Northern Virginia battle flag not one of the Confederacy but of white supremacy

To the Editor:

If Lane Stannard is a homeowner at 20, that’s impressive, and with respect to free speech he’s unquestionably on strong ground [“Town board not keen on request to denounce Confederate flag,” The Altamont Enterprise, Sept. 29, 2020].

That said, one would think the American flag or New York flag (with its figures of Liberty and Justice!) would serve as better celebrations of free speech, given that it’s a right enshrined in the American and New York constitutions.

There are flags that reproduce the Constitution itself, for that matter. Of course, if I lived in Medusa, especially with this being October, an obvious image comes to mind!

Certainly, the First Amendment extends pretty far — not to “being able to do whatever,” since shouting fire in a theater isn’t covered, and there’s plenty of things that aren’t considered acts of free speech, like speeding, vandalism, and worse. Of course, when one does have an extensive free speech right, celebrating that with just “whatever” rather than a religious, political, or personal value seems a careless waste.

If Lane Stannard is a descendant of John P. Stannard and Anna Warner (see The Altamont Enterprise of June 14, 1901), he’s descended from Ambrose Stannard (1811-1897) of Massachusetts and John N. Warner (1823-1905) of Berne, if I’m not mistaken.

Whether either man or family members volunteered or were drafted for the Civil War, I couldn’t say (it does look as though they may have had Revolutionary ancestors), but there’s little doubt as to what they would have done had they seen any version of the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia being marched onto their land. I’m sure they were patriots.

The rectangular version of that one square battle flag was not one of the Confederacy at all, but associated with 20th-Century white supremacist “Lost Cause” propagandists, segregationist Dixicrats, and the Klan (see Cracked’s humorous “Everything You Know About the Confederate Flag is Wrong” or PBS’s “The Complicated History Of The Confederate Flag.”)

A flag of slavery, segregation, and racial terrorism seems rather at odds with the stated Constitutional values of a more perfect Union, justice, domestic tranquility, general welfare, liberty, the progress of science and useful arts, the 13th and 14th Amendments, etc.

Not everyone knows that flag’s history, granted, but maybe it’s about time United States history classes made it clear if they’re failing to do so.

Christopher K. Philippo


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