Your description of the Confederate battle flag as "an unrepentant symbol of slavery" in your Jan. 14 editorial "Bigotry Appeased" is off the mark and offensive to those of us who honor southern heritage.

The South's long-dead heroes would be surprised to hear that the flag they followed into the savage butchery of battle was a "symbol of slavery." The South's "cause" was the achievement of southern independence, and everything else was corollary. Robert E. Lee, among many other southern leaders, opposed slavery as a breach of human rights and a political liability in the Confederacy's campaign to win international recognition.

An American can respect, even cherish, symbols of the Confederacy's heroic struggle without being a "bigot." That the flag is nowadays used by the KKK and other such rag-tag groups for racist purposes does not redefine its hallowed, well-earned place in American history.

That said, the flag is nevertheless widely perceived as primarily a racist symbol; a majority of South Carolinians no longer think it belongs atop their state capitol; and the preservers of southern history are scrambling to find some place to relocate it with honor. South Carolina is in a weak position and will soon yield to the NAACP. The question then will become: What does the NAACP demand next? It is a complex situation, fraught with important historical and fiercely emotional issues. The political issues are comparatively transient.

--John W. Gurr

In "Bush's Flag Failure" [op-ed, Jan. 18], Richard Cohen states that the Confederate flag was placed upon South Carolina's state capitol in 1962 as "Jim Crow's Jolly Roger." If Cohen had done his research he would find that in actuality it was put there to commemorate the 100th anniversary of South Carolina's secession from the Union. No Confederate States of America existed at the time--only little South Carolina taking on the rest of the United States.

South Carolina's population has the second-highest percentage of blacks in the country. It is a democracy in which all citizens have a vote, and I believe that this is an issue for these same citizens, black and white, to decide for themselves. We need no outside instigators from the NAACP or opinions from uninformed journalists.

The Confederate flag could burn for all I care. But it is our problem to solve, not outsiders'. The Confederate flag atop our statehouse commemorates a small state that went it alone. We can do it again.

--Randy N. Gaston

After reading "Bush's Flag Failure," I can only conclude that his is a bizarro dictionary in which right is wrong, dark is light and cowardice is synonymous with heroism. How else to explain Cohen's assertion that Sen. John McCain occupies the "coward's corner"?

Regardless of his stand on states' rights, McCain is anything but a coward, as his military record clearly attests. Furthermore, Cohen's characterization of McCain's explanation of his stance as "lapsing into mumbling" only demonstrates that Cohen paid no attention to McCain's remarks. I heard McCain's explanation of his stance on the Confederate flag dilemma, and I felt his words to be forthright and even-handed. Rather than impugn McCain's ability to see both sides of such an issue, Cohen should commend him for not going to extremes in this age of polarization.

--David M. Woosley