Lawyer Steals Confederate Flags From Cemetery

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An Alabama attorney who removed Confederate flags from a Bullock County cemetery has inspired both support and outrage from the community over his actions. Myron Penn, a partner at Penn & Seaborn in Union Springs, says he took the flags to promote unity and inclusiveness in his hometown.

“The reason why we picked them up is because the image of the flags in our community, a lot of people feel that they’re a symbol of divisiveness and oppression of many people in our community,” Penn said. “Especially with the history that that flag and the connotation and negativism that it brings. I would think that no one in our community would have a problem with this or with my actions at all.”

About that, at least, Penn was mistaken. Confederate groups have threatened to file a lawsuit and social media has erupted with opinions on both sides of the issue. Some believe Penn was right to remove the flags, seeing them as a celebration of Alabama’s slavery past. Others believe that Confederate veterans deserve the same respect as Union soldiers and that Penn had no business sticking his nose where it didn’t belong.

“It’s about decency and respect for the dead. You don’t do stuff like that,” Rebecca Atkins told Fox News. “It’s nothing racial and it’s not about discrimination.”

Penn stands by his actions.

“I did this not just for my child,” he said, “but for all the children and all the parents who would want to do the same kind of thing to make sure that they do not grow up in a community that does not appear to be divided.”

Whether or not Penn broke the law remains a matter for local authorities to figure out, but his actions speak to the way modern Americans view the Confederacy. To be sure, there are those who fly the rebel flag, even today, in the name of white supremacy and racism. But they are in the minority and we should not allow the South, the Civil War, or the legacies of fallen soldiers to be defined by them.

Sadly, the myths surrounding the South have permeated today’s culture to such a degree that one risks appearing racist when offering a defense. That’s a shame, because we do not grow as a society when we view history through such a simple lens. The South was not “bad.” The North was not “good.” The Civil War was not a Hollywood action movie with clearly defined heroes and villains, and we do a disservice to ourselves when we let these fairy tale notions of good and evil take root.

Many Southerners, black and white, trace their ancestry back to Confederate soldiers. These proud Americans deserve to celebrate their heritage without being accused of fostering racial division. As heinous as slavery was, the things Southern states fought against – namely, the increasing power of a centralized federal government – remain relevant today. The flag they flew does not deserve to be tossed onto the trash heap of history with the Nazi Swastika.

Should those who choose to commemorate their ancestors with the Confederate Flag be cognizant of the hurt feelings that symbol generates among African-Americans? Surely. But people like Penn should be equally aware that the flag is not a symbol of support for slavery. It memorializes a dark chapter in this nation’s history; a chapter we risk repeating if we choose to forget its lessons.