Fight against Confederate symbols crosses line

Published 10:40 am Thursday, July 9, 2015

While we have advocated changing the state’s flag, a move by the U.S. House to ban the display of Confederate flags at historic federal cemeteries is taking things too far.

The proposal by Rep. Jared Huffman, D-Calif., added language to block the Park Service from allowing private groups to decorate the graves of southern soldiers with Confederate flags in states that commemorate Confederate Memorial Day, according to The Associated Press. The cemeteries affected are the Andersonville and Vicksburg cemeteries in Georgia and Mississippi.

“The American Civil War was fought, in Abraham Lincoln’s words, to ‘save the last best hope of Earth,’” Huffman said in a debate in which he was the only speaker. “We can honor that history without celebrating the Confederate flag and all of the dreadful things that it symbolizes.”

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Banning groups from placing Confederate flags on graves is no different than banning individuals from doing the same. Will the Park Service ban a family member from decorating the grave of an ancestor with a Confederate flag? If Confederate flags are considered inappropriate decorations for graves, what is considered appropriate?  Will all grave decorations be banned?

The Confederate emblem shouldn’t be on the state flag of Mississippi, but that doesn’t mean the flag should be scrubbed from society all-together. People have a right to fly whatever flag they choose on private property. That right should also be extended to the graves of family members in national cemeteries. The federal government may own the land but those buried in Vicksburg belong to their families. And those families should be able to decorate graves any way they choose —regardless of who it offends.

One lawmaker who protested the move was Rep. Steve Palazzo, R-Miss.

“I strongly oppose the inclusion of this amendment, which was slipped into the bill in the dead of night with no debate,” he said in a statement. “Congress cannot simply rewrite history and strip the Confederate flag from existence. Members of Congress from New York and California cannot wipe away 150 years of Southern history with sleight-of-hand tactics.”