- - Tuesday, May 19, 2015

When U.S. soldiers are buried at Arlington National Cemetery or Veteran cemeteries around the nation, their graves are often decorated with small American flags. These flags commemorate that for which the soldiers fought.

Likewise in Alabama, an old Confederate cemetery in Union Springs decorates the graves of fallen Confederate soldiers with the flag for which they fought. Those soldiers were on the losing side of the Civil War of course, but they remain a part of U.S. history.

It is not without irony that an Alabama attorney and former Democratic state senator by the name of Myron Penn took it upon himself recently to remove the Confederate flags from that old Confederate graveyard. His reason? He said that he — and others in his community — found the flags offensive. He sees the flags as symbols of racism and oppression.

They may well be, but his actions to remove them dishonor the American flag and the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution those stars and stripes represent. Freedom of speech is among our most cherished freedoms and at the very heart of what makes our nation great. The Founding Fathers recognized the importance of the freedom to express ourselves. So strongly did they feel about this that they did not exempt offensive language or symbols from these freedoms. Thus, even that which may offend is protected and may be freely expressed.

The former state senator said he took action because he didn’t want his four-year-old son growing up with these offensive symbols on display. Rather than hide the past and pretend it didn’t happen, Mr. Penn should have embraced the opportunity to share history with his boy. Educate him on the past, including the dark days of the Civil War. It would have been a far superior lesson to teaching the boy to steal and destroy that which we don’t agree with.

Mr. Penn is indicative of a society so eager to erase past offenses they would change the narrative of history. We are best served learning from it instead. If we forget our history, we risk repeating past mistakes.

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