by Randolph T. Holhut
American Reporter Correspondent
June 28, 2015
THE STARS AND BARS: EMBLEM OF RACE HATRED
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- Timothy McVeigh thought he would help ignite a race war when his truck bomb destroyed a federal building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995 and killed 168 people.
He didn't. But he lifted the lid on an ugly subculture of white extremist terrorism - a motley bunch of racial supremacists, Nazi worshipers, conspiracy mongers, gun worshipers, government haters, and assorted other paranoid nutters.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, there has been at least 27 deadly attacks carried out by white extremists since the Oklahoma City bombing that left 60 people dead - including the June 17 massacre at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C.
It's time to call these acts what there are - domestic terrorism - and to not ignore that this latest act of domestic terrorism happened in a place where the "stars and bars" of the Confederate flag flies proudly at the state capitol.
Don't give me any nonsense about it being a symbol of Southern pride and heritage.
Where I come from, it is the emblem of traitors.
Civil War monuments dot the town commons and village greens around New England, and the cemeteries are filled with the graves of the men who fought to preserve the Union and end slavery.
My adopted state of Vermont paid the heaviest price, per capita, in blood and treasure of any state in the Union. It took nearly a century for Vermont to recover from the loss of so many of its young men in what some Southerners still call "The war of Northern Aggression."
I see the Confederate flag, and I see a flag flown by renegades who believed, in the words of Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens, that the Confederacy's "foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and moral condition."
No amount of romanticism for ol' Dixie by today's neo-Confederates can change the simple fact that the Stars and Bars came back into vogue in the 1950s and 1960s, when the symbol adopted by the racists and bigots during the Civil Rights Movementt
And the terrorists we need to be worried about are not from ISIS, or Al-Qaeda, or any other foreign entity. It's the homegrown people like Dylann Roof, the legally well-armed believers that populate the right-wing extremist groups who have swallowed the poison of racial hatred and believe it with all their heart.
Roof feared and hated African Americans and gunned down nine people in the hope of starting a civil war for "the sake of the white race." And he picked the traditional target of the racists - a black church - as the site for his massacre.
Only the willfully blind would not call this attack an act of terrorism, and it is not a stretch to say Roof's actions were the logical conclusion of the steady drumbeat of fear of the other that has been churned out for decades by conservatives.
The conservative movement has been more than happy than to embrace the peddlers of fear and paranoia if it would help their candidates gain power.
But this incident seems to be the turning point. Many are rethinking their embrace of extremists.
Some are even beginning to realize that, as Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote for The Atlantic, "The Confederate flag should not come down because it is offensive to African-Americans. The Confederate flag should come down because it is embarrassing to all Americans. ... The fact that it still flies, that one must debate its meaning in 2015, reflects an incredible ignorance."
It's long past time to lift that veil of ignorance.
AR's Chief of Correspondents, Randolph T. Holhut, holds an M.P.A. from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and is an award-winning journalist in New England for more than 30 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.