As controversies go, this one is sort of like a flag on a windless day.
That is, pretty limp until the hot air starts blowing.
The Fort Sumter Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans has put up a flagpole on Castle Pinckney, the oft-neglected fort that sits on a spit of land about a mile off the peninsula. And they plan to start flying flags.
Yes, some will be Confederate.
But not that Confederate flag.
Philip Middleton, commander of the Fort Sumter Camp says the controversial battle flag — actually the Naval Jack — will not be flown.
“We're not going to put anything up that's going to be a stick in anybody's eye,” Middleton told The Post and Courier's Robert Behre.
Take him at his word. Over the years, some groups have used the Confederate battle flag to promote some ugly political causes — but the Sons of Confederate Veterans are not among them.
History isn't simple
A couple of weeks ago, the Sons of Confederate Veterans put on their annual Battle of Secessionville re-enactment.
School kids visited Boone Hall to hear about the 1862 battle, but they also learned about slavery and the 54th Massachusetts — the black Union regiment that fought in the battle of Morris Island.
The SCV wants to teach history, not whitewash it.
Yes, South Carolina seceded from the Union and blamed federal limitations on slavery. But that was in the fine print. It was sold to all those men who fought for the South in a very different manner. Just as politicians do today, they wrapped war in the shroud of patriotism. To all those men who fought for the South — very few actually owned another human being — this was a fight for states' rights, to defend their homeland.
It's an important distinction, and one that comes only from actually learning history.
It's in the context
When this state went through its fight about the Confederate battle flag atop the state capitol dome, the argument was that it wasn't historically accurate anyway — not to mention the impression it made.
That was fair. Critics have reason to be wary. The Ku Klux Klan did use the battle flag. But to be fair, those goons also carried the U.S. flag.
Randy Burbage, past S.C. division commander of the SCV, says the group's critics used to ask only that flags be displayed in “historical context,” but now it seems any mention of the Confederacy is fair game.
Truth is, the three national flags of the Confederacy, as well as the South Carolina flag and the secession flag, flew over Castle Pinckney between 1860 and 1865.
“How much more historical context do you want?” Burbage asks.
Fair question. Fort Sumter has flown Confederate flags because it's historically accurate. So is this.
The best thing to do here is keep an open mind and learn history.
Which is all the Sons of Confederate Veterans want.
Reach Brian Hicks at firstname.lastname@example.org or read his blog at blog.postandcourier.com/brians-blog