It’s open season on the Confederate flag, with fierce opposition to the symbol coming from politicians on both sides of the political spectrum. Stores are dropping the flag as though they just realized what it stood for, Black Lives Matter protestors have made it public enemy #1, and presidential candidates are using it to demonstrate how sensitive they are to racial disharmony.

Among those candidates is Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor who just happens to have an anti-Confederate-flag history that he can use to edge ahead of the competition. He bragged about that history on Monday at a campaign event in South Carolina. “The symbols were racist,” he said, referring to his 2001 executive order that brought the flag down from the state capitol. “If you’re trying to lean forward rather than live in the past, you want to eliminate the barriers that create disagreements.”

The barriers that create disagreements? Is it suddenly such a bad thing in this country to have disagreements? What happened to the individual spirit that used to accompany a conservative platform? Why is it such a bad thing in 2015 to say or do something that might happen to offend someone? Is that what life is about?

Apparently so, because Bush’s thoughts on the matter are echoed throughout the country. Defenders of the flag have become difficult to find, worn down by the loud outcry of racism and comparisons to the Nazi swastika. Even proud southern conservatives have come around in some cases, finding it difficult to square their love of the Rebel Flag and their love for the stars and stripes.


What few commenters seem able to see is that the Confederate flag stands for more than the actual Confederate States of America. Southerners don’t fly that flag so that everyone knows they are in favor of bringing back slavery. To many, it has become a symbol that stands for an entire way of life. It stands for the mighty South. It stands for big trucks, country music, and rural fun. For the vast majority of the flag’s defenders, racism has absolutely nothing to do with it.

This is what politicians like Bush should keep in mind when they insist there is something wrong with the flag. You’re essentially telling millions of Americans that they are bad people. You’re telling them that the way they grew up is racist. That they should be ashamed of their heritage. And since only a miniscule portion of those Americans actually associate the flag with any racist agenda, it’s quite an unfair criticism. And it’s one that could very well come back to bite some of these politicians in the butt.