Flags are symbols, and have meanings we can never imagine. Consider the Stars and Strips, the flag of the United States. It stands for liberty, fairness, loyalty, justice and freedom, at least it does for us. It doesn’t in other places of the world. I’m not saying those people in the Middle East or Europe or Asia or Africa who feel this way are right, after all, we’re proud of saying everyone’s entitled to their own opinion. I had three ancestors who fought against it from 1861-65.
Our flag isn’t the only one that’s a target: a lot of the negatives our flag may represent around the world could be held about the Union Jack (United Kingdom), Tricolor (France), Chinese, Japanese, Israeli, Palestinian, etc. An common protest to any country’s actions is to burn their flag, just don’t try to burn the American flag here.
The point I want to make is symbols have meanings beyond what we invest them with. I can say my flag stands for all of the positive things above with all my heart, and it doesn’t matter to another’s perspective. If it means something else to someone else, I have no control over that. Images, words, ideas are the same way. It’s not easy to rehabilitate an image, as the group to rehabilitate the Swastika as purely a religious symbol is trying to do in Canada. I wish them luck: their point is excellent although it’s not likely to happen for another few decades. Negatives about a symbol need to be forgiven by the obliteration of time before they are free to speak on their own again. Sure, it’s not fair to the Hindus, Buddhists, and Raelians the Nazis stole one of their icons and made it a universal sign of hatred and death. Life’s not fair sometimes, and sometimes we have to bear with evil others do without being able to heal it ourselves.
As a writer and preacher, I make extensive use of symbols, metaphors and figures of speech, which you’ve probably noticed. I try to use them carefully, and if one doesn’t work, I’ll let it go and try another. Forcing the meaning of anything down someone’s throat usually doesn’t work, and symbol is a means to deeper understanding, a deeper reality, not an idol to be reverenced in itself. When a symbol becomes an idol, it loses its ability to enlighten, since it makes us stop at the surface and go no farther.
Confederate flags belong in museums and perhaps historical sites, like every other national flag that’s flown over our country in our history. Like my ancestor in the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia who probably fought under it, the cause it was designed to represent is dead. Perhaps Six Flags Over America should become One Flag Over America. That might be the most important symbol to remember out of all this in the first place.