I would like to respond to Professor Clyde Wilson’s editorial (Cultural Revolutions) in your March issue, regarding our efforts toward compromise on the Confederate battle flag that flies above our Statehouse. First and foremost, I respect and share the professor’s view that the battle flag of the Confederacy is a cherished emblem for many Southerners of the fierce independence and boundless courage of thousands who gave their blood in battle. As the direct descendant of Confederate soldiers, I will fight to the end to honor their memory and sacrifice. In fact, I have long supported the flag’s presence on the dome, with the understanding that I would keep the door open to a reasonable compromise. As governor of this state and all its diverse people, I believe now is the time for such a compromise.

Contrary to the assertions of Mr. Wilson, settling this issue through legislation would do far more to protect the flag than merely protecting the status quo. With the Heritage Act, the flag would be ensured by law a position of prominence directly in front of and behind the Capitol. Without the Heritage Act, the flag remains forever vulnerable to the whims of extremists who would like nothing better than to eradicate all memory of its existence. Mr. Wilson rightly states that “there is hardly a monument or street name in the state not imbued with Southern history,” and the Heritage Act would permanently protect those public squares bearing the names of our Confederate leaders.

While I have no argument with Mr. Wilson’s obvious zeal on this issue, his characterizations of mv family life and religious faith were patently offensive and blatantly wrong. It was with great prayer and discussion that I came to such a controversial decision, stemming from the deep conviction that I had a role to play in the healing of our state’s divisions. Even as Mr. Wilson again rightly states that this effort has led me to partner with those not of my own party (“betrayal” and “carrying water for opponents” are the words he chooses), I am proud that the path of peaceful compromise has led us to step over the arbitrary boundaries of party and race. Meeting each other halfway in a spirit of reconciliation is truly the nature of compromise.

And working to promote peace and unity is anything but “a relentless pursuit of mediocrity and sameness,” nor is it a “step on the road to the New World Order.” Rather it is a celebration of all that makes us different, based on the understanding that we are not a homogeneous state, but one of many colors, creeds, and cultures. The one link that should always bind us together is mutual respect.

We in South Carolina are a proud people who will continue to pay tribute to our heritage and all those who made our freedoms possible. But my greater hope is that South Carolina will leave a legacy for our children, not of division and hatred, but one of honor, integrity, and peace that extends to every South Carolinian.

        —David M. Beasley
Governor of South Carolina
Columbia, SC

Dr. Wilson Replies:

Governor Beasley’s statement does not unconvince me of one of the main points I made in my editorial—the Republican hierarchy always betray their supporters. However, I offer a “compromise” of my own. If the governor will make public the names and dollar amounts of the big business interests who lavishly funded his now failed PR campaign against the flag, I will try to persuade my side to reconsider its position.

The governor and I must live in different states. He finds South Carolina to be a state “of many colors, creeds, and cultures.” Last time I looked we mainly had only two colors (black and white), one creed (Christianity), and one culture (Southern). That cant phrase originated with some of the governor’s politically organized religious supporters—Promise Keepers-types clustered around “Columbia International University” (nee Columbia Bible College)—almost all of whom are recent immigrants to our state. “Many colors, creeds, and cultures” does not describe our present state, just the one they hope for. I think most South Carolinians would agree with me in finding both the theology and the social program dubious.