In 1961, to mark the centennial of the Confederacy and oppose the Civil Rights Movement, the South Carolina Legislature passed a law requiring that the Confederate flag be flown atop the SC capitol building. In 2000, this was amended to move the flag to a flagpole in front of the capitol. The law states that a 2/3 majority vote of the legislature is required to change that statute, and includes the following stipulations:
“This flag must be flown on a flagpole located at a point on the south side of the Confederate Soldier Monument, centered on the monument, ten feet from the base of the monument at a height of thirty feet. The flagpole on which the flag is flown and the area adjacent to the monument and flagpole must be illuminated at night and an appropriate decorative iron fence must be erected around the flagpole”
“[The confederate flag] is square measuring fifty-two inches on each side”
“[Government officials] shall replace the flags at appropriate intervals as may be necessary due to wear.”
“The provisions of this section may only be amended or repealed upon passage of an act which has received a two-thirds vote on the third reading of the bill in each branch of the General Assembly.”
There is some confusion as to whether a simple majority vote or 2/3 majority is required to repeal this law. However, even a majority of legislators has historically been tough to come given that a majority of South Carolina voters supporting the flying of the flag. Now that governor Nikki Haley has called for removing the flag, I would like to see her take immediate action.
Anytime you try to control speech or expression, either to prevent or require specific speech, you dive head first into absurdity. The law is full of loopholes, and our hands are anything but tied. Governor Nikki Haley has plenty of options. Here are a few of my proposals:
1. Add more flags
Ah, the power of dilution. There’s no doubt that the Confederate flag is a big part of the state’s heritage. So is the Union Jack, revolutionary war flags, and various other symbols. Perhaps there are some flags that represent abolitionism or civil rights that could be included, but I don’t know of any.
When Christians try to display religious symbols on public grounds, the common solution is to allow all religions to post displays. This inevitably leads to an absurd collection of displays, and finally, the appropriate exclusion of all religious displays. Perhaps there is a lesson here that we can apply to the confederate flag.
2. Tiny flag
The flag must be “fifty-two inches on each side, inclusive of the white border, with a St. Andrews Cross of blue…”. It is perfectly within the bounds of the law to simply make the border very, very wide.
3. Block the flag with something better
The law does not require that the flag be unobstructed, and there are a variety of creative ways to obstruct this symbol of destruction. I would recommend an elegant sculpture, perhaps made of a spiral of sheet metal that spirals around the flag pole. On the surface of this sculpture could be inked images of South Carolina’s history, great leaders, especially those who campaigned to abolish slavery and fight for civil rights. Let’s literally cover the flag with symbols of love, equality, and justice.
4. Improve access to the public rag
It has to be flown high on a flagpole, but no law can force us to respect it. The governor could assist us in taking out our frustration by building a safe ladder or set of stairs by which the public can approach the flag. It will make for a nice rag with which we can wipe our boots off.
5. Just take it down
Nikki Haley could simply ignore the law. Executives often take this authority as a retroactive veto. She could redirect or eliminate funding for maintaining the flag, and remove it for being too ratty. She could take advantage of the “reasonable” and “appropriate” language in the law to argue that the current climate of hate and racial prejudice makes the flying of the flag no longer sensible.
She could also simply defy the law. Pro-life legislators have certainly had no problem flagrantly defying Roe v. Wade. She might be impeached. So what? Even if she is impeached and convicted for doing the right thing, she will hardly be leaving office in disgrace. Doesn’t South Carolina honor its history of rebellion?
6. Desecrate it (fire, paint, bullets)
Sure, the flag has to fly there, but all we need the governor to do is loosen the security around the flag pole. I’m sure plenty of South Carolina’s citizens will dispose of it where it stands. They could even destroy the flag in a way that honors their southern pride. What could be more South Carolina than shredding it with assault weapons?
7. Make it artsy
While we are honoring southern history, let’s widen the display’s scope and make it look a little more artistic. For example, we could make the flagpole a lynching tree. We can honor the tradition of lynching black people while honoring those confederate soldiers who gave their lives to preserve the right to control and take the lives of others. The flag could even be hoisted by leather whips and hung from shackles. So many possibilities…
Tasteful? Of course not, but no less tasteful than the flag itself. The flag needs to be taken down. It is a symbol of treason, racism, and slavery. “Southern pride” is used as a code for racism as much as “modesty” is a euphemism for slut shaming. If you found anything I wrote here more offensive than the legally required, prominent flying of the confederate flag, displayed a stone’s throw from the body of State Senator Pinckney, his family and mourners, then fuck you.
I want to also point out that everyone arguing that the flag should be taken down because it is “offensive” is misguided. We don’t have the right to not to be offended. Lots of people are offended by guns, and many more are offended by Congress. The flag needs to be taken down because it is a symbol in clear contradiction of what the state is supposed to be providing its citizens. The government of South Carolina is subject to federal authority and is required to protect civil rights, two principles which the confederate flag explicitly contradict. It is a symbol of hate to the rest of the world, so familiar, that it is synonymous with the nazi swastika among neo-Nazis and white supremacists. Let’s not quibble about legislative procedure. Take that shit down.