Warren County is considering a request to allow a Confederate flag to be placed at the courthouse. The measure could be under consideration during the Aug. 15 full Warren County Commission meeting.
Matthew Austin is asking commissioners to deny the request.
“If black people are to feel no pain for the suffering of their ancestors, no emotional attachment to the atrocious deeds of the past, if there is to be no empathy, then white Southerners have no place to take an emotional pride in their ancestors, especially those who caused and supported the suffering of black people,” said Austin. “Who are we to take pride in the symbol of their pain?”
Austin presented a 20-page report of testimonies made by some students at Vanderbilt University for commissioners to consider in making their decision.
“These 20 pages are a compilation of opinions from some of the brightest students in this state and nation, students from Vanderbilt University,” said Austin. “These are excerpts from our testimonies.”
Elona Belonkon stated, “The Confederate flag can never again represent the South without reminding Americans of a painful and terrifying blight in our history.”
Paul Kundzicz stated, “The Confederate flag is a symbol of a past that cannot be forgotten and should never be repeated … For the sake of upholding the country’s proud name, as well as proving this country is capable of learning from its mistakes, this motion must be stopped.”
Hunter Savage stated, “I am not proud of a place that held black people and other people of color as less than white people for so long (and even now in some deeply backward places).”
Ethan Reilly stated, “For over 150 years, the Confederate flag was a symbol used almost exclusively by organizations designed in some way to protect and further institutions of white supremacy. By flying the flag in modern times, you still run the great risk of making minorities and sympathizing white people feel uncomfortable and even unwelcome in our community.”
Anna Janine Smith stated, “We need to acknowledge our history. But acknowledgement is not veneration. We successfully abolished slavery and Jim Crow. Why would we take a step backward by flying a flag created to support them?”
The request to place a Confederate flag at the courthouse was made by Sam Boyd to members of the county Building and Grounds Committee, who unanimously approved the request and sent the measure to the full Warren County Commission for its consideration.
“I beg of the members of the committee to remember that they were our family, neighbors, and loved their home,” said Boyd in his written request. “Soldiers are soldiers and Confederate soldiers are recognized as American veterans according to the U.S. Congress in 1957. The U.S. War Department also recognizes these men with the task of granting headstones for them over their individual graves.”
What members approved displaying was a “First National Confederate Flag.” According to the information submitted by Boyd, it was an original flag of the Confederacy and was utilized and recognized by most during the war until 1863. It was retired as a symbol due to the confusion on the battlefield as it looked similar to the U.S. flag.
The flag, said Boyd, is reminiscent of the Betsy Ross Revolutionary War Flag to reflect the kindred spirit of independence. The seven-star design was first. As other states joined, additional stars were added up to 13.
If the placement of a flag is approved, it would be placed beside the Confederate monument at the courthouse at Boyd’s expense.
Austin urged commissioners to read the testimonies before making a decision.
“I implore you reflect on each perspective of the Confederate flag,” said Austin. “Before you make your decision, I want each of you to read this compilation, or, at the very least, hold it. Feel how your decision will be scrutinized not only by this county but by society at large.”
A resolution on the measure is being written by the county’s legal counsel for the full Warren County Court to consider.