and heritage to the point of extermination.

Mr Kuhn, you cannot dispute what we have wrote here because you have NOTHING to prove us wrong. Nor do you have anything to prove you're right in your assertions against the whole war. Nor does the main revisionist historian Mr. James MacPherson, who has wrote the most against the Southern people. (btw-do know Mr. MacPherson is a noted socialist which gives him good reason to attack Southern culture and heritage.) None of you, nor the others who have been challenged will ever agree to any moderated scholastic debate on the subject. Time after time it is reproven, just as here, when the facts and statements becomes too strong, the assertions becomes too great to rebuke, your kind ALWAYS runs away.

Mr. Kuhn, why continue to avoid the subject when it was you that started this series of posts? Why not have your university stage a debate between you or whoever you choose to represent your side and I or anyone from our side will be glad to accept a date for a formal debate? Afterall, you should have no problem proving your assertions; right? We were that wrong, weren't we?

Michael–Deo us Vindices

Brett Moffatt September 29, 2011 at 1:10 am

Prof. Huhn,
I wanted to make 2 comments on your article concerning Lexington, Virginia's vote on Confederate flags.
First, while it is true that some hate groups have used the Confederate Battle Flag, these groups more often and officially use the flag of the United States. I don't see any call for banning that flag. Thus, it becomes just another instance of misinformation informing, or misinforming, the populace and the press.
Secondly, and this was the quote from a local paper, not your words, there was the claim that the extension of slavery westward was the cause of the war. This is now known to be false. The majority in the North did want to exclude blacks from the west, as well as from some Northern states. But the North also offered to make slavery permanent, beyond the reach of any federal law. It was the loss of representation of the South and their inability to control tariffs which led to their secession. The war was simply Lincoln's attempt to keep his coffers full of Southern money from the tariffs. His controllers wanted war, and he gave it to them.
Thanks for letting me comment on your piece.

Joshua Antrobus October 2, 2011 at 1:53 pm

It don't take no genius to understand dat meaning, dat symbolism behind dat flag yall. Yall can perrrtend all yall want and grandstand around da issue. Perrrrtend that niggers be lovin dat flag and supportin dat flag in Lexington as much as da rest of those good little whiite offspring of the confederacy. Yall can live up in your little Lexington bubble and blame it on one nigger lovin Roosky teacher from some commy Yank town who got a few nigger lovin students who aint even residents to sign a petition that would fuck all yall nigger hating stars and fuckin bars lovin Rockbridge county taxpayers. Yall go on, keep taking knocks at the professor from OHIO who is just trying to say simply: That flag symbolizes racism. So why would you want to uphold it even if it is legal? Easy conclusion. Y'all all fucking bigots either publicly or you like to internalize your nigger hatred. Either way, you biggots lost! Lee and Stonewall with all their might lost and you're still losing today to fucking yankee Roosky socialists. Sucks to be so proud of your heritage but so weak!!!

cross da Mason Dixon line and dat that flag dont mean nothing in way of hatred. It don't have no d

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