“Charleston and the Confederate Flag flap”

IN THE DEAD-EYED face of pure evil, in the madness of slaughter, there are a million helpless feelings that ultimately compel us to rise from the sorrow and resignation. And so we, the people, including our president and senators, focus on whatever tangible thing — anything — we might hope to change. We speak out, because that is one way, after Charleston, to rage against the dying of nine spiritual lights. We reach out, for the rhetoric, as some form of civilized ammunition against the barbarism of a deadly barrage. And we look out, for any means by which we might affirm that murder has not amputated some part of society’s humanity. And so we look up, for a symbol to seize on.

Today, yet again but with fresh commitment, that symbol is the Confederate flag — the Stars and Bars relic that reminds that even when an institutional body remains long united after conflict, the wounds can still sow deep-seated resentment, and a hurting, rebellious heart, for more than seven-score. A nation may move on from a long-tolerated atrocity as evil and vile as slavery, but the original sin remains, and the stain is as crimson as the flag that still flies over capitol grounds in South Carolina, and elsewhere.

Most Americans have some connection to the South, direct or indirect, current or distant. For a time, as a child, I lived in Kentucky, where there is heritage to be celebrated, and embraced, and sometimes even imbibed (and not so far from where a grandfather, from the ground up, built a life to be proud of). But in our town, my family saw, too, the scars of hate that never seemed to heal, as resistant a strain of inhumanity as what the Confederate flag still symbolizes to so many today.

Is the field of Stars and Bars only about the pride of a region, entirely divorced from a history of racial dehumanization? If you hear that, in 2015, then you can be sure it boils down to a Bull Running of the mouth. Emphasis on bull.

Progress is painful. But a symbol can be a symptom of a wound left too long untreated.

No greater an authority on the matter that Gen. Robert E. Lee himself, after all, saw markers like the Confederacy’s battle flag as remnants that needed to be buried once and for all, with the finality of the war dead. “I think it wiser moreover not to keep open the sores of war,” he said, “but to follow the examples of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife and to commit to oblivion the feelings it engendered.”

Here is how a range of other cartoonists feels about this issue:

JIM MORIN:

JACK OHMAN:

MIKE LUCKOVICH:

CLAY BENNETT:

ROBERT ARIAIL:

MATT DAVIES:

REBECCA HENDIN:

STUART CARLSON:

BOB GORRELL:

LISA BENSON:

NICK ANDERSON:

STEVE BENSON:

STEVE KELLEY: