- - Wednesday, July 1, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

There’s no better day to wave the American flag than on the nation’s birthday. But as the United States turns 239, the usual flotsam blowing in the wind urge fellow malcontents to burn it instead. Rather than honor the blood, sweat and tears of forebears, metaphorical if not actual, who set out to build “a more perfect union” in the wilderness, the flotsam trash the past and repudiate their debt to history.

A group advocating the disarming of the New York Police Department set out to burn the American flag on Wednesday in a Brooklyn park, calling the flag “a symbol of oppression.” Citing the Charleston church massacre, the flag-burners wrote their message on Facebook: “There will be no peace until we tear down this system of oppression. It isn’t enough to take the flag down; we must put an end to white supremacy once and for all.” Dylann Roof, the Charleston shooting suspect, the post read, is a “product of a consistent pattern of state-sponsored terrorism and radicalized dehumanization in America.”

Roof’s symbol was the Confederate battle flag, not the American flag, and the media-led campaign to expunge that symbol of Southern valor and sacrifice of another century has made it disappear from gift shops, mail-order inventories, even cemeteries (though not from very many mud-spattered pick-up trucks). The sons and daughters of anarchy condemn all Americans of the past for the sin of slavery, ignoring a devastating civil war with which it paid for its sins.

Flags represent what the human eye sees when it reflects upon this, the native land. Many black Americans see the Confederate banner as a painful symbol of their own history. For many Southerners it’s a reminder of the courage of forebears who defended their homes from an invading army. Passions ebb and flow, but anger over a symbol of a past that is gone with the wind is no excuse to deny a flag of the past its rightful honor, nor a cause to furl Old Glory.

Only the ignorant and the willfully uneducated believe racial oppression to be a unique American sin. In “Race and Culture,” the distinguished author and scholar Thomas Sowell writes that although “slavery in the United States was referred to as a ‘peculiar institution,’ slavery was in fact one of the oldest and most widespread institutions on Earth.” Slavery for most Americans has been synonymous with oppression of black people, but Mr. Sowell, who is himself black, points out that “the history of slavery, like so much other history, has been sucked into the vortex of current ideological passions, and distorted in the process.” The word “slave” is derived from “slav,” white Central Europeans who were sold into bondage throughout Europe and the Ottoman Empire. Some white Americans are descended from indentured servants, little more than slaves sent to work off debts in the New World acquired in the old.

Burning flags, expunging heritage and cleansing unsuitable ethnics are risky practices. Ideologues, mostly on the left, drenched the 20th century in blood attempting to do that. Joseph Stalin in Russia, Mao Zedong in China, Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam and Pol Pot in Cambodia tried to rub out the past to build the “new man,” and accomplished only the massacre of millions. Islamist radicals are following the same path.

America’s banner deserves no abuse from anyone, and is entitled to the sacrifice of the millions of Americans who labored and died under the flag to insure the liberties of those who followed. The flag represents their sacrifice. Long may it wave.


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