A Gift for Gephardt

This just in. State officials in Missouri took down Confederate flags at two historic sites Tuesday after Democratic presidential hopeful Dick Gephardt said they shouldn't be flown anywhere. Over the weekend, Gephardt said: "My own personal feeling is that the Confederate flag no longer has a place flying any time, anywhere in our great nation."

Is anyone surprised?

In Missouri, the flag had flown for decades without controversy or criticism from public officials at the Confederate memorial near Higginsville. The remains of 694 Confederate veterans and 108 wives are buried at the site. The Fort Davidson site commemorates the 1864 Battle of Pilot Knob.

This week Steven Greenhut wrote in "Why aren't more people outraged when Democratic congressman and Presidential candidate Dick Gephardt, D-Missouri, said u2018the Confederate flag no longer has a place flying anytime, anywhere in our great nation'? What right does he have to tell South Carolina what flag to hoist on the statehouse grounds, or to tell me what to fly in my own yard? If Americans had any courage, rebel flags would pop up everywhere just to spite him."

Well, Mr. Greenhut, I'll do you one better. Today I am sending Dick Gephardt a flag – the Third National Flag of the Confederacy. I am also sending him a letter that contains the following sentiments.

Mr. Gephardt, I proudly fly the flag you disdain, and I do it for one reason: to protest the federal bureaucracy you represent. It symbolizes the fact that the United States of America was formed as just that – a union of sovereign states into what is known as a federal government. The concept behind our government was simple. Our "Creator" gave each of us "unalienable rights," out of which we in turn gave limited rights to our respective state governments. Then the states gave in turn a portion of their rights to a central government that could perform certain wide-ranging tasks such as national defense and the conduct of foreign relations. The framers of our Constitution were careful to make it clear that the powers not granted to the federal government were reserved to the states and ultimately to "We the People."

Mr. Gephardt, people ask us here in the South, "What do you want?" I say it's really not so wild a dream. All we want is the restoration of a constitutional republic that the Founding Fathers established in this country. They didn't have in mind some gigantic federal bureaucracy with all this power and control regulating our lives and our businesses. They had in mind a federal government that would abide by the Tenth Amendment. It was small, it had limited powers, it took care of national events, and it defended our borders. They maintained the army and issued national currency. And all the rest of the rights and responsibilities, they said, belonged to the states, respectively, and the people.

As Robert E. Lee put it, "All that the South has ever desired was that the Union as established by our forefathers should be preserved, and that the government as originally organized should be administered in purity and truth."

Above all, we reject the notion of "salvation by society": the belief that society – not personal faith, nor personal industry, nor individual initiative – will lead individuals to spiritual perfection, and this through the ministrations of more and bigger government.

The media have already shown where they will put their support – not behind the people but behind big government. But common sense is on the march.

Please do not return the flag if you don't want it. I already have plenty. I can't imagine you throwing it in the trash, either. Perhaps you can just give it to Senator Lieberman – oops, he hates the flag too!

January 17, 2003

Dr. David Alan Black [send him mail] is a seminary professor of ancient Greek and is the editor of