Now it’s McConnell HIMSELF saying ‘remove the… flag’

Yesterday, Glenn McConnell chose to be the messenger for the College of Charleston’s board of trustees’ call for the flag to come down, rather than delegating it to a flack.

Today, it’s McConnell saying it himself.

This just in:

Statement from College of Charleston President Glenn McConnell:

I served with Senator Clementa Pinckney in the South Carolina Senate since he joined that body in 2001. He was a friend of mine and many other senators. His big smile lifted our spirits and his powerfully mellow voice conveyed great intelligence as well as a kind and loving heart.

During this period of grief, before Reverend Pinckney and the eight other Christian martyrs killed by a hateful terrorist have yet to be buried, I had hoped to avoid commenting on political issues. However, the rising tide of emotion over Governor Nikki Haley’s call to remove the Confederate soldier’s flag from State House grounds and numerous requests for me to comment have made a respectful period of silence on political issues impossible.

So here is where I stand: About 15 years ago, when I was a state senator, my colleagues and I forged a bipartisan and biracial compromise. We removed the Confederate soldier’s flag from atop the State House dome and relocated it behind the Confederate soldier’s monument, a place of historic – not political – context. We also erected an impressive monument celebrating the many African American contributions throughout our state’s history. And we passed the Heritage Act, to protect both Civil War and Civil Rights monuments, street names and building names all across the state. Our plan was designed to end acrimony and move our state forward with a spirit of good will and mutual respect. As imperfect as all compromises are, it lasted for 15 years.

Today is a different time. In the aftermath of the horrific tragedy that spilled the blood of nine souls within the hallowed halls of Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church, the time has come to revisit the issue of the Confederate soldier’s flag, which a number of our citizens regard as offensive.

Many other citizens regard the old soldier’s banner as a fitting memorial to the Confederate dead. However, on State House grounds, we should seek to respect the views of all citizens as best we reasonably can.

Therefore, I support Governor Haley’s call to remove the Confederate soldier’s flag from State House grounds as a visible statement of courtesy and good will to all those who may be offended by it. At the same time, I also urge all public officials and activists who are focusing on this issue to come together, the way the good people of Charleston joined hands following the terrible tragedy we suffered, and agree not to transfer the fight to other physical vestiges and memorials of our state’s past. In a spirit of good will and mutual respect, let us all agree that the monuments, cemeteries, historic street and building names shall be preserved and protected. How sad it would be to end one controversy only to trigger a thousand more.

The people of South Carolina are entitled to their complete history, the parts that give us pride as well as sadness. We learn from our past and we grow from exploring our shared history.

If we all insist on it, this experience can mark the beginning of a new era. Let us all pledge to respect each other and stand together in firm opposition to any efforts to sanitize, rewrite or bulldoze our history.

Here in South Carolina, there has never been a time when our nation’s motto was more needed than it is today: e pluribus unum: “out of many, one.” If those of us alive today can find a way to understand and respect and forgive each other, only then can we truly pay honor to the martyrs who were slain last week while they prayed together in a house of worship.

Wow. Sure, it’s full of words expressing McConnell’s own obsession with things Confederate, but that only underlines the fact that for him to say “remove the flag” is the most miraculous thing we’ve seen this week.

4 thoughts on “Now it’s McConnell HIMSELF saying ‘remove the… flag’

  1. Karen Pearson

    I am glad to see that he has come out for taking the flag down. I can understand honoring confederate war dead (The soldier statue can stand as far as I’m concerned). My main concern would be for Tilman and others of his ilk. He is not Confederate war dead, and his legacy is so tainted with racism that it’s disgraceful. If we leave buildings/statues memorializing him or people like him, we also need plaques that tell the whole truth. Otherwise we are not honestly relating our “complete history.”

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  2. Lynn Teague

    There is a very good reason not to move the focus from one monument to another. That would distract from other things we need to talk about. Our inequitable school funding mechanisms are one good example. Access to health care is another. Getting the flag moved is very important, but it should be the first step toward substantive change.

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  3. Doug Ross

    “As imperfect as all compromises are, it lasted for 15 years.”

    Yeah, it’s better to ride on a flat tire for 15 miles than to stop and fix it.

    Political compromise rarely ends up with the right solution. It usually ends up with multiple bad solutions that are traded for each other.

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  4. Mark Stewart

    Doug doesn’t get that politics is the process of compromise. I am heartened to see that Glenn McConnell is able to see that a compromise for one period of time is not right to perpetuate.

    It is time for a change. Not because some people find the Confederate flag (of any of its many designs with the crossed stars) to be offensive. I don’t think many people object to its historical significance as banners under which a great many men fought, died and were ultimately defeated. Flags are symbols, and this is a flag that has borne much suffering. Did McConnell really miss the distinction that what people object to about this flag is its reuse as a symbol of resistance to civil rights for all citizens? The flag was raised on the Statehouse in 1961, not as a memorial but as a present day warning. The flag flies at the Statehouse not as a memorial to the suffering of the Civil War, but as a reaffirmation of Jim Crow’s rebellious refusal to accept all citizens as equal. That is not an honorable legacy worthy of either rememberance or of perpetuation.

    I believe it is time that the Confederate flag be stripped of its social baggage and be returned to what McConnell called it – a soldier’s flag.

    That’s why I do not see, and have not seen, any interest in removing the memory of the civil war from our State. The South fought for a cause, lost, and was reassimilated into a once again United States of America. Whether we believe their cause right or wrong, we do know they paid a terrible price for it. If anything, it would be more just to add rememberances to the stories of this State’s people from that time; since not all have been memorialized perhaps as they should be.

    What should remain on the table for removal/renaming is the loathsome memorializing of brutal segregation beginning with the Red Shirts of 1876. Ben Tillman would be at the top of that list.

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