Flag feud not black and white argument

Published 11:06 pm Saturday, May 23, 2009

Make no mistake about it, the recent controversy over allowing an organization to march in the parade with a Confederate flag isn’t a black and white argument, in terms of the issue or race.

The feud stems from the fact the Sons of Confederate Veterans group seeking to march in the parade, the first time an organization of this nature has asked to participate in many years, was denied by the parade committee.

At issue is the balance between the fairness in allowing this organization to pay tribute to Confederate soldiers who lost their lives in the Civil War and the desire of the parade committee to protect the community from the symbolism that they felt would be inflammatory.

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Personally, I can see both sides of the argument but ultimately think the parade committee made the right decision although it should have offered a compromise that would have allowed the group to march in uniform but without the flag.

That way they could honor these soldiers who are considered U.S. veterans but without offending many others.

Our Constitution provides us with freedom of speech. That means freedom for those whose opinions with which we agree, but most important, protection for those whose opinions may be considered controversial or in the minority.

But the Constitution deals with the government restricting these freedoms. It doesn’t pertain to a civic or private organization, although the fact that the parade is a nearly public event on public property muddies the water a bit.

On the other side, the Confederacy group insists that this is a disservice to these soldiers and their families and that the flag is about heritage to them.

Well, that may be true but it symbolizes so much more to millions of Americans.

Right or wrong, the perception is that the common version of the Confederate flag represents racist ideals and beliefs. Without doubt it would have opened some wounds in the community and created a controversy around an event that should be about honoring our nation’s heroes.

The finger pointing and taking sides really doesn’t matter now.

Everyone must move on and take two lessons from this.

First, all involved should take the high road Monday during the parade if the Confederate group shows up to protest, rally or make its presence felt as it has indicated it would.

Hopefully all parties will keep their heads about them and not make a mild dispute into something far worse.

Secondly, we hope the parade committee uses this as an opportunity to draft clearly defined parade entry guidelines and rules. Once these are in place it would be more difficult for one individual group to claim discrimination because the stipulations are outlined well in advance.

Memorial Day isn’t the time or place for this argument.

Tomorrow, the only colors that we should be concerned with are the red, white and blue that are part of the American flag.

Michael Caldwell is publisher of The Tribune. To reach him, call (740) 532-1445 ext. 24 or by e-mail at mike.caldwell@irontontribune.com.