$5.3 million for Confederate flag? An outrage on every level


Artist’s conception of the shrine to a nylon fake. Another reason to oppose the proposal: Apparently, people who view it turn into shadows of themselves…

Sorry not to have gotten to this one sooner.

It’s been proposed — not by any elected official, thank God, but by a private consultant — that $5.3 million be spent to display the fake Confederate flag that flew on the north lawn of the State House until the wonderful moment back in the summer when we removed it.

Let’s examine a few of the ways in which this is an appalling, outrageous idea:

  • The waste of money. Our state has so many unmet, actual needs. On that basis alone, this would be a sinful waste. We have many millions worth of infrastructure needs after October’s floods. This amount would at least allow us to fix a dam or a bridge or two. The State reported today that it would cost $55 million to fix 32 structurally deficient bridges damaged in the flooding. So rather than waste the money on this flag absurdity, we could fix three bridges. Meanwhile, DSS needs $32 million to hire 157 more people to protect children. With $5.3 million, we could hire 26 of them. And so forth, all through the litany of real needs in South Carolina.
  • This flag in no way represents the men who served in the Confederate army. It is a cheesy fake made of nylon. NYLON! It never went into battle with a soldier in the service of any cause, good or bad. No Confederate soldier ever even beheld such a thing — their flags were made of heavy cotton. An authentic flag that flew on the State House grounds was replaced with this tacky fake at the behest of then-Sen. Glenn McConnell, who wanted a flag that didn’t fade in the sun and rain — and which, incidentally, would flap in the breeze much more readily than an authentic one, being lighter. So basically, what this flag represents is the reprehensible motivation that one portion of our state’s population had to rub its dominance into the faces of another portion of our state’s population. As I wrote in The State back during the summer: It was “a way white South Carolinians — some of us, anyway — have had of saying that, despite Appomattox and the civil rights movement: We can do this. We don’t care about you or how you feel about it. It was a way of telling the world whose state this is.”
  • The lion’s share of the cost of this proposal would be to expand the Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum by a third, onto the second story of the building in which it is situated. So… we’d be saying that this nylon, fake battle flag is worth a third of all of the real sacrifices made by real soldiers throughout our history, starting with the Revolutionary War. How gross can you get?
  • The $5.3 million price tag apparently doesn’t even include the $416,000 in rent that would have to be paid each year for the new, additional space.

I could go on, but I’ll end my litany there, and let y’all add any other outrages that occur to you.Patrick Henry Bradley

I’ll close with a personal anecdote and a proposal. It relates to one of my great-great-grandfathers, Patrick Henry Bradley, for which the tiny community of Bradley, S.C., is named.

In family lore he is known as “General Bradley,” because he was elected to that rank (brigadier, I think) in the South Carolina Militia. But in the Civil War, he served as a captain. And he obtained that rank by raising his own company from the countryside around his home.

He left behind his unit’s battle flag, which eventually came into the possession of my grandmother, his granddaughter. Long ago, she donated the flag to the Relic Room. Much later, in the 1980s, she went to the Relic Room hoping to view it. It wasn’t on display, which is not surprising — the museum has lots of relics that are in storage. That wasn’t the bad part, although it did disappoint my grandmother.

The bad part was that they couldn’t find the flag.

Museum director Allen Roberson — a good guy I happen to know from Rotary, whom I do not blame for this travesty unless I see evidence to the contrary — said that part of this ridiculous addition would be devoted to some authentic “garrison flags that have never been seen.” Who knows? Maybe my ancestor’s is among them.

Here’s my proposal: Take one of those flags and put it into a nice, plain wooden display case with a glass front, and find a corner of the existing museum space to place it in. Budget no more than $100 for this project, and I’ll raise the money from private sources.

Then you can take that embarrassing nylon thing, which is already conveniently folded up in a tight triangle, and put it where my ancestor’s real flag was.

Any heritage advocate who has a problem with that is lying about what motivates him.

But wait — the reports I’m seeing say that the bill that removed the flag required that it be “displayed.” OK, fine — put that in the $100 box, if there’s no way around the provision.

And then, let’s move on.




10 thoughts on “$5.3 million for Confederate flag? An outrage on every level

  1. Karen Pearson

    This proposal is so absurd, such a waste of money, and so insulting on so many levels that it’s bound to be approved by the sc legislature.

  2. Bryan Caskey

    Yeah, this seems really dumb even if you take the money out of the equation.

    The flag is a replica. It probably has a tag on it that says “Made in Vietnam” or something. It’s not historical. It’s a replica of something that was historical. Putting it in a “relic room” is kind of insulting to the…you know…actual relics in the room.

    I wouldn’t even bother displaying it. You want actual history? Okay, go visit some battlefields. Pick up a book. Go to a good museum.

    Wouldn’t get too worked up over it, though. This is too dumb to actually happen….right?

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I’m afraid it’s not beyond belief that it would happen. Although I AM encouraged that Rep. Chris Corley, R-Aiken, said, “That is irresponsible when we have so much flood damage and we so have many crumbling roads.”

      The reason THAT’s encouraging is that Corley is the guy about whom this was recently written:

      Just because Chris Corley lost the battle to keep the Confederate flag flying at the S.C. State House does not mean the freshman Republican legislator from Aiken is giving up the war.

      Corley perhaps is best known for suggesting the state replace the Confederate flag with a white flag of surrender during the lengthy flag debate this summer.

      Last week, however, he introduced a bill that would let voters decide whether to restore the Civil War banner to the State House’s north lawn. He also sent out Christmas cards — featuring a photo of the Confederate flag at the State House — admonishing his colleagues for banishing it.

      “May your Christmas be filled with memories of a happier time when South Carolina’s leaders possessed morals, convictions and the principles to stand for what is right,” the card read. It finishes with: “May you have a blessed Christmas, and may you take this joyous time as an opportunity to ask for forgiveness of all your sins such as betrayal.”…

      Yeah. That guy.

      But before we break out the party streamers, note that his objection is just about the amount.

      A more realistic outcome, I think, is that everyone will agree that $5.3 million is too much, and they’ll pare it down to something far less but still far too much, and still make a ridiculous huge deal over this fake flag that, as you say, is an insult to the real military relics at the museum…

  3. Marilyn Hemingway

    This is South Carolina so no, it is not to dumb to actually happen. Yes, I agree with Brad Warthen.

  4. Mark Stewart

    This is a perfect opportunity for conceptual art.

    Place a small trash can near the museum exit. Toss this flag in, with just a corner hanging out over the can edge. Put a plaque on the wall off to the side memorializing the day the flag was removed from the Statehouse after flying on its grounds from 1961 – 2015.

    And let them move on.

  5. Brad Warthen Post author

    Oops! You can tell I’m a Navy brat. I initially wrote that my ancestor “was elected to flag rank in the South Carolina Militia.”

    Obviously, “flag rank” is a Navy term, referring to admirals. I meant that he was elected to be a general officer…

  6. Bill

    Unfaithful servant, I hear you’re leavin’ soon in the mornin’
    What did you do to the lady, that she’s gonna have to send you away?
    Unfaithful servant, you don’t have to say you’re sorry,
    If you done it just for the spite, or did you do it just for the glory?
    Like a stranger you turned your back,
    Left your keep and gone to pack
    But bear in mind who’s to blame for all the shame
    She really cared
    The time she spared
    And the home you shared

    Unfaithful servant, I can hear the whistle blowin’,
    Yes, that train is a-comin’ and soon you’ll be a-goin’
    Need us not bow our heads, for we won’t be complainin’
    Life has been good to us all, even when that sky is rainin’
    To take it like a grain of salt,
    Is all I can do and it’s no one’s fault
    It makes no diff’rence if we fade away
    It’s just as it was
    And it’s much to cold for me to stay

    Goodbye to that country home, so long, lady I have known,
    Farewell to my other side, I’d best just take it in stride
    Unfaithful servant, you’ll learn to find your place
    I can see it in your smile, and, yes, I can see it in your face
    The mem’ries will linger on,
    But the good old days, they’re all gone
    Oh, lonesome servant, can’t you see,
    We’re still one and the same
    Just you and me

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