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Confederate flag controversy

The South Carolina State Legislature recently voted to not fly the Confederate flag on its statehouse or government buildings.
Those of us in the cool, blue north have some difficulty understanding that decision. To many of us, who have not been immersed in the South’s complicated history and culture, it seems a futile, symbolic gesture, and a possible flaunting of freedom of speech to boot. But, perhaps, to the Legislature, flying that flag is the equivalent of shouting “fire” in a crowded theater — a standard by which our court system sometimes draws the line between freedom of speech and harmful behavior.
The Legislature’s decision is its perogative and within its purview. What disturbs us has been the reaction to that decision. From the decision to drop the old 1970s television series, “The Dukes of Hazzards,” from the rerun schedule to the censoring of a firefighter who displayed the Confederate flag on a fire truck at a parade, the reaction has started to border the ridiculous.
Those of us who grew up on 1970s television know that “Dukes” was a parody of the Southern culture. It was fraught with stereotypes — from good-ol’-boy cousins to inept law enforcement to the infamous Daisy Duke, who wore the now cliched “Daisy Duke” cut-offs to divert attention from her otherwise sound mind, to the naming of the Dukes’ car as the General Robert E. Lee with a Confederate flag painted on its roof. That flag was probably the least offensive thing in that television series.
As to punishing a firefighter for putting the Confederate flag on a fire truck at a parade — it was probably a tasteless gesture, but here in Minnesota, a relatively harmless one. And, tasteless thought it may be, it should be a gesture protected by the freedom of speech amendment in our Constitution.
What we really, really wish though, is that the people who are so stirred to rebellion by the Confederate flag issue would redirect their attention to bigger issues.
If that passion were directed in the right directions, we would have fewer hungry people, better educated children, a more robust economy, better roads and highways, and an overall better nation.