One can honor southern traditions and still object to the flying of a Confederate battle flag at the State Capitol in South Carolina ["Boycott Aims to Bring Flag Down," news story, Aug. 2].

First, the flag flying in Columbia, S.C., is not the national flag of the Confederacy, which had two horizontal broad red bars and a white bar with white stars on a blue field in the upper left-hand corner. That design was similar to the U.S. flag of that era. Rather, the state capitol flag is a battle flag of the Confederate Army.

Second, context is everything. There has been no major controversy about the seal of the Confederate States of America included in a floor design at the State capitol in Austin, Tex., because it is set beside five other seals representing France, Spain, Mexico, the Republic of Texas and the United States. It is a historical fact that Texas was part of the Confederacy, and thus that seal is included in a display of Texas history.

Normal protocol would indicate that flying either the Confederate national flag or the battle flag would not be appropriate for a state readmitted to the United States more than 130 years ago. But the Confederate battle flag was revived in several southern states in the 1950s and is seen in that context, particularly by many African Americans, as an offensive modern-day use of an otherwise historical flag.

There should be room in American history displays for the Confederate national or battle flag in museums, at memorials and at Confederate cemeteries. Display of those flags in that context represents a part of American history. Note that the South Carolina capitol does not fly the pre-1776 flag of England. So unlike in Texas, no historical context is conveyed.

The legislature of South Carolina would be well advised to honor the past, move the Confederate flag to a museum where it belongs and look forward to a less divisive future.

MARK Q. RHOADS

Falls Church