"...for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so."
- from Hamlet by William "Billy the Shake" Shakespeare.
Human society has a way of changing its view of things over time.
Always has - always will.
But change is uncomfortable and confusing - and most of the time, the resulting frustration of being between established parameters, puts most of us somewhere on the emotional spectrum between cranky and livid.
And when a group of nazi skinhead racist scumbags take your (otherwise honorable) great great grandpa's old battle flag and turn it into a symbol of outright hate instead of severely misguided idealism... you're just gonna have to let that shit go and move on.
Yes, even if it stings your heart like hell.
The metaphorical toothpaste is not EVER getting back into that tube! It's kinda like the time you were nine years old and the family dog wound up under the front tire of a Buick Regal. Sometimes you just have to say goodbye even though you aren't ready to let go.
In nature, it's easy for us to see that objects standing against the current of the river or the prevailing winds are ALWAYS worn down, changed, or circumvented. They do not stop the forces of wind and water or the relentless march of time. More often than not, the resulting shape of worn down resistance is one that people admire for its beauty and unique features.
Society's attitudes evolve over time just like the physical features of animals and plants gradually change to best fit nature's ever changing landscape. The plants get taller or shorter depending on how hard it is to reach the sunlight they need to thrive. The animals become better swimmers or change their diets based on the availability of resources or population of predators.
None of these changes happen overnight and after a while, the original state of things seems absurd if not almost totally incomprehensible.
Let's look at language as a quick and easy example:
The word ‘awful’ once meant “full of awe” and was used exclusively in a reverential manner. Think of the contemporary Christian pop song, "Awesome God" by Rich Mullins being joyously sung as "Awful God" or walking into Outback Steakhouse and ordering an "Awful Blossom."
Once used as compliment, referring to distinguished or outstanding people, places, or things, we now use it to describe something that is terrible or blatantly offensive.
‘Garble’ actually used to mean 'to sort out’, indicating a sense of clarity.
the exact opposite of what it’s understood as today; ‘confused or incoherent language’.
The word bully was used 300 years ago to describe a someone who was beloved. Over time, it changed to be someone who was a show off, and now a bully is someone who takes pleasure in intimidating and harassing others.
It's not your fault that your beloved symbol drifted up onto society's chopping block. And it's not your responsibility to explain how heritage and legacy are so very important to so many people.
I understand how you feel about it and I'm sorry you are being forced to let go of something that feels like a part of your own soul. But for the sake of peace, prosperity, and the strength that comes from unity, this is one that you have to get up from, shake off, and put behind you.
Nobody is saying that J.E.B. Stewart was a coward or that Robert E. Lee was an idiot. What is being said is that those men swore loyalty to the United States and then renounced that oath and went on to kill their own former brothers in arms by the tens of thousands.
The People's Army of North Vietnam shot at my dad. The Imperial Japanese Navy shot at my Granddad. The Imperial German Army fired at my great grandpa.
The armies and navies of my great great grandfathers and great great uncles shot at each other. And when they were done fighting, they rolled up their battle flags, folded their uniforms, put them away, and went back to the business of living as Americans who stand for the principles of liberty and justice for all.
If you really want to honor those men, do what they did.
Roll up the battle flags. Put the mementos in a box next to the photo albums and old letters for the sake of preserving family history. Then go out and recognize that we are a nation made up of many types, races, colors, creeds, and classes of people that is made strong by our unity. A nation who has always been defined more by our potential than our past and a people who have shown that when we all come together to give our all, we are unstoppable.
And that is an amazing thing to be proud of.