My in-laws live in Gettysburg, so I’m up-to-date with all the controversy, in regards of the removal of the Confederate flag, from the nation’s Parks and Civil War battlefields. To be honest, I can see both sides of the argument — but as time goes on I’m leaning towards those who want to remove it completely.
The display and sale of the Confederate Battle Flag, however, doesn’t bother me when I see it outside the battleground in the City of Gettysburg. Maybe because Gettysburg is a living museum — and, like our President recently said, a museum is the proper place for the Confederate Flag to be displayed.
When I was growing up, we always referred to the so-called Confederate Flag as the Rebel Flag. Back then, the only place on Long Island where you’d see the Rebel flag displayed was in a record store on a Southern Rock album. It didn’t really bother me then. Maybe it should have? But it didn’t.
However, if I honestly reflect on the multiple trips I’ve made from New York to Florida by car before Southwest moved into MacArthur Airport, I can recall how the sight of the Rebel Flag gave me a sense of discomfort — especially in the State of Georgia. It had less to do with what it represented on the battlefield and more to do with what it came to represent in the era of Jim Crow.
This debate has so many different levels of pain and pride mainly because the Civil War was a War of Brothers. Similarly, the fight for Civil Rights in this country became a civil war, in a sense, for equality. Like most conflicts, the enemy returns home. But not here.
At the end of these two conflicts, Southerners and Northerners in the aftermath the Civil War and Southern Blacks and Whites post the Civil Rights movement had to discover a way to live together in peace.
Though we boast about our Judeo-Christian roots, we, as a nation, sadly haven’t really collectively found a Judeo-Christian resolution to many of our conflicts — past and present. With that, the call to remove the Rebel Flag from public display grows. And as it grows, I begin to wonder about all those Civil War re-enactments that take place across the nation. Will they continue or will they just cause move controversy? Will our country ever be able to get past this?
An article written in 2013 by Brandie Kessler, of the York Daily Record, however, has given me hope. It’s titled “Healing side of history comes to light at Gettysburg.”
It reminded me of an image I’ve seen many times when attending Mass at St. Francis Xavier Church in Gettysburg. It’s a stained-glass window that depicts the Sisters of Charity from Mother Seton’s Community in Emmitsburg, Md., helping wounded soldiers during the battle of Gettysburg.
According to the Gettysburg Experience, as the battle waned, about 250 of the most seriously wounded soldiers from both armies were brought to the St. Francis Xavier church — which is why both flags are depicted in stained-glass. Although Gettysburg civilians came to offer their assistance, several nuns, known as the Sisters of Charity, also nursed the wounded and the dying. According to church records, only one of the 250 cared for was a member of the Catholic faith.
Because of the severity of the wounds of those who had been brought into the Church, SFX remained a hospital until the end of September 1863. (The battle began in 1863 on July 3 and ended on July 5.) This stained-glass Church window was dedicated to these acts of mercy.
In this window, the flag, that has become a symbol of hate for so many, is more than memorial to “these humble children of God [who] were willing to suffer for righteousness’ sake … and in whose eyes the beauty of genuine brotherhood and peace is more precious than diamonds or silver or gold” — it’s a healing sign.