When I was a kid, I watched the footage of the Berlin Wall being dismantled. I wasn’t old enough to have lived through the bulk of the Cold War, but I’d grown up in the shadow of the threat of nuclear annihilation; one of my favorite movies as a kid was War Games, a lighthearted romp about a young kid who hacks into NORAD’s computers and almost accidentally triggers total nuclear war. Another was Dr. Strangelove.
But I certainly knew enough that what I was watching at the time was history in the making. It was quite possibly the most significant global political moment in my young lifetime, and still one of the most important I’ve ever witnessed on live television (another would be the day the entire country watched Obama announce he had killed Osama bin Laden).
I felt that same way today, watching footage of the removal of the Confederate Flag of the Southern Secessionists, a mere 150 years after they lost the Civil War. There’s a lot of sentimental attachment to this flag, and frankly, if you want to fly it from your home, your pickup truck, you want to wear it as a bikini or paint it on the roof of your car, I don’t… well, I won’t say I don’t care. I personally despise everything the flag symbolizes, but I also wouldn’t want the police taking away your right, as a private citizen, to wave it, to worship it, to wear it, to take it home and make love to it even.
For all its faults, and all the mistakes its government makes, I believe the United States in America is one of the greatest experiments in a citizen-led republic in all of recorded history. I do believe that the Bill of Rights is one of the most noble documents ever forged, and that the beauty of the Constitution is that it’s strong enough to form an entire society, but flexible enough to change along with the times. That our Founding Fathers, for all their faults, were geniuses, and men of vision.
To remove the flag of the Confederacy is to acknowledge that this is the United States of America. It’s ironic that to this day you will hear “America: Love it or leave it,” from people who proudly wear the emblem of those who tried to leave it. I don’t know if I’d go so far as to say that this is the dawning of a new era; people are people. Stubborn, angry, prejudiced, flawed. And everything that i love about people is attached to the same things that make me hate them, too.
And to those who are upset that the flag was taken down by an honor guard; don’t be. Sure, it owuld have been nice to have it removed by the courthouse janitor in the middle of the night, but by giving it a proper military removal, we remove the power to make it a symbol of martyrdom.
My biggest regret is that i won’t live forever, so I won’t get to see the myriad ways in which history will play itself out over and over. But I’m always glad I get to see it being made.
Watch the full ceremony at C-SPAN.