Not long ago the media was abuzz with commentary about the Confederate flag and why it should be banned from flying in southern state capitols. Many media voices insisted that this symbol of the defunct Confederacy is actually a racist banner. Others say that it represents the states’ rights v. federal government debate, and that it honors the young men who fell on those bloody battlefields long ago.
The catalyst for the commentary was the Charleston church shooting. The butcher who executed people at the conclusion of a routine meeting in their historic place of worship had apparently once posed with the Confederate flag. His connection with the ‘stars and bars’ brought about its banishment from public display.
But there is more to the story. There are people who see a crisis as an opportunity to accomplish long-held goals. This was certainly true of the Charleston story. Those who had wanted the flag to be gone for a long time, moved in quickly to take full advantage of the tragic shooting. One might call them crisis carpetbaggers. They changed the focus of the story from the victims and their families to their anti-flag quest.
And this is unfortunate. Let the Confederate flag fly into history with the ragged gray uniforms and the invalid currency. Confine it to some obscure museum as the critics demand. But in the case of the Charleston shooting, the wall-to-wall flag focus co-opted what was really a story about a community, the terrible thing that happened there, the people who lost their lives, and the families who needed attention, attention that was instead directed to a controversial piece of fabric.