Confederate flag controversial but rightfully protected

Saturday was Flag Day and people all over the nation took to their yards, proudly displaying their flags in the land of the free. In Tampa, however, it was another day of controversy.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) erected its 30-by-50 foot Confederate flag once again in honor of the holiday.

For weeks, the Tampa Bay area has been stricken with controversy because of this flag. When it was discovered that the flag would be raised, Hillsborough County leaders tried to stop it. They had no success. Flags were removed from county sign regulations in 2004, according to the St. Petersburg Times.

I don’t understand, however, why they tried to stop the flag in the first place. Why was the display of the flag even in question?

Three words should be recalled here: freedom of speech.

Although I might not agree with the display of the “world’s largest Confederate flag,” I definitely do not agree with stopping the SCV from doing so.

They have just as much right to display their Confederate flag as I have to display my Puerto Rican flag.

I’ve heard people ask this question countless times: “Why do Mexicans display their flags if they are in America?” Whatever happened to “it’s a free country” and “your rights are the same as mine?” I should be able to display whatever heritage I’m proud of whenever I feel like it.

Ironically, however, the St. Petersburg Times reported Sunday that one of the members of the group flying the Confederate flag was wearing a jacket that read “Welcome to the U.S. Now work, pay taxes, and speak English.”

It’s interesting that a person belonging to a group that claims the flag only represents history and heritage would make such a request, especially since the United States has no official language.

So I speak to you, Mr. Son of a Confederate Veteran, and I will speak in whatever language I choose. I will speak Spanish to my family just as I speak English to my friends. And if I could, I’d speak Klingon to all of them, too.

I will display my American flag and my Puerto Rican flag in my backyard for my neighbors to see just as you will display yours for every Interstate 4 and Interstate 75 driver to see.

Everyone has the right to display whatever flag they want, because our forefathers secured them the right to do so. I may not like yours, and you may not like mine, but that’s what makes this country so great.

The same applies to all those who oppose the flag’s display.

Roy Peter Clarke, vice president of the Poynter Institute, wrote in a letter to the editor of the Times that “Old Glory should be our response.”

I agree, in theory. Old Glory should fly bigger and higher than any other flag. But I don’t know if fighting fire with fire is the appropriate response here. Such a response can create a slippery slope. Next thing you know, Interstate 4’s name will be changed to Interstate of Flags, and if one group can display the Confederate flag, the next one can display the American flag, then someone can display a British flag and so on.

I feel that the appropriate response is no response. Turn the other cheek and let this controversy run its course. In a few weeks, this debate will no longer matter; everyone will forget about it and go back to their business. After all, there is nothing anybody can do about it. Arguing is just going to bring more attention to the situation, which is exactly what the SCV wants.

The amendment that allows me to write this column is the same amendment that allows the Sons to display their flag. It would be hypocritical of me, or anyone, to ask them to give up a right that no one in his or her right mind would be willing to forfeit.

Cynthia Roldan is a senior majoring in mass communications.