Unity and finality on the flag

A large crowd gathers as the South Carolina Highway patrol removes the Confederate battle flag from the Statehouse grounds Friday, July 10, 2015, in Columbia, S.C. (Grace Beahm/Staff)

Some observers lament that people are increasingly indifferent to and ignorant about government. Well, they should have seen the 2,000 people at the S.C. Statehouse Friday as the Confederate flag was brought down.

The crowd knew just what was happening: A flag that symbolized slavery, segregation, hate and division to many South Carolinians was coming down. And their reaction was one of jubilation.

Republicans and Democrats, young and old, black and white, all celebrated a common goal — removing something that brought discord and heartache.

They cheered as a state patrolman cranked it down slowly and his fellow officers folded it ceremoniously to be exhibited as part of the Confederate Relic Room at the State Museum.

The decision to remove the flag didn’t come quickly or easily. A Confederate flag had flown at the Statehouse since 1962, and state legislators have been sharply divided over whether it should stay or go for years.

Many said it symbolized their ancestors’ sacrifice and courage, not slavery or hate. They insisted their constituents wanted the flag to stay.

Seeing Friday’s crowd should provide those legislators some solace. Clearly there is a broad sentiment for its removal.

People and organizations, churches and neighbors have pledged to put their newly rejuvenated desire for a united community to work. That should provide encouragement to all of us.

Descendants of Civil War soldiers will continue to honor their ancestors’ bravery and grit. And this symbol of their story won’t be forgotten — just moved to a more appropriate place.

Conversations will surely continue about related issues, like whether Tillman Hall at Clemson University should retain its name. Those discussions should be civil and respectful. Now that we have seen a renewed pride in our community and our state, we know those discussions can be just that.

The tragic murder of nine members of Emanuel AME Church broke our hearts. The astounding grace shown by the victims’ families changed many hearts and minds.

Now that the flag is down, let the state’s renewed sense of unity prevail.