My Turn, Steven Arey: Thoughts on the Confederate flag

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 5, 2023

By Steven Arey


Dear Mary (from My Turn column Jan. 1),

I stood on the street corner with my fellow veterans not long ago, waving the American flag at traffic on West Innes Street and got the finger from some and others waved and tooted their horn.

My fifth great-grandfather, a Rhinelander, settled in Rowan County in 1759. There were less than 300 people living in Salisbury at the time. Rhinelanders didn’t believe in war; they were dirt farmers, just looking for a peaceful existence like the thousands of others that came before and after.

My fourth great-grandfather took up arms in 1775 along with others like him, and assisted in defeating the British who wanted to make us be ruled by a king.

My third great-grandfather took up arms 1865 when the Union Army tried to burn his and his neighbors’ houses and crops and destroy their way of peaceful living.

My father took up arms in 1942 during WWII to fight against Japan, who also wanted to destroy our way of life here.

And I took up arms during Vietnam because I thought it was right and necessary to keep the way of life my ancestors and my family thought it should be.

Were any of us perfect? No, but I forgave them for their indiscretions at the time they thought the way they did. I don’t fly or even own a Confederate flag, but my ancestors may have and fought for their right at the time and I forgave them for it and I still put flowers on their grave at Easter and Christmas.

If I were a dictator, I might say that if you haven’t served your country in some manner for four years of your life, then you haven’t earned the right to vote. Your right to speak freely without Russia, China, or an Iranian dictator beheading you for it, in my view, is simply because there are some people living here in the U.S.A. you never met, who weren’t going to let that happen. Our U.S. flag has been burned and spit on and the U.S. Supreme Court says that is your right to free speech.

The “healing” that you seek is from your own wounds. Diversity and inclusion, I believe that you call it, goes both ways because of the people that carry those flags, not because they are told they can’t.

You will just have to excuse us, it’s a right to free speech.

Steven Arey lives in Salisbury.