A foreigner’s perspective on the confederate flag

I tried to avoid commenting on the Confederate flag, simply because I thought the issue lacks any serious substance, weight or magnitude. However, given the nationwide hysteria that we now observe on the daily news, it’s impossible for me to stay silent on the matter.

As a non-U.S. citizen (hopefully not for too much longer), my position on the Confederate flag will probably upset both my conservative and liberal friends.

One of my favorite authors, Anne Applebaum, in her Pulitzer Prize winning book Gulag: A History, observes tourists buying Soviet paraphernalia in Prague:

“The sight struck me as odd. Most of the people buying the Soviet paraphernalia were Americans and West Europeans. All would be sickened by the thought of wearing a swastika. None objected, however, to wearing the hammer and sickle on a T-shirt or a hat. It was a minor observation, but sometimes, it is through just such minor observations that a cultural mood is best observed. For here, the lesson could not have been clearer: while the symbol of one mass murder fills us with horror, the symbol of another mass murder makes us laugh.”

Although Applebaum makes an astute point, she misses one slight detail that opens the door to a slightly different observation.
Many Russians, the very victims of a mass murdering regime, also possess Soviet paraphernalia. Why? Because of history. The Soviet flag and the hammer and sickle represent a culture, heritage and history that many Russians value mass murder and genocide.

Even I personally own a Soviet hat and a Soviet t-shirt (however, I wear them only to enjoy the most extreme of ironies).
Nevertheless, while owning an object, symbol or flag that represents a historical heritage is one thing, flying that symbol over an official legislative chamber is quite another.

I simply don’t comprehend my fellow conservatives’ obsession with this historical symbol. It sickens me to see the Soviet symbols (as historical as they can be) still engraved above Russian cultural landmarks. I would further be outraged to see a Russian city fly a Soviet flag over its legislative chamber, no matter what historical arguments in favor of it would be made.
The only flag that should be flying above any government building in the U.S. is the American flag, or the flag of the state where the chamber is located. After all, those are the political entities that the chambers represent in the first place.
However, what is even more infuriating is how the left blames the flag for the church massacre several weeks ago. I am sure that even if the flag was removed from the state legislature long before the birth of the gunman, the murder would have still taken place.

Symbols in their essence are powerless and only carry various meanings in the various minds that gaze upon them. The Confederate flag doesn’t create or inspire hate”“on the contrary, those who are already plagued with hatred, racism and contempt associate themselves with the flag as a matter of ideological symbolism. And if it’s not the Confederate flag, then it’s usually the Swastika (which, ironically enough, was the symbol of peace in numerous cultures prior to Nazism), the hammer and sickle or another symbol that is found appealing or convenient.

The ideology always comes first, the symbol and design always come second, and they are merely the cover art for a book of pre-existing hatred that may have nothing to do with the original meaning of the symbol.

Never judge a book by its cover, and never judge a person by their flag.

Nikita Chirkov is a senior political science major.