Misplaced priorities, misplaced outrage

This rendering made available by Haley Sharpe Design, shows the approved display design where the confederate flag that was removed from the South Carolina statehouse in the summer of 2015 will be shown. The commission that runs the Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum approved the design Thursday, Dec. 3, 2015, that would feature the flag in a glass case surrounded by displays that scroll the names of the 22,000 South Carolinians killed in the Civil War. (Haley Sharpe Design via AP)

This is what’s wrong with state government in one sentence:

The Legislature refuses to follow a state Supreme Court order to come up with a plan to fund education adequately in the next six months, but imposes a six-month deadline for plans to display a Confederate flag.

And not even a real one.

That’s it in a nutshell.

For 22 years, the state has let impoverished school districts fail. One lost court battle after another has shown that. Lawmakers know there is a problem and, admittedly, the fixes aren’t easy. Still, the state won’t even pretend it’s trying to make the situation right when timely manners are measured in decades.

But for goodness sake, we have to get that authentic reproduction battle flag on display — pronto.

This is not a screed against the Confederacy. Our Civil War history is important to remember. It is instructive. And if the state wants to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars preserving that history, here’s an idea:

Send some of that security money to The Confederate Museum on the Market, where the Daughters of the Confederacy have the actual, original seven-star banner that flew over Fort Sumter during the first battle of the war.

That’s a really important piece of history, and just one of several priceless artifacts in their impressive collection.

The flag that flew on Statehouse grounds, well, that was more of a political football.

And football season is almost over.

Last week, a back-bencher state lawmaker named Chris Corley sent out a Christmas card to Republican colleagues that mocked them for their “betrayal” of the Confederate flag.

“May you have a blessed and happy Christmas, and may you take this joyous time as an opportunity to ask forgiveness of all your sins such as betrayal.”

He said it was a joke, but it’s really just whining.

You lost, the Confederacy lost, get over it.

Now, this is not a knock on all those men who fought for the South — most of whom did not own other human beings, it should be pointed out — but since Rep. Corley wants to drag Christmas into this, perhaps he should ask himself how Jesus feels about the issue of slavery.

Because the Confederate government’s chief purpose was to preserve an economy built on slave labor, even if they sold it to the men who actually fought as a battle to protect their homes.

There is a monument to the people who died in the Civil War on Statehouse grounds, and it is appropriate. The flag was always superfluous, seen by many as a thumb to the nose in response to civil rights. The Legislature took it down, finally, after a madman waving a similar flag killed nine people in a Charleston church.

That was not a surrender, as Corley says, but an uncharacteristically humane display of empathy and healing.

But now, beyond his stupid Christmas card, Corley wants a referendum about putting the flag back up.

Yeah, but it should have to pass with two-thirds of the vote, just like it took to take the flag down.

The Confederate Relic Room is a fine museum, with a knowledgeable staff of historians that are well-qualified to explain our complicated history to folks.

And if putting the flag from the Statehouse in the museum will attract attention to — and help preserve — some of the fine artifacts already there, then $5 million is a bargain.

Of course, that price tag is more than a simple flag display. It’s a makeover for the Relic Room. But the mandate was to do something special for that one flag.

And choosing to showcase some 21st-century made banner instead of one of the multitudes of flags that men actually fought and died under is the worst kind of political pandering, and an insult to all those lost souls.

And imposing a deadline, while ignoring more pressing ones, sends a message that our state is more interested in cloth than flesh and blood.

It’s about priorities, folks. History is important. The future is more important.

So if you want to promote “morals, convictions and … what is right,” Rep. Corley, how about doing some actual work to fix an education system that is still broken, particularly in your corner of the state, instead of harping on the reproduction banner of a lost cause.

Or, you could just continue to act like a fool, which obviously is much easier.

Reach Brian Hicks at bhicks@postandcourier.com