Commentary: Confederacy groups don’t belong in Veterans Day parades

For about a quarter of a century, the Sons of Confederate Veterans have marched in various patriotic parades in Austin, notably, Austin’s Veterans Day parade.

Last year might have been their last march.

While grassroots volunteers organize the parade, the city finances it through fee waivers. On Thursday, the Austin City Council will take up a resolution proposed by the veterans organization ATXVets and backed by Mayor Steve Adler and Council Members Greg Casar, Sabino “Pio” Renterio and Kathie Tovo, reserving fee waivers for parades in honor of people who have fought for the United States, rather than against it.

Despite its name, the SCV is not a veterans group. Some of its members are veterans, but they don’t march in honor of their service branches or units. They say that they march in honor of their Confederate veteran forefathers, but no one is a United States veteran because of Confederate military service.

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Some say that Congress granted veteran status to Confederate soldiers in 1958. It did not. Public Law 85-811 required the Secretary of the Army to offer gravestones to “veterans” of the United States, and, also, separately and distinctly, to “soldiers” of the Confederacy.

Likewise, Public Law 85-425 offered pensions to, among other people, the remaining widows and orphans of Confederate soldiers. A clarification issued in 2011 says that “for the purposes of this section,” the phrase “Civil War veteran” would apply to those who served in the Confederate army or navy. That was an abbreviation that did not confer any status on anyone.

I’ve been told that President Andrew Johnson’s pardon of Confederate soldiers conferred veteran status on them. Being pardoned does not turn someone into a veteran. I’ve heard that, since Confederate soldiers were “veterans” and from “America”, they are “American veterans.” That doesn’t turn them into veterans of the armed forces of the United States.

So why does the SCV march?

INSIGHT: Think Confederate markers are racist? Look at pioneer statues.

Last year, the SCV marched with the “Second National Flag” of the Confederacy, called the “Stainless Banner.” It is a mostly-white flag with the square version of the Confederate battle flag in the corner. William Thompson, editor of the Savannah Morning News, proposed its design in April 1863.

Here is what he said on its behalf: “As a people, we are fighting to maintain the heaven-ordained supremacy of the white man over the inferior or colored race; a white flag would thus be emblematic of our cause.” The Stainless Banner is an even more vile icon of racism and brutality than the Confederate battle flag.

Every Confederate symbol is a symbol of evil because the seceding states’ “declarations of causes of secession” offered only one justification for secession: the preservation of slavery. (In fairness: Texas also complained about the Comanche and Georgia whined about lighthouse funding.)

It is nonsense to say that the Southern states seceded to preserve “states’ rights” instead of slavery. The only “states’ right” that seceding states mentioned was the “right” to preserve and extend slavery. Slavery was the literal cause — the reason for being — of the Confederacy.

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The Sons of Confederate Veterans march to honor that cause. By sponsoring a parade that includes them, Austin implies that cause was honorable. To honor the Confederate cause is to say, among other things, that it was essentially good. To say that the Confederate cause was essentially good is to deny and conceal either the historical fact that the cause was slavery or the moral fact that slavery is evil. The Sons of Confederate Veterans march to hide our history.

No patriotic parade should be an occasion for historical lies and moral confusion. I hope that our City Council will end its funding of parades that conceal the truth about our country.

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