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It's time to take down the flag

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Lindell John Kay

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By LINDELL JOHN KAY
Staff Writer

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

It’s time to talk about the Confederate flag.

As a young sailor, the entirety of my civilian wardrobe was a pair of faded jeans, a couple of tee-shirts and a blue suede jacket with the Navy seal stitched across the back, an American flag on one shoulder and a Confederate flag on the other.

I drove a Carolina blue Bronco with the Confederate flag on the front bumper. Back then the Confederate flag was just a symbol of my rebellious spirit and provided me with an identity in the much larger world I found myself in than what I had known growing up in Lee County.

I didn’t understand why a senior chief, a large black man, got one look at the rebel flag on my shoulder and asked me if I was going to be trouble.

Later, as a civilian, when I purchased my first home, I had a flag pole installed so I could fly the stars and bars in my front yard. One day my boss, a black man, dropped me off at my house after work. He seemed shocked to see the flag. He told me he didn’t figure me for a racist. That hurt, a lot. I know who I am and I know where I came from. Racist isn’t something anyone had ever said about me.

It was then that I began to grasp that the Confederate flag meant something different to a lot of other people than it did to me. For a short time after that, I persisted in my use of the flag. I tried to explain to my friends and coworkers, an ever diversifying group, that the flag didn’t mean to me the things they thought it represented.

Eventually I realized I was defending the indefensible. It really didn’t matter what the flag meant to me, other people viewed it as a symbol of hate and a reminder of a terrible time in our nation’s history.

And isn’t that what it’s all about? If something I’m doing offends someone else shouldn’t I ask myself what’s really important? Sometimes what we believe is worth defending. Sometimes we must demand our rights. I’m not much on religion, but I’m pretty big on religious freedom. It’s worth fighting for.

But the Confederate flag isn’t. It isn’t worth fighting for. It isn’t worth defending. It isn’t worth a damn thing.

I’m one of the chosen few to have been born in Alabama. I’m proud of that. And I love the South. But it’s high time we put away the symbols of an oppressive regime that built its fortune on the backs of others.

A couple of years ago I reported on a Rocky Mount resident who has more than a 100 Confederate flags and barbed wire strung up around his bunker of a house. It’s his right to do so, but, man, what a waste of time and money. Keep carrying all that hate and it will eat you up inside.

And by the way in case you’ve been living under a rock for 150 years, the Confederacy was a lost cause to begin with. Slavery is evil. Any symbol that represents that belongs in the history books, not on a pole in the back of a monster truck speeding down U.S. 64.

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