GOP signs displayed with confederate flag is inappropriate

To the Editor:

It is election season and signs are everywhere in Berne. That is something to be celebrated as it indicates excitement about voting, which is our sacred duty as Americans.

However, the selection of a lawn, in the hamlet of Berne, that prominently displays a Confederate flag as an appropriate place to place signs for some candidates running on the Republican slate is disturbing at best. I first noticed these signs during the primary and decided to overlook them, hoping that it was just an oversight.Some of these people are my neighbors and people who I like personally. However, when the signs supporting Randy Bashwinger, Mary Alice Molgard, and Rick Otto reappeared on the same lawn during this general election, it became obvious that this was intentional and that the candidates approved of this placement.

There are plenty of lawns in Berne. Why would you choose to have your name associated with a hateful symbol?

Now some will argue that because the flag says “Heritage, not hate” it does not convey the same message as a regular Confederate flag. This, of course, is nonsense!

The message of the Confederacy was hate — both of people of a different race and also of the United States as an entity. And while I could understand the heritage argument a little more if we lived in Mississippi, this flag does not represent the heritage of Berne.

In fact, it is an insult to all those brave young men from the Hilltowns who answered the call in the 1860s to preserve the union and eliminate the institution of slavery. They would be appalled to see candidates for office connected to the flag they hated.

I am very proud of having ancestors that both fought in the Revolutionary War against England for our freedom and in the Civil War to help keep our country together and to make sure our freedoms were open to all.

My father enlisted in the army in World War II to fight the tyranny of Germany and Japan. On his way to the Pacific, the ship ahead of him was torpedoed by the Japanese. I take seriously the sacrifices people make for their country.

As a lifelong Republican, he, I can assure you, would have been shocked to see a Confederate flag displayed and even more shocked to see his party’s candidates’ signs on the same lawn, lending legitimacy to a symbol that is unpatriotic and divisive.

So what are we to make of this? I am hoping that none of the candidates actually support the Confederate flag. If they didn’t, it would have been simple to politely say to the landowner who offered to take the signs, “Thank you for your offer, but I cannot allow my name to be associated with what that flag symbolizes.”

Why wasn’t that done? That wouldn’t seem to take that much political courage. It’s inappropriate for anyone running for office to be associated with that symbol, but particularly disturbing when both the candidates for town justice on the Republican slate have signs there.

The appearance of impartiality is especially important in that position. At best, it is a serious lapse of judgment. I would expect better of candidates for public office.

I have had the privilege of living in Berne for over 30 years. For over 23 years, I worked at Berne-Knox-Westerlo to help people who had dropped out of school get their high school equivalency degrees. I worked for nearly 20 years to help those at risk of dropping out to stay in school, and have volunteered at dozens of community organizations over the years.

I can say with assurance that the vast majority of residents of Berne, regardless of political party, are wonderful people of integrity, compassion, and fairness. I hope that they make election decisions that reflect the decency they deserve.

Susan Hawkes-Teeter


Editor’s note: See related story.

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