Leonard Pitts, Miami Herald, March 4, 2008
Last week, a fellow journalist wrote to ask me for help.
His name is David Tintner, and he’s a senior at Cooper City (Fla.) High South, where he’s the editor of the school paper. Recently, he wrote a column criticizing those who wear what he regards as “an extremely offensive symbol”: the Confederate battle flag. David says a group of students known on campus as “the Redneck Nation” took exception. A gang of them cornered him at lunch to yell at him. They’ve made threats and tried to stare him down.
Despite this, David writes that he “found it really cool that so many people actually read the paper. One kid who usually associates himself with the ‘Red-necks’ actually came up to me and said that after reading my column he put all of his Confederate flag attire away and won’t wear it anymore. However, the rest of the ‘Redneck Nation’ seems to have it in for me now.”
David added: “I’m sure you deal with this sort of thing all of the time. I mean what’s a good opinion piece if it doesn’t make someone mad right? I was just hoping you could offer a few words of wisdom, I would really appreciate it.” Dear David:
My first word of wisdom would be, watch your back. It sounds as if some of the folks you’re dealing with aren’t screwed on too tight. That said, let me offer you some answers to the arguments typically advanced by defenders of this American swastika.
They will tell you the Civil War was not about slavery. Remind them that the president and vice president of the so-called “Confederate States of America” both said it was.
They will tell you that great-great grandpa Zeke fought for the South, and he never owned any slaves. Remind them that it is political leaders—not grunts—who decide whether and why a war is waged.
They will tell you the flag just celebrates heritage. Remind them that “heritage” is not a synonym for “good.” After all, Nazis have a heritage, too.
I wish I could say any of that will do you any good. Problem is, it’s logic and we live in a time where people are less able to accept, understand or respond to logic.