Alan Keyes
The flag of Robert E. Lee
By Alan Keyes
June 29, 2015

Note: In a column published this week on my blog, I began a discussion of the demand that South Carolina cease its display of the Confederate battle flag. In my column today, I conclude that discussion.

When people ask me if South Carolina should take down the Confederate flag, my answer is as simple and complex as Robert E. Lee: "It was the flag he carried into battle. Let it be."

It is a lie to pretend that people who abuse the Confederate battle flag for purposes of evil are simply right about what it stands for. The demand to take it down has more to do with fomenting racial division for political purposes than with any concern over racial bigotry and conflict. Many of the same people who make a show of grieving over the Christians murdered in Charleston have greeted the likelihood of America's Obama-led complicity in arming the Christian-slaughtering terrorists of ISIS without batting an eye.

The demand also has something to do with the elitist faction's desire to suppress all thought of the venerable American view that resistance to tyranny is obedience to God. This view led many Southerners who rejected slavery to object to what they (mistakenly) believed to be the North's interference with their right of self-determination. It's a view understandably repugnant to the snarling demagogues presently intent on establishing elitist, totalitarian government in the United States.

In the context of what actually happened to the Confederacy, and the people and states of which it was composed, the battle flag of the Confederacy no longer stands for the specious assertion of some right to do what is fundamentally wrong. It does, however, stand for the inevitable freedom to be wrong even if, more often than not, we have to endure the consequences of our wrongdoing before we will admit we were wrong.

Which of us can claim to be exempt from this folly? Which of us can pretend that we would escape rebuke in a world where someone meted out to us all the punishment we are due? In the New Testament account, God's standard of perfection cowed the crowd that was all poised to stone the adulteress. So the likely wickedness of actions like abortion – which even Hillary Clinton once said is not a good thing, but which we are now indulging, promoting, or tolerating – ought to warn us against seeking to erase all reminders of the fact that people often do evil for the sake of something they mistake for good which they fancied at the time.

This is especially true of all the things that remind us of the Civil War. Never was a war so righteous fought on lines more susceptible to evil. From Lee's allegiance to Virginia to Sherman's infamously destructive march to the sea, the Civil War foreshadowed the dilemma of Hiroshima, when the imperatives of battling evil or defending what we sincerely believe to be good tempt us to do evil that good may come of it. Rightly does the Apostle imply that surrendering to this temptation puts us on the horns of the dilemma – between what is justly damned and what is difficult for anyone but God to judge.

The poet makes Mark Antony say that the evil that men do lives after them. But what of the good that they intend? Robert E. Lee intended to safeguard the right of his people to govern themselves. Lincoln intended to vindicate the right of each person, black or white, "to eat the bread he has earned by the sweat of his brow." Yet each of those leaders is these days unjustly condemned as a traitor to the right principle the other fought to uphold. Hillary Clinton intends to safeguard a woman's freedom to choose. I and others intend to defend each human's natural right to live. But our country seems to be headed toward an era when some choices (like the choice against participating in a homosexual "marriage" ceremony) will be ruthlessly curtailed in ways Hillary Clinton nonetheless approves; and respect for so-called "equal rights" will be approved in ways I must condemn.

We stand opposed to one another, but still under the same flag. Is Rush Limbaugh right? Will that flag, too, be called a dangerously disturbing emblem of evil, to be erased from the regard of decent humanity? Yet if we erase from human history every commemorative flag and monument in nations and civilizations that did evil, and yet still recognized the obligation to strive for good, what monument to flawed human endeavors will ever stand? In one sense, they are all of them reminders of our specious pride, our ever self-replenished folly. Yet in being so, don't they remind us, too, of the irrepressible sense that there is something in being that bears witness against our pride, our folly, and our inclination toward sin, inequity, and injustice?

It has no monument but conscience, no ground to stand upon but what is written in our hearts. Yet whether we contemplate the Confederate battle flag, the Crusader's cross, or the ancient swastika, which Nazis modified for evil, it is this truth in our being that, though unseen, opens our hearts to the suffering, our minds to the reason, and our spirits to the truth that affirms that we were made for good, not meant for evil, and that there is no man-made symbol more powerful than the Word by which God our Creator made us so. Teach respect for that Word to our children, truly, by word and deed, and no evil influences will be enough to brainwash them to do evil.

As for the memory of evil, and of all the contradictory choices people make who perpetrate or claim to fight against it, it's better for that memory to endure, however uncomfortable it makes us. For in spite of all, and no matter what we do, we and our posterity will have cause for grief if we do not know how to recognize the ways of evil and remember its habitual features, even in ourselves, at least until we are raised up for judgment, inevitably needing the everlasting forgiveness of the One who shall make earth and heaven anew, and us along with them, provided that with all our mind and soul and strength of heart, we earnestly return to and beseech Him.

To see more articles by Dr. Keyes, visit his blog at and his commentary at and

© Alan Keyes


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Alan Keyes

Dr. Keyes holds the distinction of being the only person ever to run against Barack Obama in a truly contested election – featuring authentic moral conservatism vs. progressive liberalism – when they challenged each other for the open U.S. Senate seat from Illinois in 2004... (more)


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