The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is planning to the restrict the display of Confederate flags by “amend[ing] our policy to make clear that Confederate flags will not be displayed from any permanently fixed flagpole in a national cemetery at any time.”
As expressed in a letter written by Roger Walters, interim undersecretary for memorial affairs, “We are aware of the concerns of those who wish to see Confederate flags removed from public venues because they are perceived by many as a symbol of racial intolerance.”
But a recent vote indicated a majority of House Republicans oppose the VA’s attempt to restrict where and when the Stars and Bars can be displayed. So does Sid Miller, the Texas Agriculture Commissioner who was recently tapped to be Donald Trump’s national co-chairman of his agriculture advisory team.
In a Facebook post published Thursday, Miller suggests the Civil War was first and foremost about protecting free speech — not slavery. He also strikes a skeptical note about whether Confederates who fought against the United States behaved treasonously.
Responding to a Washington Post column supportive of the VA’s move, Miller writes that the piece “makes my blood boil” and says the Post isn’t “entitled to… attempt to read the minds of my long-dead Confederate ancestors and determine that their actions and motivations during that awful war were treasonous.”
He also denounces “politically correct bureaucrats” pushing for the Stars and Bars to be banned.
“With all that is going on around our world and the serious threats that exist to our country and our constitiional [sic] freedoms by those who carry black flags with Arabic writing upon them, I would think that those in our national government would simply leave alone the flags marking the burial grounds of our Confederate dead,” Miller writes. “Unfortunately, I fear that is just wishful thinking on my part and highlights why the outcome of the upcoming election is so very,very important.”
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But one need not read minds to learn that the Civil War was indeed about slavery — Confederate leaders were totally clear about that at the time.
For example, Miller’s home state of Texas asserted that “the servitude of the African race, as existing in these States, is mutually beneficial to both bond and free” in its secession statement. Both Confederacy President Jefferson Davis and Vice President Alexander Stephens cited slavery as the foundation of the Confederate cause.
And even if one takes Miller’s free speech concerns seriously, the irony is that the presidential candidate he’s working on behalf of has indicated he wants to erode the First Amendment by making it easier for people to sue media outlets for negative coverage and by “closing” areas of the internet “where we are at war with somebody.”
“I’m going to open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money,” Trump said in a February speech. “We’re going to open up those libel laws.”
Miller’s line about the threat posed by “those who carry black flags with Arabic writing upon them” alludes to another interest of his — fear-mongering about Muslims. He once compared refugees to snakes and said the prospect of American turning into a “Muslim country” keeps him awake at night.
In the lead up to the aforementioned House vote on Confederate flags, a staffer for Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA) circulated an email making a case for preserving the Confederate flag that’s similar to Miller’s. The staffer, Pete Sanborn, wrote, “You know who else supports destroying history so that they can advance their own agenda? ISIL. Don’t be like ISIL. I urge you to vote NO.” He signed the email, “Yours in freedom from the PC police.”