I’m a true Son of the South. I was actually born in Dixieland early on one frosty morn in the old Southern state of Alabama where “Heart of Dixie” was proclaimed on each license plate, Jefferson Davis pie was a staple on the dessert plate, and “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” was never sung in church because it was a Yankee song. My brother and I both had little Confederate uniforms to wear and one Christmas I received a Civil War solider set with 100s of blue and gray toy soldiers. In Alabama it was never “The Civil War” but “The War of Northern Aggression,” “The Lost Cause,” or “The Glorious Cause.” Robert E. Lee’s birthday was an official state holiday but not Memorial Day because it was Yankee holiday.
My great-great grandfather was Captain John Karns McBride of the 9th Alabama Infantry. He lost an arm at Gettysburg and was captured by the Yankees. He was so thin and ragged by the time he returned home his wife did not recognize him. Yet, his war heroics followed him into a political career and became legendary. The local chapter of the Sons of the Confederacy still bears his name and I understand there is a statue of Captain McBride in Lawrence County Alabama although I have never seen it.
Fighting General Joe Wheeler is also one of my family ancestors. My mother grew up an orphan and General Wheeler’s daughter, Miss Annie, was always kind to my mother and her brother, passing down clothes including one of the General’s military winter coats for my uncle to wear. I’m such a true southern boy that when I moved to North Carolina some thought I had betrayed my heritage by moving to a state that had the word “North” attached to it.
While I am proud of my southern heritage and the courage and valor of my Confederate ancestors, I am not proud of the cause for which they fought. We were taught it was about economics and states’ rights and Northern interference and aggression. Very little was said about slavery which was the foundational cause of the war. I realize that most of the Southern soldiers were not fighting for lofty moral or philosophical reasons. I doubt if my ancestors who fought in the war owned slaves and I have no clue how they felt about slavery. They were fighting out of obligation, loyalty, and for the defense of their home state. But they were on the wrong side of history. This war was anything but glorious.
I have stated my Southern credentials to say this: there is no place in civil society for symbols of hatred and violence and the Confederate flag is one of the most reprehensible symbols of hatred today. Those who claim it represents their Southern heritage are simply delusional. It doesn’t represent my heritage. It’s not the flag that Alabama or North Carolina soldiers fought under. It was the battle flag of Northern Virginia that was only used at the very end of the war. This flag should have been retired when the war ended, but it was high-jacked by the Klu Klux Klan and later became the ugly symbol of those who were opposed the civil rights movement. Now it represents White Supremacy. The flag belongs in a museum, not in the public arena.
I shudder to think what would have happened if the south had actually won the war. How long would the inhumane and ungodly practice of slavery have continued? I am thankful that it was a “lost cause.” Government of the people, by the people, and for the people did not perish from the face of the earth—thanks be to God. It took several generations for healing to take place, but today we are all thankful we are a United States of America, that we are “one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
When Robert E. Lee died at his request there were no Confederate flags at his funeral. He wrote, “I think it wiser moreover not to keep open the sores of war.” Over 150 years later there are those who continue to keep open the sores of war and hatred. It is time, past time, to remove the Confederate flags once and for all. The Apostle John wrote, “He who does not love his brother cannot love God.” (1 John 4: 20)