For a brief while, the Confederate Battle Flag was back on a flagpole on the South Carolina Statehouse grounds.
It has been three years since tragedy prompted South Carolina lawmakers to remove the Confederate Battle Flag from the Statehouse grounds.
The tragedy in question was the massacre at Mother Emanuel AME Church, a historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina. It happened on June 17, 2015, when a young white man attended a Wednesday night Bible study then opened fire during the closing prayer.
Nine parishioners, including the church’s pastor, died in the mass shooting. The gunman told FBI investigators that he hoped to start a race war.
What he did accomplish — surely unintentionally — was in creating enough shock and outrage to prompt lawmakers to remove the controversial Confederate Battle Flag from a pole located at the front of the Statehouse complex.
It was the last chapter in a long battle to remove the flag from the grounds.
On July 10, 2015, the flag came down from that pole after a late-night agreement by lawmakers the night before.
Since then, every July 10th, members of the S.C. Secessionist Party erect a temporary flagpole and hoist the flag on the Statehouse grounds to commemorate the flag and its removal.
It has always struck me as an ironic demonstration: the people who value the flag as a symbol of heritage place it there one day a year to remember the day it came down. One might think they’d choose a different date, like April 12, when the firing on Fort Sumter near Charleston began. That date is considered the start of the Civil War during which the battle flag was born.
But party members chose that date because they believe the flag was unfairly targeted after the church killings. Meanwhile, a separate group — whose members were glad to see the flag come down because it symbolized hate to them — planned to attend the ceremony to celebrate the flag’s removal.
It has become an annual reminder that there are those who will only choose to see the flag as a symbol of “heritage” no matter how many others insist it can only be about hate. Likewise, there are those who see it as a symbol of hate no matter how adamantly others insist they fly it to remember their ancestors who fought in the Confederacy, no matter whether the reasons were right or wrong.
There are those of us who see both sides of the flag debate, even if we can’t quite imagine why so many on either side refuse to consider the other side’s point of view.
But if nothing else, the day certainly served as a reminder that the flag is a divisive symbol, even when it’s only flown for a single day.