Fire department owes an apology

Published 10:11 am Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Stars and Bars battle flag, the symbol of rebellion and slavery, was displayed with honor at a parade on Friday in Minnesota. It flew as a companion, equal in stature from all appearances, to the Stars and Stripes, the symbol of the United States, the country that survived that violent rebellion.

Anyone sense the tragic paradox in that image? Anyone standing on the parade route on Friday in Albert Lea who was related to any of those Minnesota soldiers who fought, killed and died on battlefields from 1862 to 1865? Did any of them feel any dissonance in the place of honor that battle flag was given? Have people really forgotten about the blood that was shed during those years of Americans fighting Americans, those buckets of blood shed by thousands of dead soldiers and civilians?

I have to wonder at the defiant arrogance of those in the Hartland Fire Department who thought the battle flag was a symbol worth embracing, especially in the wake of so much racial violence in communities around our nation. I have to wonder at the decision to grant a symbol of rebellion and slavery the same status as the symbol of our nation.

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It may be hard for the members of that fire department, and perhaps others in Freeborn County, to understand this, but they are not in control of what that symbol means to the majority of Americans. They cannot simply wash away more than a century of violent oppression by slaveholding rebels, by the Klan, by the forces of segregation, by fanatics with easy access to guns. For the majority of Americans, whatever our ethnicity, that battle flag of the Confederacy represents an ideology of freedom and power for some, based on skin color, and obedience and powerlessness for many. It is not a flag that carries a message of tolerance and freedom for all.

While I have no wish to make life difficult for any other person, the Hartland Fire Department owes this community an apology, as well as a pledge to do a better job of respecting the power and meaning of the symbols it displays.


David Behling

Albert Lea