D-Day: Will the Flag Come Down?

It’s time to “Break It Down!”

Three weeks ago, 21-year-old, self-confessed, Dylann Roof carried out a mass shooting, killing nine people at historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. The dead included the church’s senior pastor, state senator Clementa C. Pinckney.  Mr. Roof is being held on $1 million bond.  At least one report claims supporters have raised $4 million in donations to pay for his legal fees, and possibly his bond.  Just an FYI!

Two weeks ago, I blogged about the incident in a post entitled: Carnage in a Charleston Church: Another Mass Murder (https://thesphinxofcharlotte.com/2015/06/24/carnage-in-a-charleston-church-another-mass-murder/). A portion of that blog was devoted to the virtually spontaneously combusted movement to take down the Confederate Battle Flag, which flies at the State Capitol in Columbia, South Carolina. I noted then that the movement, which interestingly, was essentially nonexistent three weeks ago, seemed to materialize almost from thin air, after Mr. Roof’s heinous crime. Moreover, while the flag was prominently displayed by Mr. Roof, to paraphrase an expression the NRA is fond of offering as a defense, “Flags don’t kill people.”

Surely, in this instance, the Flag did not murder nine people. In fact, Mr. Roof did not use a flag to kill them; he used a gun. But not one of these new found anti-flag zealots has suggested enhanced background checks as a pre-action for acquiring a fire arm, and they certainly have not offered any ideas on strengthening legislation tied to fire arms purchases. I felt the flag initiative was a diversionary tactic designed to preempt any action on firearms when it was unveiled; I continue to think so now. I’m just saying.

Be that as it may, the South Carolina Legislature is moving apace to construct and consider legislation to remove the flag from the Statehouse Grounds. While I was dubious two weeks ago, as to the eventual outcome of the various initiatives to remove the flag, the effort has taken on an almost inexorable quality. Since that time, a number of States have joined the fray, and one courageous black woman, Ms. Brittany “AKA Bree” Newsome, actually scaled the flagpole and removed the flag on June 27, 2015. Her act drew additional national and international attention to a righteous cause. Others have referred to her as an activist; she calls herself a freedom fighter. Whatever you choose to call her, she is an American patriot and hero…a shero, if you will.

This week, over the past two days, the State Legislature of South Carolina has held a series of votes on the issue. The movement on the matter may culminate today, when the State House is expected to take up the measure. There may be a series of votes, due to a number of amendments opponents of efforts to remove the flag are expected to offer, in an attempt to derail the move to bring down the flag.

As I mentioned in the post two weeks ago, Governor Haley (now) supports removing the flag. Based on votes taken yesterday, 92% of State Senators support the measure; 82% of State House Members voted to send the Flag Bill directly to the floor and bypass committee. Hundreds of thousands of petitioners want the flag down. The debate is set to resume at 10:00 a.m. this morning when the measure will go the House floor for a second vote.

Based on a survey of lawmakers by The Charleston Post and Courier, South Carolina lawmakers have the votes necessary to remove the flag from the Statehouse Grounds. Many Republicans in the House have not said how they will vote. It’s also important to note that opponents may add amendments to the bill with a three-fifths majority vote.

If discrepancies emerge from the votes taken by the two Houses, they would need to be worked out in committee. The outcome is still unclear, for sure. But we know it won’t be long before that outcome, whatever it may be, is revealed.

There are, of course, still supporters of the flag. The State newspaper, in Columbia, reported that pro-Confederate Flag robocalls urged voters last week to call their legislators and tell them to “not stand with the leftist fanatics who want to destroy the South we love. What’s next? This attack on our values is sick and un-American, and it has to stop right here and right now in South Carolina.”

Imagine that: Nikki Haley, Lindsey Graham, Jeb Bush, Rand Paul and Rick Perry on a list of leftist fanatics. Who knew? They are all among a growing list of notable Conservatives, with extensive bona fides when it comes to Southern roots, who have loudly and repeatedly called for taking down the Confederate Battle Flag, since June 18th.

There is also recent research that suggests a majority of Americans view the flag more as a symbol of Southern Pride than of racism. For example, according to a new CNN/ORC poll, U.S. public opinion regarding the flag remains about where it was 15 years ago. In 2000, 59% said they viewed it as a symbol of pride; that number was 57% in recent polling. Not surprisingly, opinions are sharply divided by race, and among whites, by education.

Not to be outflanked, MoveOn members presented a petition to officials at the Statehouse yesterday. More than 570,000 signatures have been collected. In articulating the organization’s position, they made the following statement:

“The Confederate Flag is not a symbol of Southern pride, but rather a symbol of rebellion and racism. On the heels of the brutal killing of nine black people in a South Carolina church by a racist terrorist, it’s time to put that symbol of rebellion and racism behind us and move toward a better United States of America!”

When Kate Bolduan, on CNN’s “Erin Burnett OutFront,” interviewed Bree Newsome, a filmmaker and activist from Charlotte, she told Bolduan that she accepts potential jail time as “part of my calling as a freedom fighter.” Ms. Newsome and fellow activist James Tyson were charged with defacing state property after she scaled a 30-foot pole and removed the flag. The pair face three years in prison on the misdemeanor and/or a fine of up to $5,000.

In her interview with Ms. Bolduan, she said she wanted to highlight an unjust situation. She referred to the flag as ”this symbol of hate, this symbol of treason.” When Kate Bolduan asked her about the recent poll that suggested most people see the flag as a symbol of Southern pride, Ms. Newsome said it shows people need to be better educated about the history of the Civil War. (Ain’t that the truth?)

So here we are…D-Day: Will the Flag Come Down?” I think there will be weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth, but the South Carolina House of Representatives will find the necessary two-thirds majority to remove the flag. Now, about that national debate on those guns!

I’m done; holla back!

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