The Central Virginian

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Fighting yesterday’s battles

Posted on Thursday, July 24, 2014 at 9:00 am

We have a nation of rich American history—from the time that early settlers came to the new world, to when the west was won, to our Civil War, to the Great Depression, to the Civil Rights Movement, to putting a man on the moon and the list goes on. Everything that happened, good, bad, or indifferent, has shaped us into what we are today–a nation of strong, intelligent individuals, capable of doing great things.

I don’t have to be the one to tell you that we have made our share of mistakes in the past, but I’d like to think that from those mistakes we gained knowledge and walked away with a better understanding of what we shoulda, coulda, woulda done for future endeavors.

I recently learned about the incident of the flag removal at Washington and Lee University this week, and like Mrs. Luck, it perplexes me why after at least three years of attending the school, the representation and/or display of a Confederate flag became an issue to a few students. Why would that flag be an issue in the first place? It signifies history. Granted, one can argue that the American Civil War is a “black eye” of our past, but history nonetheless. That flag represented the Southern states that tried to secede the Union, a treasonous offense in itself. But, they had issues with the federal government they felt could not be settled in any other way.

The students that oppose the flag’s presence feel it represents oppression and is offensive to them. I’m glad they oppose slavery, so do I, but history can’t be rewritten for an injustice that happened more than 150 years ago. Nor should today’s society be blamed for what happed then. Again, we are learning from our past to better our future.

Let me remind any of you who believe that the war was based on slavery—it was not. Open your history books and read, or watch a few PBS shows on the American Civil War. In a nutshell, it started over states’ rights.

I’m not throwing off my Southern lineage, or making light of it. I have traced my family tree back to Alfred Witt, who was a drum major, and was captured very early after his enlistment. He spent time in a prisoner camp in Illinois. My ancestors were far from being wealthy land owners, and from everything I have found so far, were not slave owners. I am proud that they found the courage to make a very difficult decision and stand up for what they believed was right at that moment in time, under a set of circumstances that we can’t fully understand today.

According to Washington and Lee University  President Kenneth Ruscio, an original Confederate flag, not the replica flags that were removed, will be displayed in the chapel with information explaining the display, in keeping with the university’s mission of education. This may not be the solution that everyone wanted, but it is an opportunity to heal.

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By Paula D. Parrish