I’ve heard it said that the Confederate flag means different things to different people. I agree. But before I tell you what it means to me, let me make an observation. While among the masses today that flag stands for “hate,” “racism,” “white supremacy,” and so forth, not so long ago it stood for none of these things, not even here in the liberal northeast. Not so long ago, that flag flew without controversy atop most capitol buildings in the South, or on the front lawn, along with the American flag, and even outside the South it was recognized as a symbol of cultural heritage. Indeed, for many it was a hallowed reminder of a tragic war, part of the fabric of our history. In fact, back in the 1980s there was a family-friendly, action-packed comedy TV show called “The Dukes of Hazzard,” set in a fictional county in Georgia, which featured a Dodge Charger nicknamed “Robert E. Lee” and had a large Confederate flag painted on the roof. I never watched this program but I knew about it. I never heard of anyone complaining about that flag. There were no campaigns to take the show off the air. But obviously, at some point the media bosses decided to change course.
My, my, what a few decades of brainwashing will do.
To me, the Confederate flag has nothing at all to do with the issue of race. When I see the Stars and Bars, my blood quickens and only two things come to mind. One is defiance: defiance of government tyranny and tyranny of the mind. It’s a bold statement of opposition to everything that has become rotten about America. The other thing is heroism. Whenever I see that flag, I think of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, who carried it into battle, a man so different in every way from those in the top military ranks who came later, and always seem to be getting worse. No war-mongering, combat-dodging, politically correct desk general, Lee famously said, “It is well that war is so terrible, otherwise we should grow too fond of it.” He spoke from experience, having served and been wounded in the Mexican War of 1846-1848. Only reluctantly did he support secession and take up arms against the federal government, because as a Virginian he saw no other way.
Lee led his men out of the cannon’s mouth. He slept on the cold, hard ground with them and shared their thirst and hunger. On the eve of the bloody Battle of Gettysburg, he issued strict orders that women and children were not to be harmed. He was the epitome of chivalry and nobility of the heart. His soldiers loved him, as did all the people of the South. Even his northern enemies spoke of him with admiration; it was impossible not to. Finally defeated on the battlefield, he worked hard for reconciliation, but was aggrieved at the terror of Reconstruction. Had he foreseen the vengeance visited on the South, he said, he never would have surrendered.
Ben Hill, a Georgia senator of the period, paid Lee this tribute:
He possessed every virtue of other great commanders without their vices. He was a foe without hate; a friend without treachery; a victor without oppression, and a victim without murmuring. He was a public officer without vices; a private citizen without reproach; a Christian without hypocrisy and a man without guile. He was a Caesar without his ambition; Frederick without his tyranny; Napoleon without his selfishness, and Washington without his reward. He was obedient to authority as a servant, and loyal in authority as a true king. He was gentle as a woman in life; modest and pure as a virgin in thought; watchful as a Roman vital in duty; submissive to law as Socrates, and grand in battle as Achilles!
Lee was a genuine American hero, and that’s why his name is cursed today when it’s mentioned at all. That’s why the cultural communists running rampant today have toppled or taken down his statue wherever it’s found. But history – real history, that is – cannot be undone. The heroism of Robert E. Lee and the meaning of the Confederate flag will outlive this age. Future generations will learn the truth.