Confederate flags-Honoring the dead or racist symbol

The Missouri State Park Board bill made it to committee this week and drew opposition from a national association.

Clyde Williams, a representative from the NAACP, showed up at the House corrections and public institutions committee meeting to oppose HB 495.

“This bill is an attempt to have the Confederate Flag be displayed on state property,” Williams said. “For the past two years, Missouri has been in the national spotlight in the month of June as the state flying the Confederate flag.”

Williams continued by saying the Civil War might have settled some scores more than 150 years ago, but some wounds still fester.

“We should be rallying around symbols that tie us together and not tear us apart,” Williams said. “The rebel flag represented hatred, oppression and the Confederacy, which was an enemy of the United States.”

But Rep. Michael McGhee (R-Lafayette) said this bill is more than just an excuse to raise the rebel flag.

The bill will establish the Missouri State Park Board, an eight-member board responsible for managing all aspects of the historical marker program.

One of which is in McGhee’s district. The Confederate park in Higginsville was home to injured Confederate soldiers for nearly 60 years. Now all that is left is the chapel, the hospital and the cemetery.

This is where the problem that Williams was talking about comes into play.

McGhee wants the State Park Board, once it is established, to return the Confederate flag to the cemetery.

“They may decide to put it up and they may decide not to but that would be up to those people on the board to decide,” McGhee said. “Since the Civil War has been over, soldiers never flew the Confederate flag. Not in front of the hospital, not in front of the chapel, and not in front of any of the Confederate soldiers homes. The stars and stripes flew there. The only place the Confederate flag flew was over the cemetery of the soldiers that died for that cause.”

In 2002, then-Gov. Bob Holden took down the flag. But McGhee believes the flag should be put up in memorial for the soldiers who died for it.

“If you go to New England, where the British who fought in the Revolutionary War are buried on U.S. soil, there are British flags flying over them. If you go to Texas, where Mexican soldiers from the Mexican-American war are buried on U.S. soil, there are Mexican flags flying over their graves,” McGhee said. “Our soldiers buried in France have the stars and stripes flying over their graves. Those are the flags that those soldiers fought and died for. The same as the Confederate flag is the flag these soldiers died for.”

McGhee said since the Confederate park was started in the 1800s it housed Confederate soldiers in homes next to the graveyard, but as the soldiers died the homes were torn down because it was clear the site was not a veteran’s home, it was a Confederate home.

“Before I got elected I didn’t know there was a Confederate cemetery in my district at all,” McGhee said. “Then 10,528 people signed a petition asking to have the Confederate flag put back up over the soldiers that died carrying it.”

Because of the racial controversy surrounding the flag, McGhee said he spent a Saturday at the Wal-Mart in Higginsville asking African-Americans if they believed the flag should be displayed at the cemetery. He said he talked to 28 individuals and each one agreed they did not like the Confederate flag, but they had no problem with it flying over the cemetery.

Williams ended his testimony with a statement that could be used for either side.

“The past is what it is,” he said. “And ugly as that may be, it cannot be changed by denial.”