COMMENTARY | COLUMNISTS | GEORGE HAWKINS

The Confederate flag isn't to blame

The incredibly vast array of things that induce people to commit vicious crimes is almost beyond comprehension. During the middle part of the 20th century, insidious criminal training manuals were resplendent in many soda shops. I think they were called comic books as a way to fool adults into letting their kids learn killing techniques.

Much more sophisticated electronic instructional “games” have been introduced more recently. The creators of these dynamic videos, which are obviously designed to help kids develop skills to take out almost anyone who pops up on the screen, are inexpensive and addictive. What better way to provide instruction and incite violence in real life?

Wait. There is a more efficient way. It comes in the form of a piece of cloth.

Comic books and violent video games are off the hook. Their ugly influence is generally confined to the people who buy and use them. All along, it was an inflammatory flag that was to blame. Individuals don’t have to buy one. Just let someone display the thing and let the hate begin.

There may be sound reasons for not displaying a Confederate battle flag in front of a state Capitol building. However, blaming it for a senseless act of extreme repugnance is not one of them.

Many politicians and bandwagon aficionados think we can stamp out violence or ugly behavior by shelving the Confederate battle flag. Let’s not stop there. We should go whole hog on this.

Let’s remove any image that might, by extension, call to mind an ugly part of our history. That way not only will we stop violence in its name, we can forget it occurred.

We live near Lee Elementary School. The full name of the place is Robert E. Lee Elementary. Apparently, this particular place of learning, which is part of the San Diego Unified School District, just emanates bad vibes. The name is so incendiary that a local state representative thinks we should change the school’s moniker.

A lawmaker on the East Coast wants the name of a street changed. Gosh, it, too, was named after the guy who led the Confederacy. No wonder it has incited so much violence.

Lee was a superintendent of West Point, the United States Military Academy. He was something of a U.S. military hero in the two-year war with Mexico (Lee was on the side of the Americans), and, much later, he became the president of a small college in Virginia. That college is now known as Washington and Lee University. I guess we ought to change that name, too.

While we are at it, let’s level the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. The third president of the United States, in honor of whom the monument was built, owned people. That is hardly a recommendation worthy of a huge monument. Let’s not be reminded of that.

As long as we are in the blame game, now is the time to condemn Ben Affleck. One of his distant grandfathers owned slaves, something so embarrassing to Affleck that he did not want that information included in a PBS genealogy program.

I guess we’d better not watch any more movies with Affleck in them. Somehow, he must have been responsible for an ancestor who owned slaves more than a century and a half ago. I am pretty sure Affleck had nothing to do with that, other than being born into that family and having, ironically, a similar first name.

As it turns out, one of my distant relatives also may have owned black people. A less-than-amusing anecdote in our family lore has my grandfather in the hospital where a nurse with his last name was helping care for him. Insensitively, Granddad apparently remarked that his family of years ago “may have owned members of your family.”

He and I have the same surname. That he said such a thing may be an example of foolish naiveté, but what happened before he was born was not of his, or my, doing.

Being aware of our history will help us refrain from repeating those parts that should not recur. Changing names or banning flags won’t help.

Come on, lawmakers. Deal with matters of substance, not bandwagon issues that might get attention in your quests to be elected to higher office.


Hawkins is retired after 35 years as a construction industry association manager. He was a broadcast reporter and news anchor in Denver. As a Navy officer, he saw action in Vietnam in the River Assault Squadrons and is the recipient of a Silver Star and Purple Heart.

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1 UserComments
Michael Englehart 12:00am July 18, 2015

You can't buy an Army of West Virginia battle flag on eBay anymore, but you can still buy Che Guevara T-shirts and NAZI memorabilia. Spell hypocrisy for me, please. Typical liberal-democrat flummery; throw a red herring over the wall so you don't have actually think or have a useful open dialog about anything that gets your panties in a wad.