I know that it's a number of weeks past the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, but despite the attention this received, some of our fellow Pennsylvanians are still in need of a history lesson.
About a year ago I moved to Westmoreland County, which is rural and what some consider the "Real America." I was shocked by the number of Confederate flags proudly displayed on people's cars, homes and T-shirts out here. You would think that this area was a part of Dixie! When I have asked some locals about it, they think that it's their way of showing they are a rebel. No! You're not a rebel. When you display it, you're showing people your ignorance of history and lack of respect for your own heritage.
There's a reason the Confederate flag is shameful. It represents the fact that Southern states gleefully committed treason by attacking and seceding from the United States over the issue of slavery. If you are from Western Pennsylvania, chances are your great-great-great-grandfather fought (and may have died fighting) against this flag that you so proudly display today. The dead at Gettysburg gave their lives fighting against this flag. More Americans lost their lives fighting because of this flag than in any other war in our history.
To make it worse, since the Civil War ended, the Confederate flag has represented not only the Civil War-era South but everything it stood for, including racism, discrimination, hate and slavery. White supremacist groups proudly wave the Confederate flag as a show of their racism.
So, if you're in Western Pennsylvania and sporting a stars and bars, don't tell me it's because it means redneck or rebel. Don't tell me it's a heritage thing, because it's not (not yours anyway). And don't tell me that you are a patriot. A patriot would not support a flag that was the symbol of an armed rebellion against the United States of America and flown above the armies that killed your ancestors. Just be honest about it: You're ignorant of your history and, more than likely, racist.
The writer, a certified history teacher, is a veteran of the Marines and Army who served during Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.