It does NO good for activists to remove flag unilaterally

two flags

You’ve no doubt seen this unfortunate news from yesterday:

The Confederate flag was removed from a pole on the South Carolina capitol grounds early Saturday morning by activists, but state employees returned the flag to its position not long after the incident.

An activist group claimed responsibility for taking the flag down. Witnesses said two people were arrested by authorities almost immediately after one of them scaled the flag pole on the north side of the State House grounds and pulled the Confederate banner down….

The state Bureau of Protective Services confirmed it had arrested two people at the State House about 6:15 a.m. Those arrested were Brittany Ann Byuarim Newsome, a 30-year-old Raleigh resident, and James Ian Tyson, a 30-year-old Charlotte resident, the protective services bureau said…

This kind of action does no good whatsoever, except for perhaps providing some sense of personal, self-congratulatory satisfaction to the individuals involved, one of whom was photographed grinning at the camera as she was arrested.

I say this not just because I believe in the rule of law, and this was an illegal act — although anything that lends even the slightest taint of illegitimacy to our cause is harmful.

I say it not because the perpetrators weren’t South Carolinians, although that is another problem. And I say that at risk of offending a new friend, Mariangeles Borghini, the Argentinian lady who started the ball rolling on last weekend’s flag rally, and bless her for doing that. Mari wrote on Facebook yesterday, “People complaining because neither me or Bree Newsome are from SC. Just get over it and move on!” Ah, but see, it would indeed be a problem if the only people agitating to get the flag down were from out of state. In fact, it would do no good at all. It could even do harm.

Finally, I’m not saying this because such a gesture is in the end ineffective, although it’s perfectly obvious that that is so. The authorities put the flag right back up there — as they were obviously going to do, since the law required them to do so. No more good was done than when “the Rev. E. Slave” climbed up there several years back.

But that’s not it. Even if the flag stayed down forever after those folks from North Carolina acted, it would not accomplish the thing that we need to accomplish; it would not achieve the higher purpose in lowering the flag.

There exists only one way to get the flag down that does any good whatsoever, that even has any point to it: South Carolina has to decide to take it down. We, the people of this state, acting through our elected representatives, have to repeal the unconscionable law that requires it to fly there, and order it to be removed. Otherwise, nothing is accomplished. Until they do this, the flag will fly, and the people of this state will continue to be collectively guilty of willing it to do so.

This is counterintuitive for a lot of people — especially, apparently, if they are young and impetuous. It’s a realization I was slow in coming to myself, at first — 21 years back, when I wrote the first of hundreds of editorials, columns and blog posts about the need to take the flag down. It’s something that I still have trouble explaining sometimes, although there are folks out there who understand it more readily than I did.

Something happens when you express opinions on controversial topics, knowing that hundreds of thousands of people will read your words and try to pick them apart — you think about those issues harder than you would have otherwise.

Initially, I would have been happy with any expedient that brought the flag down — a lawsuit, some tricky technicality, whatever. In fact, my first editorial on the subject (if I remember correctly; I don’t have it in front of me) urged then-Gov. Carroll Campbell to just take it on himself to remove it.

I was deeply frustrated when, not long after that — in response to quite a few calls to remove it, including my own steady insistence, over and over in the paper — the Legislature passed a law requiring that the flag fly, and making it illegal for anyone (including the governor) to remove it.

But gradually, I realized that that act of bad faith on the part of the majority of lawmakers was fine in a way — because only if the will of South Carolina, expressed through the deliberative process of representative democracy, was to bring down the flag would the action accomplish any higher purpose.

And what would that higher purpose be? It would be the one we saw evidence itself last Monday — a coming together in historic reconciliation, an act of grace and healing, an act of inclusion packed with legal, political and cultural power.

Last week, we saw our elected leaders respond to the powerful act of grace and forgiveness carried out by the families of the Mother Emanuel victims at the arraignment of Dylann Roof. This miraculous act engendered other miracles, including a consensus on removing the flag that was unthinkable two weeks ago.

This is about South Carolina setting aside division and embracing each other as fellow citizens, and not only not rubbing hurtful symbols into the faces of their neighbors, but — and here’s the real point — not wanting to.

This is not anything you can achieve with a lawsuit, or unilateral action, or a boycott, or anything that seeks to coerce or trick the flag down.

South Carolina has to decide to do it, so that South Carolina can grow, transcend its past and be a better place, for the sake of all its citizens.

That’s what’s getting ready to happen, I believe. That’s what all of us who want this transformative development need to push and speak and pray for — respectfully, reverently, in a spirit that does not disgrace the dignity of the dead, or interrupt the chain reaction of grace that we saw initiated in that courtroom, or disturb the solemnity of these funerals we are witnessing.

It’s a political act that we’re engaging in, but it’s also a spiritual one. And everything we do or say in the coming days needs to be worthy of it.

114 thoughts on “It does NO good for activists to remove flag unilaterally

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    After I went to the trouble of writing this post, I happened to see this comment that Lynn Teague posted yesterday — saying almost exactly what I just said, although much more succinctly. If I’d seen it first, I suppose I could have saved myself a lot of trouble:

    This morning someone very temporarily took the flag down. Full points for passion, determination and climbing ability, but as I see it, it largely misses the point. The process currently underway is above all about the fact that the elected representatives of the people of South Carolina are expected in the next few weeks to vote to take the flag down. After the General Assembly votes, the absence of that symbol will reflect the will of the majority of the people of South Carolina not to continue to display in its seat of government what has undeniably become a symbol of hatred and murder. It is that will of the people of our state that matters above all, not the piece of cloth.

    Lynn gets it. Completely. Which should surprise no one…

  2. Kathryn Fenner

    As we drove past yesterday evening about 7:30, there were a handful of SCV types, including the “Colonel,” more African-Americans–family sorts, including an adorable little girl with a “Take It Down” sign bigger than she was. There appeared to be some exchanges between the two, with DPS officers standing by. Just down Gervais, coming up from Sumter, a group of young men with long braids and obvious jewelry sauntered up, and I was concerned, but since I haven’t heard anything since, it appears nothing came of it. Given the relative ages of the SCV types and the young men, perhaps the SCVs figured that discretion was the better part of valor.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      There are so many irresponsible acts that could break this spell that has us on the verge of getting this done. I’m sort of holding my breath, hoping the resolve holds…

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      I hope the SCV guys don’t think they’re there “protecting” the flag. The chances are high that some more thoughtless kids will try some stunt like the one yesterday. And we do NOT need a physical confrontation at this point.

      Come on, everybody — grow up, please. In fact, that’s what bringing down the flag is all about: South Carolina growing up. Let’s not take any steps backward.

      This message brought to you by the Grownup Party….

      1. Doug Ross

        Suppose it DOESN’T come down due to shenanigans by legislators. Then what? More editorials? What if they delay action till the spring?

        I don’t think the act of cutting down the flag had any impact on the potential outcome. The votes are there now. Who would switch sides now because of this small act of civil disobedience?

      2. Lynn Teague

        Excellent point – it really does feel like South Carolina is growing up in doing this. Maybe not all the way, but certainly enough to matter.

  3. Kathryn Fenner

    What could she possibly have hoped to accomplish besides personal “glory”?
    –more like 15 minutes of fame…

    I will be really angry if somehow her stupid stunt derails the big mo towards taking it down for good!

  4. LD Goodman

    I would be dishonest if I said that I wasn’t proud of Ms. Newsome’s actions. I even made a significant monetary contribution online toward her bail/legal fees fund raiser. The flag itself is a representation of civil disobedience, and the grace and dignity in which she executed in her mission can only be described as admirable. With that said, I concur with your idea that it is a journey of growth for the people of South Carolina. My prayers for each and everyone of you in your Palmetto State.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Thanks for your thoughts, LD. I have to say, though, that I saw no “grace and dignity” in that stunt, and that’s one of the many problems with it.

      But I appreciate your perspective. Welcome to the blog…

      1. Barry

        Agree- it was a very selfish act – and an unnecessary one.

        All the momentum in the world is leading to the flag being pulled down- and very soon.

        Nothing this lady did will help matters- and if anything- would only hurt matters.

    2. Barry

      unless you just want to pad her personal bank account (which won’t likely help anyone) your money would be better used in some other fashion.

      Several very well off (RICH) celeb types have already stated they will pay for all of her expenses

  5. Pingback: Confederate Flag Removed From SC Statehouse Grounds… For Like 5 Minutes | Adam Fogle

  6. Harry Harris

    Of course it does no good, and the reasons stated here are on point. Some people, including the “activist”/perpetrator, don’t get the fact that the “amazing grace” shown by the Charleston victims’ families were the biggest factor in advancing the cause to officially remove the flag to a more appropriate place. In-your-face tactics often hurt the efforts of equally-committed proponents of issues while producing arrogant pride among the perpetrators coupled with consternation among those who are really carrying the ball.

  7. Brad Warthen Post author

    Adam Fogle, famous for his “TPS Reports” of a few years back, and one of the funniest Tweeters I follow, had this to say. Excerpts:

    According to, Brittany or “Bree” Newsome is “a millennial freedom fighter,” which might just be the most annoying thing I’ve ever read on the internet. Naturally, the internet wasted very little time gushing over Newsome, calling her everything from a “bold and brave badass” to a “national hero” and launching campaigns to fund her bail….

    Sure, Newsome’s arrest gave everyone something to write fulsome blog posts about for a day, but it did very little to advance the higher purpose of taking the flag down for good. If anything, her actions could set progress back a bit by giving flag proponents some small bit of leverage….

    The cynical side of me just can’t help but feel this was an act of civil disobedience not for the cause of change, but rather for the cause of self-promotion. It just appears as if Newsome parachuted into Columbia from North Carolina on the tail end of this struggle to insert herself into the situation with a largely pointless gesture that she knew would turn her into a viral celebrity.

    But I guess that’s the world in which we now live. Anything for a like or a share. Thankfully, very soon, the flag will no longer be flying on the Statehouse grounds… and ultimately, that’s what truly matters.

    And I agree completely: “a millennial freedom fighter” may well be the most annoying bit of nonsense I’ve ever read on the internet. At the very least, it’s a Top Five candidate…

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      It’s very good to see Adam blogging again. In its day, his The Palmetto Scoop (hence “TPS”) was perhaps the best, newsiest blog in South Carolina. I measured my own efforts against it and generally fell short. I learned a lot of things from it as I was figuring out this thing.

      Welcome back, Adam!

  8. Karen Pearson

    Her action is likely to get everyone’s dander up. We’re trying very hard to get through this with sweet reason and appeals to southern civility. Just taking the flag down is a slap in the face to all those who through the years have wanted to keep it up. It’s akin to the “War of Northern Aggression” starting up all over again in their eyes. It just makes those who want to keep it up dig in their heels.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Amen. We know that certain people, such as Lee Bright, are going to be arguing against getting the flag down. Why give them fodder to filibuster about?

  9. Mark Stewart

    I’m thinking Les Bright and Bree the Millennial Freedom Fighter to the Thunderdome. Or maybe they could both exile themselves to the back of the short bus?

    Self-aggrandizing is all we need to know about either one.

  10. Rose

    The State is reporting that the KKK is holding a flag rally at the State House on July 18.
    That’s one month and one day after the murders. I doubt that’s a coincidence.

    1. Barry

      That’s a good thing- that will give the few “on the fence” legislators even more reason to get this over and done with in a quick manner.

      1. Doug Ross

        It should be over before then. There is nothing but artificial “rules” that prevent the flag from being taken down today. Schedule a debate, hold a vote, and proceed.

        Can you imagine a company faced with a similar public relations nightmare waiting WEEKS to deal with it? For those of you who don’t want government to run like a business, this is what you get. Inefficient inaction.

      2. Brad Warthen Post author

        Again, Doug, what you get with government is every consideration given to what everyone wants to do — which means giving them their chance to be heard before making a decision.

        Private businesses don’t have to do that. They can be run like monarchies or dictatorships.

        And rules are what make us civilized.

        1. Doug Ross

          Too many rules make us inefficient and controlled.

          Can you really offer a justification for a “rule” that requires a store that sells wine, beer, and hard liquor to have TWO different entrances and a wall separating the two entities? If that makes us civilized, please let me be uncivil.

          1. Doug Ross

            Or a rule that prevents a company like Tesla from selling its cars in a state without a brick and mortar building?

            Many of these supposed “civil” rules exist solely to protect the business interests of well connected business people. That’s not civil, it’s greedy.

            1. Bryan Caskey

              “Many of these supposed “civil” rules exist solely to protect the business interests of well connected business people. That’s not civil, it’s greedy.”

              If your business plan involves lobbying the government to tilt the playing field in your direction, guess what — it’s not really a business.

  11. Bill

    I agree,and I know some professional activists.I didn’t like their knee-jerk reaction against the flag anymore than all the others.After talking to a forensic psychiatrist,it became clear, this was superficially about racism.
    He was so caught up in the internet,he took it into the real world,and things were different.The fact that he waited over an hour in the church,’testing realty’ before the shootings,points directly to a psychotic break.It’s more about our failed mental health system,and gun control than racism.

    1. guest

      A young man poses with white supremacist symbols, composes a racist manifesto, cho0ses an important black church to attack, utters racist comments while carrying out that attack and kills 9 black people – and yet racism wasn’t really the issue?? I understand that this narrative is popular in some circles, but it is at best nothing but self-delusion, just further expression of the failure to be honest with ourselves that President Obama spoke of in his eulogy last week.

      1. Bill

        Most people like to think in very simple terms.My father joined the NAACP in the 1940’s,and was part of the civil rights movement along with fellow white ministers in the 1960’s,when civil rights was about people,and created change that directly impacted people.One minister became dean of Columbia College.Instead of a fight,he created an open admissions policy,and many black women graduated from the school.My father also worked with the mentally ill.He’d be much more upset about the closing of the state hospital than the flag.

      2. SBS

        One of the AME ministers had some prayers for President Obama. I’m not sure of his name, but he was quoting from James Weldon Johnson’s “A Prayer.” I especially like the parts ‘pin his ear to the wisdom post’ and ‘turpentine his imagination’. Powerful imagery.

      3. Kathryn Fenner

        Look, we ALL here got that Roof’s actions facially were racism (plus overcompensating for some huge deficit in his soul). You are preaching to the choir. There are, however, folks walking/driving the streets here who cannot let go of their illusions. They are like Holocaust deniers. Most are powerless, and all they got is their “white pride”–which is sad. Some are powerful. That is shameful.

      4. Kathryn Fenner

        Sure, closing the State Hospital is far worse than the flag. However, the issue at hand is flag up/flag down. Let’s get it down. Let’s do lots of other good stuff, too. It isn’t an either/or thing.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author


          I’ll never be able to agree with people who say “I don’t want to get this good thing done because there’s something else I want to do.” Makes no sense. Go for both/and. Celebrate victories and then go try to have more victories.

  12. guest

    Everyone here seems to be missing the powerful symbolism of this action: a black woman – historically the most powerless class in the South – taking down the symbol of white southern manliness. What could possibly be more compelling, even moving, or have more meaning to a great many people? All anyone here seems to be interested in is the “politics” of it. Maybe that comes of spending too much time in Columbia.

    As for its effect on the flag debate, I suspect it will have little, if any – much less, in any event, than the push by major retailers to purge Confederate merchandise from their selections. It’s the latter more than anything that feeds into the pro-flag side’s notion that removing the flag is part of a campaign of “cultural genocide.”

    1. Kathryn Fenner

      I agree with Cindi Scoppe: the symbolism is that someone *not from here* came in and pulled a gratuitous, possibly damaging stunt. She also dings Ann Coulter for weighing in, fwiw.

      The reason the flag is most likely to come down is an appeal to the decency and courtesy of the legislators. An in-your-face action by a North Carolinian is far more likely to give any unwilling legislators cover.

      1. guesst

        The “not from here” complaint reminds me too much of the “outside agitators” charge lodged by earlier and less than admirable generations — whether it was directed at “Carpetbaggers,” “Yankees,” “the NAACP” or whomever.

        Plus, it smacks just a bit of white folks saying to black folks: y’all be quiet now while we take care of this.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          It really doesn’t matter what it “smacks of.” The political situation is what it is. This is an amazing, magical, unprecedented moment. We’ve never before had this kind of near-unanimity on the flag, and it’s something born of love and reconciliation, the very BEST motives for it to be happening.

          And it’s NOT the “white people” acting. We wouldn’t have enough votes to get it done without the black members of the General Assembly. This is a rare moment (rare because districts are drawn according to their racial content, which trains lawmakers to think racially) when black and white are in harmony. It is precious, and delicate.

          And we do NOT need outsiders going off half-cocked in acts of insulting defiance just to make themselves feel good. As a South Carolinian who has worked to get this flag down for decades, I really, really need other people to butt out until this is done, because I am completely dependent on this rare moment of harmony in the General Assembly to get the job done.

          It’s not really complicated. It just takes a little bit of time spent thinking about the realities of the situation — something that most people out of state reacting with their guts have not done…

        2. Bryan Caskey

          “Plus, it smacks just a bit of white folks saying to black folks: y’all be quiet now while we take care of this.”

          No, not really. No one is asking anyone to “be quiet”. I think the only thing people are doing (like Cindi is) is saying that people outside of South Carolina don’t really have “standing” to argue about this either way – but it’s not a racial thing, as is apparent from Cindi’s criticism of Ann Coulter on these grounds.

          Frankly, I was surprised to see so many people in favor of individual citizens taking the law into their own hands to mete out what they see to be as “justice”. I seem to remember a certain group of people who that did exactly that back in the 1950s and 60s, but I couldn’t tell exactly who they were — they all wore big white hoods.

          1. Doug Ross

            There was no “taking the law into their own hands”. This wasn’t a lynch mob, it was a symbolic act of civil disobedience. I doubt the person who took down the flag expected it to remain down.

            If only Rosa Parks had just sat down in the front of the bus and waited for the legislators to do their noble work…

        3. Kathryn Fenner

          If she had been a local black woman, it would not have been so damaging, but still pointless and counterproductive. As Brad says, the political situation is what it is. Are we trying to take the flag down permanently or provide a stage for community theater?

          1. Doug Ross

            If any legislator uses that stunt as an excuse to change his vote, he’s a gutless coward. The impact of that one event is meaningless. It happened. Instead of focusing on that, there should be laser focus on holding all legislators accountable. Get them on the record NOW.. find someone who will lead on this effort to make it about one thing – taking down the flag. No bartering one thing for another. No delays. No compromise. Take down the flag as soon as possible. If they want to play political games with where it ends up, do that later.

            1. Kathryn Fenner

              It may not be so obvious. A legislator may have been wavering, and then silently makes up his or her mind to oppose, perhaps not fully aware of why.

              1. Doug Ross

                There should be no silent “no” votes on this topic. Each legislator who votes “no” owes his constituents an explanation and a justification.

            2. Brad Warthen Post author

              Doug, he’s only a “gutless coward” if he really, really has always wanted the flag down but lacks the nerve to act. As opposed to not really caring, and unwilling before now to spend political capital on a hot-potato issue (which probably describes a larger number of people).

              But suppose you’re right. Suppose they ARE just cowards, ready to bolt at the first sign of opposition? So what? We still need their votes. So we need to do all we can to encourage them, and hope nobody yells “BANG!” and causes them to turn tail and run…

        4. Mark Stewart

          I think it is the duty of white South Carolinians to correct this which “they” foisted upon the State in its entirety. They are the swing vote here. It isn’t about taking credit – and there is nothing yet to take credit for anyway. This is about civic responsibility – to today and tomorrow.

          This is not about divisiveness in any way. As other’s are saying, it is about the polar opposite. This is about coming together to say we are in a different place than we all were (metaphorically) in 1961 and we want our government to reflect that transformation.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            Yes, it is. It’s on us.

            That’s always been a delicate thing. I’ve always had to be careful how I put that — while I criticize the NAACP’s boycott, I haven’t wanted to suggest it doesn’t matter how black folks feel, because of course it does, enormously.

            But this issue has always been about the need to get WHITE folks to do the right thing, which up until now they have been most unwilling to do. It’s white people’s fault, and white people’s responsibility, and it is within the hearts of white people that we needed a change to occur.

            The truly wonderful thing about this current situation, as horrible and tragic and heart-breaking as it is, is that black South Carolinians have managed to touch the hearts of their white neighbors, and engender a positive and even loving response.

            God help us that it took something so horrible to bring it about, but the grace and dignity with which victim’s families have dealt with this abomination has inspired a positive response in white lawmakers, who are not only poised to do the right thing, but — miracle of miracles — to do it for the right reasons…

        5. SBS

          Maybe it’s black folks saying to black folks — let cooler heads prevail until we know the bigger picture here. And surely there is one.

  13. guest

    A lot has been said, including here, about how South Carolinians are undergoing a growing process during this latest episode over the flag. Well, maybe one of the ways they can demonstrate their alleged new found maturity is by not reacting with the sort of angry hyperventilation they have exhibited in the past when confronted by “outside agitation.” Once you do that, then maybe you can sit back and congratulate yourselves. And I say this as a native South Carolinian with roots in the state that go back to at least 1787.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      What angry hyperventilation, M? I hope you’re not referring to this post that explains, carefully and methodically, why it’s not helpful. I think I’m being terribly, excruciatingly patient with people who might, on a whim, rush in and foul up an unprecedented opportunity to accomplish something I and many other South Carolinians have worked very hard to achieve for decades…

        1. Mark Stewart

          The flag was hoisted on the Statehouse in 1961 as an OVERT sign of institutional racism. I don’t know how the legislature of 2000 felt about the flag – heritage vs. racial hegemony-wise. That was a considerably more complicated time.

          Now, we are back to a more simplified state of being. We aren’t arguing the historical weight of the flag, only its symbolism as a banner on the State’s seat of political power.

          1. guest

            There is nothing “more simplified” about our current “state of being” on this matter. But there is a simplistic notion afoot in some circles that seems to think that issues relating to race and history have suddenly become simpler to handle. They haven’t.

            1. Kathryn Fenner

              Of course race is still as complicated as ever. POTUS gracefully said that on Friday. He’s right that it’s time to stop talking and act. It’s just that coming down from Charlotte with a cameraman (that’s apparently what her accomplice was for), is not the most effective way to act, and smacks far more of attention-grabbing than effective advocacy.
              Friday night, a local lawyer who represented Clementa Pinckney in a matter related to his legislative service, talked about how he and James Smith spent a long time persuading my senator to get on board with taking down the flag, including inadvertently misattributing a quote to Robert E Lee. That’s what’s going to change things—one on one discussions on terms the listener can understand. Not pointless stunts.

              1. Bryan Caskey

                …including inadvertently misattributing a quote to Robert E Lee.

                What was the quote?

              2. Kathryn Fenner

                Something about putting the flag away–turned out Wade Hampton said it, according to my friend. I try not to store such stuff in my crowded attic or a brain….

            2. Mark Stewart

              You are conflagrating apples and oranges.

              What is simple about this time is the widespread internalization that the flag on Statehouse grounds represents institutional racism.

              Plowing in history and individual racism – or even types of societal racism – into this one clear issue is the fallacy, not the simplicity of this situation.

              Not one person in this State believes that this lowering of the flag alone will create some Pax Carolina; but without the lowering nothing but Dylann Roof’s (as only an extreme example) can have the possibility of beginning; no, continuing into the future.

              This is about a civic decision to wipe the slate. It isn’t about a fresh start. It certainly isn’t about an end game. It is only an articulation that symbolism matters and the future can be different than the past.

              1. Mark Stewart

                I like imagery so couldn’t resist tossing the fruits into the flames.

                Conscious misuse of language – this time. My thoughts started with some more serious concepts, but I then felt fruits toned it down. In the bonfire. I know; its me.

              2. Kathryn Fenner

                Wait–burning fruit–do we have a threadjack to same sex marriage and the Reverend Graham, fils?

        2. guest

          Very good point — which I raised last week. But most folks here seemed to think of it as akin to a stick bomb thrown at a grand processional — the processional in this case being white self-congratulation at their sudden willingness to reconsider the flag display. What the cartoon you reference points up is something that lies unspoken beneath the current discussion over the flag.

          1. SBS

            It’s not white self-congratulation so much as citizens of this century welcoming those still living in the past — to the present. Century.

          2. Brad Warthen Post author

            Right. The cartoon points to the reason so many black lawmakers have served in the Legislature for years without trying to get the flag down.

            I fully understand why they might see themselves as having more relevant issues to address, just as I feel a particularly strong sense of mission to get the flag down because it’s something we white folks just have an obligation to do, because it’s a problem WE created.

            And here’s the thing — the GOP rose to prominence in SC by showing its indifference to the issues black voters really care about. The flag, which the GOP thoroughly embraced as it rose to power in 1994, was the symbol of that indifference.

            It doesn’t follow that because they get the flag down, they’ll suddenly start caring about what black citizens want — after all, thanks to race-based redistricting, they have next to no black voters in their districts.

            But lowering the flag is a precondition to caring about all those other issues. If they won’t get the flag down, you can GUARANTEE they’ll never care about those concerns.

            You may want to be cynical about this, or feel you have no choice, but note this: When he was alive, Clem Pinckney played a role in getting some of his white, conservative colleagues to care about the police body-camera issue. And out of respect for him, they’re taking the flag down. It’s not at all impossible that, going forward, they might be a little more open to other policy positions that Sen. Pinckney advocated.

            No, they’re not going to cease to be white Republicans. But “a little more open” is still progress toward reconciliation that affects other issues. Getting the flag down is a first step toward the possibility of their giving a damn about what black citizens want…

      1. guest

        The hyperventilation that you seem to believe is likely to erupt as a consequence of demonstrations like the one this past Saturday.

        It is plain foolishness to have assumed, even hoped, that nothing of this sort would happen. But a mature society does not let itself be throw off by such things — not if it thinks it’s doing the right thing.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Ah, but you see, that’s the delicate thing we’re dealing with here — an outbreak of maturity that we haven’t seen before. Since it is so rare — like a butterfly an entomologist has sought his whole life — I don’t want to spook it. I want to nurture it, see it thrive and reproduce…

          1. Bryan Caskey

            You’re breeding rare butterflies?

            That’s an even better analogy than my flirty nurse.

              1. Brad Warthen Post author

                You’re no doubt thinking of this scene. It involves the Confederate flag, and a bikini.

                There’s no nurse in it, but it definitely is “flirty,” maybe a shade or two beyond…

              2. Kathryn Fenner

                Her last credit on IMDB is 2002. A Simple Plan (1998) was, imho, her last notable film. She married composer Danny Elfman in 2003, and turned 40 in 2004, so….

              3. Brad Warthen Post author

                And I LOVED that movie — it was so unexpected: A Hollywood movie about a relatively esoteric part of South Carolina’s popular culture. And they pretty much got it right in terms of the way the Grand Strand was in the 50s and 60s.

                I also liked the way they named that one character “Buzz Ravenel.” I sort of thought maybe it was a deliberate attempt to invoke Pug, who would have been close to that age at that time… OK, about five years older, I guess…

    2. SBS

      Don’t kid yourself. Regimes are built on the backs of outside agitators, followers, and transplants who don’t know any better. When we look to the kindness of any regime for our well-being, rather than the law of the land, we are still in chains.

      Former sheriff Metts built a regime of preferential protection to some, no protection for others. He went down apparently on a technicality, but does the regime live on?

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        It’s not about relying on “the kindness of any regime for our well-being.” It’s about knowing that the regime has COMPLETE say over whether the flag flies, and therefore welcoming and encouraging any indication that it is finally willing to do the right thing.

        The flag flying IS “the law of the land,” and that’s what we’re trying to change. You and I can’t do it. And people from out of state DEFINITELY can’t do it. So we need to encourage those who can.

  14. Doug Ross

    And don’t discount the fact that the change in attitudes of white South Carolinians that we are seeing now has likely been influenced by the large number of transplants from other states who don’t recognize the “historical” significance of the flag. We may have just reached a tipping point where there are enough of us in the community to move the pendulum.

    This comes from someone who has lived in South Carolina for 25 years but still is not accepted by some locals because they don’t know if my great-great-grandpappy was on the “right” side.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Well, WAS he? Careful now, Yankee boy…

      This morning, I was thinking about a conversation I had with an uncle in Maryland back in 1996. My Dad and I had taken three of my kids up there to visit, and we were having dinner at my aunt and uncle’s house. Somehow, we got on the subject of the flag, and all I had written about it up to that point. Impatient with how intractable the problem seemed, my uncle suddenly burst out, “What’s the problem? We won the war, so take it down!”

      I was about to correct him, saying, “No, you mean we LOST the war, so take it down (a point I’ve made so many times myself — an honorable soldier who surrenders does not keep flying a battle flag)”… when I had to stop myself, and remember — Oh, he’s from a UNION state, so he has a different definition of “we”…

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        I wish I knew whether I had any ancestors who fought on the Union side (as opposed to my five great-great grandfathers who supported the Confederacy).

        If so, they’d likely be from the Warthen fourth of my family tree. The other three-fourths are all from South Carolina, but the Warthens hail from Maryland. That doesn’t make them obviously Union men, of course, since Maryland was a slave state.

        They may have missed it. My great-grandfather Warthen was born in 1861, and his father was 35 when the war broke out. And my grandfather Warthen’s maternal grandfather was 40 or 41 in 1861.

        So they might have missed it…

      2. Norm Ivey

        Both sides of my family are from North Carolina, and going back a little further, Virginia. The most recent immigrant we’ve identified arrived from Ireland in 1800 or something like that. I’m unaware of any slaveowners, and found only one ancestor who served in the Confederate army. He was at roll call one morning, but not that evening. Just disappeared for whatever reason.

        So I’m a bona-fide son of generations of Southerners. My parents took me to Arizona in 1968, and I moved to South Carolina in 1980, 35 years ago.

        I’m an outsider.

    2. Kathryn Fenner

      My parents are still from away and they moved here in 1953.
      They say it takes at least three generations. I guess I am “stateless”–born here but not sufficiently ancestored…

  15. Bob Amundson

    Us, them, outsiders; these are not terms of acceptance or collaboration. Teach tolerance and assume ability.

    1. Brad Warthen

      I’ve got a question that will no doubt reveal my ignorance, but here goes: How relevant is dogfighting ability today? How much call is there for that?

      Or perhaps I should ask what “dogfighting” means in 21st-century terms — planes that are miles apart, operating at the extreme ranges of their air-to-air missiles?

    2. Doug Ross

      Socialist/pacifist Bernie Sanders apparently can put those traits aside when it means bringing home F35 pork to his home state of Vermont. He’s one of those “well, if we’re going to waste tax dollars, they should be wasted in my state” hypocrites. I’m guessing he has a Lockheed Martin logo tattooed somewhere on his body to complement his “Keep On Truckin'” tattoo.

  16. Mark Stewart

    This plane is a classic example of the importance of sound strategic vision. The Marine Corps was allowed to let their particular need for a unicorn-like combination of what has long proven to be mutually exclusive things distort the plane planned to be the primary fighter aircraft across all three services.

    It does nothing well, because of the Marine Corps. No, not fair; because the Pentagon wouldn’t say no to the Marine Corps.

    I think in this case, the best thing to do is really to either I) cancel the entire program and eat the tens of billions of development costs, or II) build the Marine Corps version only for the U.S. and the navies that need them for non catapult equipped carriers. Then, either the navy and air force versions could be redesigned on a airframe freed of the nonsensical Marine Corps VTOL baggage, or those services could move on to something else.

    The worst thing would be to forge ahead; and that is what is most likely to happen if someone doesn’t come to their senses fast.

    1. Bryan Caskey

      I think the Marine Corps has been the biggest proponent of the F-35 because traditionally, the Marine Corps always gets the hand-me-down, used equipment from the other services, and this was going to be their first big chance to have something new.

      Unfortunately, this new aircraft is hopelessly compromised.

      I think you’re right about the program just forging ahead being the most likely scenario. Too many people in the top brass would have egg all over their faces if they just admitted this was a monumental disaster and started over. Now, that would be the right thing to do, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to happen.

      Washington will likely do what it typically does in response to disasters of it’s own creation: pretend there is no disaster so no one has to be demoted.

      And I’ll admit this: I’m no expert. I’ll also admit that dog-fighting skills probably aren’t everything. If you can hit enemy aircraft with missiles from miles away, no problem. However, eventually enemy aircraft are going to have more stealth technology and conventional radar guided missiles may not be as effective as they are now. If that’s the case, to achieve air superiority, you may have to get up close and shoot the enemy aircraft full of holes with a gun – the old fashioned way.

      The thing is, there has been nothing but one problem after another with the F-35. It seems like the only people who actually like this aircraft are the defense contractors who’ve been paid billions to develop it.

      I’d be interested to hear Burl’s take on the F-35 program. He’s our resident military aircraft expert.

      *Burl Burlingame, white courtesy phone, please.*

      1. Doug Ross

        The perfect storm of government: zero accountability, unlimited tax dollars, and politicians pimping themselves out to lobbyists. It happens on a daily basis at all levels of government.

        Is there any Democrat willing to take on the military/industrial complex? Is being 5% less hawkish than Lindsey Graham a reason to vote for Hillary?

        1. Phillip

          Doug, that is really depressing to learn that about Bernie Sanders and the F-35. James Fallows, in his recent brilliant article for the Atlantic “The Tragedy of the American Military” uses that very example to show the powerlessness of Americans, even the federal government, against the might of the military-industrial complex. As Fallows puts it, “It’s going to be somewhere, so why not here? As Vermont goes, so goes the nation.” The article is a must-read.

      2. Mark Stewart

        I didn’t know what to make of the agility compromises either until I read that the plane now can’t carry its intended missile load because they no longer fit in the bomb bay due to the changes to accommodate the VTOL space needs.

        Carrying its weapons load stealthily seems like a pretty big deal – so does carrying the missiles/bombs to accomplish the mission. Without either, what is this plane to do?

  17. Burl Burlingame

    My, we are wandering far afield here.

    The F-35? It’s what happens when Congress and contractors get together and decide what we need instead of consulting the folks who actually have to do the fighting.

    Dogfighting ability is still crucial, because the aircraft of potential enemy nations are born dog fighters, and kinking ability is needed to shake off drone and missile attacks.

    The F-35, though, is trying to be all things to all services, and as a result will succeed at none of them.

    Once we began to understand compressibility and the Coanda Effect, aircraft design hit its limits. Most of the planes we fly now were designed nearly half a century ago. All we can do is improve the bells and whistles — thrust, electronics, materials …

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Thanks for weighing in, Burl!

      I looked up the Coanda Effect, and the definition made me say to myself, “I thought that was the Bernoulli effect.” Which shows how little I know…

  18. Burl Burlingame

    Sorry, jinking ability.

    Also, who’s the enemy or potential enemy?

    I’m reminded of the U.S. Navy’s current ad campaign, which is something like “We’re the line of defense to protect YOU from THEM!” Them who?

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