One of the more absurd, not to mention offensive, aspects of political correctness is the increasing tendency to treat the Confederacy as the equivalent of Nazi Germany. An ad currently running on TV shows the now middle-aged actors from The Dukes of Hazzard driving a car very similar to the one they drove on the show, only missing the Confederate battle flag that adorned the General Lee. And now the media is fulminating that a parent in Colorado took a picture of a group of high school students dressed for prom, with two of them holding guns and all of them posing by a large Confederate battle flag. The outrage is mostly focused on the flag, not the guns. Rachel Bertsche of Yahoo quotes one of the parents of the children seen in the photo as saying, “Why didn’t the parents stand up and say, ‘Guys, this is wrong? Do you know what that flag means? Do you know the history behind it?’ It would have been a teaching moment.”
Somehow, one doubts that the parent quoted by Ms. Bertsche knows enough history to give a meaningful lesson in the Civil War. Even some of those who fought against that flag took a different view than she does. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, chosen to accept the surrender of Confederate units at Appomattox, ordered his men to come to attention to honor those who were surrendering, because he saw them as fellow Americans who had fought with unbelievable courage. In his memoirs, he describes how the men surrendering lowered “the proud Confederate ensign” and stood before him as “the embodiment of manhood." Later in life, he said that, whenever he saw the Confederate battle flag, he was reminded of that courage. American fighting men in later wars also carried that flag into battle, famously raising it on Okinawa after the Japanese had been defeated in that bloody battle. It would be absurd to suggest that Chamberlain honored his Confederate opponents because he supported slavery, much less that Americans carried the battle flag in World War II because they were fighting for slavery. It would be equally absurd to suggest that anyone who displays the Confederate battle flag today does so to show support for slavery or even “racism." Indeed, such a display might simply represent a healthy defiance of an increasingly tyrannical political correctness.
Thomas Piatak is a contributing editor to Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He writes from Cleveland, Ohio.