Sunday, June 21, 2015

Getting Free from the Past

















Can you spot the difference in the two photos above? In some ways they are alike, but in one way they are very different. The picture on the left shows a Confederate flag flying in a place of honor at the South Carolina State House. It's not sharing the cupola mast with the flags of the United States and South Carolina, but it is in a place of honor, and protected--by state legislation.

The photo on the right shows the German Reichstag, the seat of government of Germany. Several flags can be seen. They are all the German national flag, re-adopted in 1949, replacing the swastika-bearing flag of the Nazi Reich (and, since 1990, the black-red-and gold represents unified Germany).

Both of the entities represented by the photos made war against the United States--South Carolina, as part of the Confederacy in the American Civil War; and Germany, as the Nazi state under Adolf Hitler. Both lost.

In today's Germany, there is no widespread nostalgia for the old days of the Nazi regime and the oppression it placed over Europe, especially against a minority group considered by many as filthy and subhuman. Glorification of the Nazi state is frowned upon. You can see no flags of the Third Reich flying at the Reichstag today. In contrast, South Carolina (and many throughout the South and even beyond) idolize those who fought for the continued oppression of a minority group many of them considered filthy and subhuman, and South Carolina

flies a Confederate flag at a memorial at the State House. Although slavery was officially ended in South Carolina by the Emancipation Proclamation, former slaves and their descendants continued to be persecuted and oppressed by Jim Crow laws. 

After the racially motivated murder of nine individuals in the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina continues to honor the symbol of oppression. Germany got over its stained past; South Carolina has not.

"Rebel Flag at South Carolina Capitol" by Jason Eppink.
"Reichstag building Berlin view from west before sunset" by J├╝rgen Matern - Own work (JMatern_071104_8454-8458_WC.jpg). Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki 

UPDATE:  State Representative Norman Brannon has announced that he plans to sponsor legislation to remove the Confederate flag. 

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