I was born in Georgia, which, for those born abroad or on Mars, was at one time part of the Confederate States of America. I had relatives on both my father’s and mother’s side of the family who fought for the CSA, and in fact, my mother’s grandmother’s uncle died in the war. But we never owned slaves, and no one in our family ever talked about the war being about anything other than defending our home.
Growing up less than a hundred years after “Reconstruction,” there was still quite a bit of attention given in my home town to this period in our history. In fact, playing in the woods behind our home, we came across wide ditches, which we found out later were entrenchments.
Now, it’s not like my family were living in some Olde South bastion, where we recalled the grand old days. It’s just that this was our heritage, and we thought about it, and talked about it. And some time growing up I acquired a Confederate Battle Flag. It wasn’t any symbol of defiance as I remember, I just got one.
It wasn’t a big deal.
Soon, I was studying chemical engineering at Georgia Tech, and I took the opportunity to join the Co-op Program, which allowed me to essentially work as a full time engineer every other quarter, then come back and study. My engineering job was at an oil refinery in Kentucky, and I spent 6 months a year away from home. Now, despite the southern heritage of our neighbors in Kentucky, there were not many Southerners participating in the Co-op Program, and to show my Southern
ass heritage, I took to flying the Battle Flag draped over the curtains in my bedroom in the apartment where I stayed. The Yankees from Purdue and Michigan State and Ohio State all gave me hell for it, and I strutted even more my Southern Pride.
Then, one quarter, a strange thing happened. I had a black roommate, from nearby in West Virginia.
Soon he and I became friends, and we shared our faith, and he shared some really good food that his Mom would send back with him after a weekend at home.
But after a few weeks, he came to me one afternoon, and asked me why I had the flag in my bedroom. I told him, honestly, that I had it for a while, and that I displayed it mostly to confound the Yankees in the other apartments.
Then he, quietly, told me about what it meant to him. Segregation. Hate. Violence. He told me about growing up black, and how he knew what it meant to certain whites, who meant him and his family harm. He told me, too, that he suspected that I had it just because, and not as any symbol of hatred, because I never showed him anything other than respect and friendship. But, he still got those feelings every time he saw it in my room, and he felt he needed to tell me.
To be honest, I had heard that before, but to hear it first hand, from someone I knew, was different.
Jesus taught that we are to love one another as He loved us. And He taught us that, if our hand causes us to stumble, or to be an offense, then we are better off to cut it off, than to risk the offense.
So, I took down the Battle Flag, and I have never flown it again.