Marshall County Journal, February 11, 2004
About a month ago, my family and I were driving away from Sunday church in Langford. As we pulled around the corner I was confronted with a large Confederate flag flying in the yard of the circular home formerly occupied by the Healy family.
"What...is that?" I blurted.
My parents informed me a new family had moved in, allegedly from California. An argument can be made (however flimsy and fallacious) that the Confederate flag is nothing more than a symbol of Southern pride. A more accurate assessment is the flag is a vulgar symbol of racial hatred, a yearning for the days of slavery. I adhere to the latter interpretation, but reasonable people may disagree about the flag's ultimate meaning.
Over Christmas I asked my parents if the Confederate flag was still flying over Langford. They told me no, the flag had been taken down. I felt relieved. But apparently another strange flag replaced this symbol of bigotry. The next time I came home to Langford, I made a point to see this new flag for myself. I was shocked. Beneath the American flag (let me repeat: beneath the American flag) was a Neo-Nazi flag. More specifically, this flag is a symbol of Imperial Germany in the early 20th century, now used by Neo-Nazi groups to represent the most virulent and disgusting racist ideologies known to man.
This flag is still flying over Langford, and is one of the first things people driving in from the west will see of our town.
American (including South Dakotan) veterans fought and died to erase this flag from the earth last century. I find it the height of irony and contradiction that the Imperial German Ensign is flying beneath the American flag.
From the marginal amount of traveling I have done in my 23 years, I am convinced that the Upper Midwest is one of the most (if not the most) intelligent, reasonable and friendly places in America. Our new neighbors from California have perhaps mistaken Langford, South Dakota, for 19th century Alabama, or Weimar, Germany, for that matter. Maybe they cling to the 'white pride' argument. I take great pride in my Northern and Western European heritage-but I feel no need to make vulgar or belligerent displays toward our brothers and sisters of other ethnicities. Maybe this family feels threatened by non-white minorities. The older I get, the more I realize racial differences are among the most arbitrary differences in existence. People are people. This realization is simple, but profound, because it alters how one interacts with all humankind.
I fully respect this family's First Amendment right to fly this flag in their yard. As Voltaire once said, "I disagree with what you say, but I'll fight to the death for your right to say it." Along with this right to fly ignorant, silly and outdated flags comes the right of retort. I feel obligated to exercise that right at this time. I regard this family's childish display of racial factionalism as, at best, quaint -- and at worst, as some kind of a sick joke. Either way, such ignorance is repugnant to me on countless levels. I cannot sit passively as a family, who knows nothing of this community, attempts to impose on us their revolting Neo-Nazi ideology. Some would argue this flag is just a symbol. But we live in a world where symbols matter. Awareness of the dangerous beliefs this symbol represents is the first step to purging it from Langford's physical and social landscape. I pray this family sheds the shackles of a racist mindset and the lingering spirit of Nazi lies.
I encourage any with opposing viewpoints to please write to me at email@example.com
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