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Letter to the Editor: Revisionist History Furthering National Divide

Posted: Wed, Sep 4, 2019 4:22 PM

(The following Letter to the Editor has been submitted by Decorah native Michael Foster):

"A statement in the article "Decorah City Council Rejects Application to Fly Historic American Flags," caught my eye. The statement made by the non-democratically elected council member "The Gadsden flag is a symbol of white supremacy" drove me past the point of maintaining my silence. While I do not debate the right of the council member to express her opinion, I reject her choice to present such a charged opinion as fact.

The history of the Gadsden flag is rich and until recently, patriotic and uncontroversial. The flag was created by Colonel Christopher Gadsden during the American Revolution. Dating back to 1751, the rattlesnake and phrase "Don't Tread on Me" had been a symbol for colonial freedom, appearing in Benjamin Franklin's Pennsylvania Gazette and evolving from there.

Why would it not be "appropriate" to fly the flag? Although the flag has been used by individuals attending white supremacist rallys, I would challenge anyone to provide a sound argument on how the Gadsden flag symbolizes white supremacy. Because individuals choose to misrepresent the meaning of the flag at a handful of hatred-borne events, does that change the centuries of history of the flag itself?

The Gadsden flag is a representation of American individuality and national unity. Early representations of the rattlesnake featured it broken into pieces representing the fractured colonies above the phrase "Join or Die." The snake growing together represents the strength of bond between the original colonies - the very foundation upon which our Constitution was created. While this vote has already taken place and the results are final, I would urge the council members who chose not to support the measure to not only evaluate their decision, but provide a factual, logical argument for their stance, rather than an opinion that misrepresents a patriotic emblem as one of hate."