The Aberdeen American News asks its reader panel whether the Gettysburg Police Department should be displaying the traitor flag of the Confederacy on its official uniform patch. Some of my neighbors mistake police officers for history teachers:
I think they should keep it as is. According to the story Gettysburg was founded by Civil War vets, both the Union and the Confederate sides. I see it as history not racial [Russ Brandt, Aberdeen].
Brandt fails to recognize that the history of the Civil War is inherently racial.
…History is history! Why are they trying so hard to destroy it? I applaud the local police patches. The south has just as much right to their history as the north — it’s called American history! [Sharon Thompson, Rapid City]
Thompson fails to recognize that Gettysburg police are part of South Dakota, not the South.
…This flag is part of U.S. history. Getting rid of this flag would be trying to get rid of U.S. history. It has been over 100 years since slavery. Removing signs of the Civil War is no different then ISIL removing historical items from land they claim that have been artifacts for centuries [Jan Mohr, Mina].
Mohr fails to recognize that public officials in a democratic, pluralistic society removing racist symbols from public offices is far different from theocratic terrorists who have taken power by force destroying genuine historical artifacts.
…The patch should be left as-is. There is so much important history revealed by it that to change it would be immensely disrespectful to most folks in South Dakota. This is another example of one person making huge waves that tend to adversely affect the majority [Bill Fuhrman, Aberdeen, in “Reader Panel: Gettysburg Police’s Confederate Flag Patches Draw Strong Opinions,” Aberdeen American News, 2015.07.20].
Fuhrman fails to recognize that he is manufacturing a false majority. “Most folks”? Tell me, please, who the masses are in South Dakota who would take the removal of the Confederate flag from the patch of a police department in 57th largest town in South Dakota as a sign of disrespect toward them personally?
Alan Neville, who trains history teachers and other educators at Northern State University, somewhat better understands the proper place of artifacts of America’s history of slavery, racism, and rebellion against the Constitution:
…[C]ontinuing to use the flag in a position of honor, be that on the flagpole of a state capitol or on a police department patch, [is] a slap in the face to those historically oppressed and minority groups. Furthermore, it dishonors the over 360,000 Union soldiers that died in the war to defeat the south. I don’t understand why would we want to perpetuate hatred and violence? Can’t we remember the past without constantly flaunting a flag used by white supremacists, Ku Klux Klan and the defeated ideals of the south to maintain slavery?
It is long past time to take down the Confederate flag and relegate it to a museum where it belongs. We can study and remember our history without the Confederate flag flapping in the breeze on a statehouse flagpole.
Moreover, we can do without the Confederate flag being displayed on a police department patch. Those law officers who wear a patch displaying the Confederate flag are displaying a symbol of hatred and oppression. They are not maintaining history.
Most police officers take an oath stating something like, “I swear that I will well and truly serve our sovereign country and state.” It seems to me that wearing a Confederate flag patch is incongruent with what our nation achieved, at a very costly price, during the U.S. Civil War [Alan Neville, “Confederate Flag History Belongs in Museums,” Aberdeen American News, 2015.07.22].
Neville raises a good point about oaths. The application for law enforcement certification specifies that all South Dakota police shall swear an oath of office as prescribed by law. SDCL 3-1-5 prescribes an oath for every civil officer “to support the Constitution of the United States and of this state, and faithfully to discharge the duties of his office.” The Confederate flag represents traitors who repudiated the Constitution of the United States. To accord the flag of traitors to the Constitution a position of equal prominence to the American flag in an official display is to violate the oath to support the Constitution.
Gettysburg police officers who take their oath seriously should remove the Confederate flag from their uniforms immediately.
By the way, history teachers and other certified educators also swear an oath to “support the Constitutions of the United States and of the state of South Dakota.” Thus, history teachers, just like police, cannot wear a Confederate flag on the job… unless maybe they are teaching a lesson on the Civil War or the civil rights movement and the South’s efforts to undermine the Constitution. But tell me: when would Gettysburg cops ever be teaching such a lesson as part of their official duties?