A group gathered in Rocheport, Mo., Saturday to salute a new gravestone dedicated to Confederate soldiers killed in battle at the end of the Civil War.
According to news reports, some in the group wore replicas of war uniforms. A minister prayed that God would “honor this effort to remember these men and their lives.” People saluted the Confederate flag.
Dylann Roof would have loved it.
Roof, 21, is the man accused of murdering nine persons at a church in Charleston, S.C., last week, expressly because they were African American. Since his arrest, photos have surfaced of Roof posing proudly at sites with dark implications: plantations with slave quarters; an island near Charleston that served as an entry point for slaves, a museum of Confederate history and a cemetery known as the burial place for Confederate soldiers.
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The ceremony in Rocheport would have been right up his alley.
Among the guests was Missouri Rep. Chuck Basye, a Republican from Columbia. His brother, Randy Basye, owns the land on which the gravesite was recently discovered. Chuck Basye said he thought it was important to “respect our history” and “learn from it.”
As history, the discovery of the gravesite is somewhat interesting. A brief unveiling would have been appropriate. But the ceremony included a unacceptable degree of veneration.
Saluting Confederate soldiers in the wake of a massacre allegedly committed by an avowed white supremacist was tone deaf. Chuck Basye is being criticized for his role by Rep. Brandon Ellington of Kansas City, head of the Missouri legislative black caucus; and Evan Chiarelli, president of the College Democrats of Missouri.
But the offense isn’t just a matter of bad timing. The ceremony showed a reverence for Confederate imagery that needs to end. Yes, Confederate soldiers fought bravely and some of them did good deeds. But their cause was wrong and it becomes more despicable as the years go by. There is no way to separate idolization of Confederate guerillas from approval of their struggle to preserve slavery in America.
Politicians in South Carolina and elsewhere are scrambling today to declare the support from removing the Confederate flag from the grounds of the South Carolina capitol. It shouldn’t have required an atrocity for them to do the right thing, but better late than never.
The Civil War ended 150 years ago. Continued homage to the losing side is divisive and wrong. Public officials who can’t recognize that should be instructed by their constituents to find a new career.
To reach Barbara Shelly, call 816-234-4594 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @bshelly.