To the Editor:
It is apparent that history is still being written and revised by the victors and their descendants. I read this past week a letter that attempted to describe the ancestors of many Haywood County residents as “traitors” and said that honoring them is disgraceful. That is very far from the truth.
Let me first offer some historical context to answer the charge of treason. Treason is defined as “the betrayal of one’s own country by waging war against it or by consciously or purposely acting to aid its enemies.” That definition would certainly include the actions of men like Thomas Jefferson, George Mason and others in their defiance to King George and the reprehensible actions of the Crown against her “citizens” in the forms of unfair taxes and levies. These “patriots” chose to dissolve their ties with England and form their own country.
The sectional crisis that existed between the industrial North and agricultural South came to its eventual head: war. Failing to have their grievances addressed by the federal government, Southern leaders felt no choice but to dissolve the Union. The South and the citizens of the region chose to exercise what they felt was their right. Even Abraham Lincoln, before he became president, stated in 1848 on the floor of Congress: “Any people anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up and shake off the existing government and to form one that suits them better.” This statement holds true for the people of the South.
In 1865, Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to Gen. U.S. Grant. He did not surrender the entire Confederate States of America or its resources at that point. Several other Confederate armies surrendered later. The federal government later gave equal veteran status to Confederate soldiers and offered them the same benefits as their Union counterparts (Veteran’s Benefits US Title Code 38) and recognized them as “Civil War” veterans. Why would we do this for traitors?
The state of North Carolina in 1961 (HR Resolution 1058) does allow a flag of the Confederacy to be flown over the State Capitol on certain days as long as a U.S. flag is flown in equal display. Flying a flag of the Confederacy on county property does not violate this policy as long as the U.S. flag is flown in connection with this action. The state constitution does not prohibit the flying of a Confederate flag. And in the context of the State’s Historic Sites flag policy, these flags can be designated as historical in meaning.
This issue is bigger than the symbol of a Confederate flag flying on county property. It is a test of upholding our nation’s founding principles. Do we respect the right of individuals to express themselves regardless of how we view their form of expression, or do we allow censorship to happen? County property should reflect the opinions of all citizens and not just a select few. Censoring the Confederate flag or other displays does just that.
H. Kip Rollins