A South Carolina lawmaker launched a Confederate flag battle over state-issued license plates to start off the new year.
Earlier this month, I mentioned that you might assume any fight over a flag in South Carolina must feature a Confederate flag battle. But in that post, I told you about a fight over a new official state flag.
Have no fear, friends, South Carolina will still have the chance to take on the flag of the Confederacy.
This latest skirmish concerns state-issued license plates. State Minority leader Rep. Todd Rutherford introduced a bill in the House that would, if passed, stop the state from placing the Confederate flag emblem on license plates.
As you can imagine, that will likely be a battle in a state like South Carolina. Fort Sumter in Charleston saw the first shot of the Civil War fired.
It would really only affect one plate.
The current South Carolina license plate design does not include the Confederate flag. But one specialty plate in the state does. That plate commemorates the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
The organization, according to its website, serves as “a historical, patriotic, and non-political organization dedicated to ensuring that a true history of the 1861-1865 period is preserved.”
A portion of the $30 fee for the plate goes to the organization.
As you can imagine, the organization did not take the news of the proposed law well. The Confederate battle flag appears as part of the organization’s logo.
Rutherford’s bill would not prevent the existence of a Sons of Confederate Veterans plate. But it would require that the group submit an alternate design that would not include that flag.
“The Sons of Confederate Veteran’s simply chose this as their emblem but that does not mean the state has to put it on their license tag,” Rutherford told WLTX-TV.
Drivers must renew specialty license plates every two years. If the bill takes effect, newly-renewed plates would require the redesign, too.
Therefore, two years after passage, the Confederate flag would disappear from all license plates.
Should the ban happen?
Plenty of people argue the Confederate flag is a symbol of hate. Plenty of others, however, argue it is a symbol of their heritage.
Unfortunately for the latter group, groups and individuals have adopted the flag to mean something more sinister.
An official with a Charleston-based unit of the organization released a statement in response. It read in part:
“Many South Carolinians died under the banner while doing what they thought was necessary to defend their home from what was viewed by them as an invasion. Their memory deserves to live on.”
He also said “cancel culture shall not prevail” in the Palmetto State.
Cancel culture refers to removing words, symbols and monuments devoted to elements the culture no longer holds in high regard.
The Confederacy in general and the Confederate flag specifically fall into that category. You have to decide whether you think that’s fair.
I have an ancestor who served in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. He was, as I recall, a great-great grandfather, give or take a great here or there. Like many people who served back then, he may well have believed, as SCV says, he was doing the right thing. Whether he did or not, at that time, he may not have had a choice but to fight.
I don’t choose to employ a Confederate flag to honor him. But that doesn’t mean someone else with a relative who served shouldn’t have that right.
What will the ban accomplish?
It took decades — and a deadly shooting at a Charleston church — before lawmakers removed the Confederate flag from the dome of the South Carolina capitol and from a monument right out front.
But the Confederate flag, like it or not, is part of our history. As with all things, we look back on history and, using hindsight, judge which side was on the right side of history. No matter what you decide, that doesn’t change the desire by some to celebrate their ancestors, even if some happened to be in the Confederacy.
If the state doesn’t want a Confederate flag, I suspect what they really should want to do is to ban that group from having a specialty plate. Even if they succeed in removing the flag, they’re still sending funds to support the group. Just taking the Confederate flag off the plate does not remove the word “Confederate” from a state-issued license plate.
Are the people who want the symbol erased really going to be satisfied when the group and name the symbol represents still exists?
I heard Rutherford say in an interview that those who want the flag on their car can get a bumper sticker. If you remove the symbol from a state-issued plate but those plate holders add a Confederate bumper sticker next to it, what have you really accomplished?
Sure, there won’t be a flag on a state-issued plate.
But those who have those plates care enough about that symbol that they’d surely make sure the symbol isn’t forgotten by displaying it right alongside the plate itself.
The symbol won’t disappear. As much as some would like it forgotten, others will fight just as vehemently to make sure that doesn’t happen.
I think this particular Confederate flag battle can only end in a stalemate.