The Civil War, The Confederate Flag, Pearl Harbor, Bolsheviks, Henry VIII – a common theme…
Sometimes morality and legality become intertwined. I was recently debating the issue with a lawyer friend of mine. She was talking about the legal ramifications of property that has been stolen/confiscated and when it should and should not be a legal concern. Property taken by the Nazi’s from the Jews during WWII is considered property of the Jewish people. But property taken from the Greeks by the Romans or British – is not.
If property is stolen as in a spoil of war should the law return the property no matter the time that has lapsed?
When we talk about the American Civil War we zoom in on the the cause and effects and make an arbitrary determination that a flag is symbolic of slavery because it was the succession flag of the Confederates. From a biblical point of view, this would make the flag somewhat of an ‘idol’. As though burning it will change the heart.
Some of the more vocal Hollywooders try to liken Confederacy with Nazism. I suppose that makes Merkel = to Hitler and Putin = to Stalin and Obama = Idi Amin. Should all Italians be punished as descendants of Nero and his depravity? Should all Japanese be likened to Admiral Yamamoto who successfully attacked Pearl Harbor? Should all men be caned for their enslaving of women for centurries? Should all Jews be responsible for the Communist Bolshevik slaughter of the Russian Tzar and his entire family including children?
At what point do we – let it be? Do we put a legal time limit on forgiving – say forty years?
My friend’s point in allowing the return of Nazi spoils but not allowing the return of British spoils of Greek antiquity was that legal chaos would ensue as battle upon battle vied for property rights that were thousands of years old. I see her point, but then in legal terms we would need to put an absolute time limit on the return of property – and by moral right – a legal time limit on holding grudges.
The American Civil War was 150 years ago. It’s history has been written and rewritten, erased and rewritten probably nearly as many times as the years that have passed. Given that the flag of the US represents the slaughter of American Indians, should we abolish it? Should the British burn their flag because it represents a history rife in war, immorality, beheadings, and misery? Should we ban all ancient Roman symbols because they can relate to the atrocities of Nero?
Should we demand that the Japanese, the Germans, the Austrians, the Koreans, the Vietnamese, the Mexicans all create new flags? Will that change their hearts? Where is the defining line?
At what point is Stalin history? Is Henry the VIIIth forgotten? Sweden and Norway were still beheading people into the twentieth century, do we let it go or do we demand submission?
While forgiveness is a form of letting go, it is also a form of moving forward, taking responsibility, and striving to make sure what happened, never happens again. We can’t do that if we keep using the past as justification for bitterness. Surely, the demented boy who shot the church goers while in service was heinous! But that boy should be convicted as one – not a race. It is no different than convicting all blacks every time a black person robs, attakcs, or executes another. The mistake is repeated but now in a grandly hypocritical way. To put so much value in a symbol, an idol, a flag, will do nothing but create a new rage of injustice. It is merely shifting the target, the cause, the source, and giving it a new breath.
The Confederate flag may be gone from our history, but slavery has simply morphed and grown exponentially. Perhaps a better focus would be on this heinous cancer of sexual slavery that is allowed to be perpetrated on children of all colors, ages, sizes, genders and class. Perhaps the indignation needs to refocus on what is truly the largest and most perverse injustice today. Not some silly flag – not some overgrown prickly agenda, but on the crime of life.
Maybe holding on to an injustice is something like saving a portion of your meal, putting it in the refrigerator to preserve as leftovers, but eventually finding the food spoils, and soon rots, growing mold and decay from what was once something rather good. Justice is good when properly employed, but when we clutch it with a feverish vengeance, it rots.
We don’t forget – we move on – before our hearts suffer the same consequence and rot, decay and mold.