The Confederate Flag and the 10 Commandments

Jul 16, 2015

by Herb Silverman

South Carolina finally did the right thing by removing the Confederate battle flag from capitol grounds. The state had been bitterly divided about whether the flag represents heritage or hate, while I believe it represents heritage and hate. There is nothing in the South Carolina or U.S. Constitutions that prohibits flying the Confederate flag on public property, but the court of public opinion changed after a Confederate flag-promoting racist murdered nine African Americans recently in a Charleston church.

I applaud Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) who called for the removal of the Confederate flag from South Carolina Statehouse grounds in an attempt to unify citizens who have diverse views on the flag, but Senator Scott and I part company over whether South Carolina should endorse the Ten Commandments. As a member of Charleston County Council in 1997, Scott insisted on posting the Ten Commandments on the wall of council chambers, despite being told that he would lose any legal challenge to the action. In response, Scott argued that the display was needed to remind citizens of moral absolutes. Scott, normally a fiscal conservative, then added, “Whatever it costs in the pursuit of this goal (of displaying the Commandments) is worth it.” The court, as expected, declared the display unconstitutional and handed taxpayers a substantial bill for legal costs.

Even worse was Alabama Judge Roy Moore, who in 2001 placed a 5000-pound block of granite inscribed with the Ten Commandments in the Judicial Building in Montgomery. After courts ruled that this violated the constitutional prohibition against religious endorsement, Moore refused to remove the monument so he was removed from office in 2003. However, he’s now back as Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court and ignoring federal law that allows for gay marriage.

Government officials continue to promote the Ten Commandments while disregarding secular laws they swear to uphold. The most recent example is from Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R), who defied a state Supreme Court ruling that a monument to the Ten Commandments be removed from the grounds of her state capitol.


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15 comments on “The Confederate Flag and the 10 Commandments

  • The flag was invented in the 1940s as a pro-segregation flag. It is not the flag of the civil war. So I think those who claim it has to do with heritage are misinformed. On the other paw, a flag can have whatever associations you assign to it. On yet another paw, I think the pro-heritage folk are bigots looking for an excuse.

    Even as a civil war flag, it is the heritage of slavery. It makes about as much sense as flying a swastika in nostalgia for the heritage of Nazi Germany.

    If for example I created a flag for my humanist club that was a white star on a yellow background, and I started getting emails from all over saying that was the same flag Hitler used for his final solution project, no matter what it meant to me, I would stop using it because of the unfortunate connotations.



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  • 4
    NearlyNakedApe says:

    Even as a civil war flag, it is the heritage of slavery. It makes about as much sense as flying a swastika in nostalgia for the heritage of Nazi Germany.

    That’s the exact same thought that occured to me the first time I heard this “cultural heritage” hogwash. If any of those “southern pride” ignoramusses had any education or sense of history or any human decency for that matter, they would be ashamed of that flag and they would have relegated it to a museum long ago.

    But most important of all, as Germany has apologized for the Holocaust, the Secessionist states ought to apologize to the African Americans for the horrors of slavery and the searing brutality, exploitation and injustice that was inflicted upon them for nearly 250 years. They should also apologize to the US Government for the act of sedition and treason the Confederates have perpetrated against their own country.

    In fact, their sense of history is so incredibly twisted that they inexplicably celebrate their own defeat at the hands of the Unionist army with yearly re-enactments of Civil War battles in which they got their asses handed to them. Forgive my colloquialism but… WTF!?!

    That flag is not only a symbol of racism, slavery and treason, it is also a symbol of proud ignorance and unfathomable imbecility. Southern pride?… Southern shame seems like a more accurate description to me.



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  • This reference to Nazi symbolism is appropriate in even wider contexts. The christian devout insist on the right to wear religious symbols however inappropriate they may be in their particular workplace. Imagine a skinhead neo-fascist claiming the same right as christians to wear their crucifix, to wear a swastika in a work place visited by Jews or any person with an ounce of humanity? Pleading their “human rights”, “Freedom of conscience” and all that, appeal to the liberal values they actually despise would be given very short shrift. They would in all probability be prosecuted.



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  • A difference is that the Third Reich was defeated by external enemies who had no interest in applying any of the discredited “appeasement” towards the defeated. In a Civil War the imperative of reconciliation is much more prominent. Then there is Hollywood and the early myth-making pioneers Like the passionately confederate, pro-KKK Griffiths with his “Birth of a Nation”. Follow that up with John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Bruce Willis and all that “a Man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do…” stuff together with the easy availability and acceptance of lethal weaponry and it’s easy to see how the spirit on Cantrell can still move so easily around the South.



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  • You’re a little off base here. I’m behind America apologizing for slavery, but it was America and not just the southern states. Also it was well established in the state Constitutions prior to the civil war that the states could, at any time depart the union so accusations of treason and treachery are also incorrect.

    More importantly it should be about moving forward not forgetting the past but not living in it either as a southerner I’m proud of my heritage and also as someone who was adopted from outside this country I can say that no one is free from shame, the northern states perpetrated just as many heinous crimes as the south and America just as many as Germany. Owning our mistakes makes us grow as a nation and fixes our gaze firmly ahead.



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  • not forgetting the past, but not living in it either

    Twilight Zone, ‘Deaths-Head Revisited’.

    …fixes our gaze firmly ahead.

    Now that would be a nice change of pace. Yesterday, I noticed a guy giving another driver a dirty look – as if the guy had just come from a skinhead meeting, and was loaded for bear.

    Reminded me of the cartoon Tasmanian Devil furiously spinning in circles. Folks need to pause, drink a banana daiquiri , and notice the world around them.



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  • 12
    NearlyNakedApe says:

    You’re a little off base here. I’m behind America apologizing for slavery, but it was America and not just the southern states.

    By the year 1800, 61 years before the Civil War, all the northern states were already free states. Furthermore, none of the cotton plantations were in the north. The south had by far the highest proportion of slaves in the US.

    For example the 1800 census reported a total number of 887,612 slaves in the US and a whopping 95% (845,379) of those were in the southern states. From 1800 to 1860, the number of slaves in the southern states steadily increased while the numbers steadily decreased in the north.

    By 1860, the census reported 3,950,546 slaves total in the US of which 3,948,713 were in the southern states (almost 100%). Virginia and Georgia had nearly a million slaves between them. More than the entire US a mere 60 years before.

    So forgive me for saying so but I think you’re the one who is off base here.

    Also it was well established in the state Constitutions prior to the civil war that the states could, at any time depart the union so accusations of treason and treachery are also incorrect.

    In the state constitutions perhaps but not in the US constitution, there was absolutely no clear provision for the right of the states to secede so it was effectively a constitutional gray zone and a controversial issue that was not resolved until after the war.

    So state constitution amendments mean nothing if the US constitution doesn’t mirror those.

    But Jefferson was in favor of the right for the states to secede and I tend to agree. However, secession should only be valid in cases where the federal government is exercising tyrannical or unjust authority over a state. We all know that wasn’t the reason why the south wanted to secede.

    The Secession movement was driven by plantation owners who saw abolition as a threat to their business. Those men were no better than modern day drug cartel bosses. They had the state politicians in their back pocket and they most likely financed a significant part of the Confederate army’s war effort.

    More importantly it should be about moving forward not forgetting the past but not living in it…

    I agree but it’s the South who can’t seem to move on. Hanging on to the flag? … Civil war battle re-enactments?… What is that if not living in the past?

    …. the northern states perpetrated just as many heinous crimes as the south…

    Untrue as the numbers above demonstrate quite clearly.

    … and America just as many as Germany.

    Again… not true. This sounds like a desperate attempt to even the tables and make the north share half the responsibility for participating in only 5% of the problem (at most) and by fabricating an even more outrageous false equivalency between the abuses of US foreign policy and the Holocaust + the conquest of Europe by Hitler.

    Owning our mistakes makes us grow as a nation and fixes our gaze firmly ahead.

    I agree and that’s exactly why I think the responsible party, namely the South, badly needs to apologize and stop making excuses.



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  • civil war battle re-enactments

    From a scene in Napoleon Dynamite, Uncle Rico records himself over and over throwing a football, for an imagined winning touchdown when in reality, he was benched. He even tries a time machine, to achieve that goal.

    Is this the (collective) state of mind of the enactors, [i.e.] continuing the dream of the South being the victors. A psychological condition of if I do it enough times, it will come true?

    Once observed a Revolutionary War battle re-enactment. Interesting to watch, as the British advanced as a rigid line, and fired on cue.



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  • I think the comments about the flag make a great discussion. I think the problem of a State giving a judge removed from office for not following the law a position as Chief Justice of a State Supreme Court is also very deserving of conversation.



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  • It’s wrong to blame the south exclusively for slavery and segregation. The North participated in enforcing segregated society -discrimination and racism- nationwide because the white mindset internalized the presumptions of white supremacy well into the second half of the 20th century. The Confederate flag did not become instant history when Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox. Today the battle flag has finally taken the fatal step on the slippery slope into the curiosity bin of history, but for a hundred years after the Civil war it stood for the nostalgia of the “lost cause,” resurrected in a culture that still defiantly cherished the diverse, sometimes delusional ideals of southern white manhood and womanhood, family, honor, chivalry, rugged individualism, states rights, genteel aristocracy, conservatism, piety, civilized manners and hospitality, class hierarchy, and regional dialect and humor. It’s a shame that in this mix of cultural richness and dysfunction, the southern mindset was held captive so long by white supremacy exercised in the comfort of racial apartheid until the civil rights movement led by Martin Luther King emerged in the late fifties and early sixties.



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