By Alex Pappas
Former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, a southern Democrat contemplating a run for president, encouraged people on Wednesday to understand the “complicated history of the Civil War” when calling for the removal of the Confederate flag across the country.
“This is an emotional time and we all need to think through these issues with a care that recognizes the need for change but also respects the complicated history of the Civil War,” Webb wrote in a post on Facebook.
Responding to the shooting in Charleston last week, the governors of South Carolina and Alabama have called for the removal of the flag off the capitol grounds.
Responding to the removal of the Confederate flag in states across the country, Webb said: “The Confederate Battle Flag has wrongly been used for racist and other purposes in recent decades. It should not be used in any way as a political symbol that divides us.”
Webb’s statement — which could appeal to southerners who view the flag not as a symbol of hate, but of history and regional pride — is at odds with the more liberal wing of his party. Hillary Clinton, for example, said Wednesday that she would like to see stores across the country stop selling Confederate flags.
Webb also said: “We should also remember that honorable Americans fought on both sides in the Civil War, including slave holders in the Union Army from states such as Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland and Delaware, and that many non-slave holders fought for the South. It was in recognition of the character of soldiers on both sides that the federal government authorized the construction of the Confederate Memorial 100 years ago, on the grounds of Arlington National Cemetery.”
“This is a time for us to come together, and to recognize once more that our complex multicultural society is founded on the principle of mutual respect,” he said.