Controversial week

By on June 30, 2015

Locals weigh in on Confederate flag and gay marriage issues

Marty Weinberg, at Green Dragon Friday, said demand for Confederate flags have spiked at his Bald Eagle Flags business. (photo by Pat Burns)

Marty Weinberg, at Green Dragon Friday, said demand for Confederate flags have spiked at his Bald Eagle Flags business. (photo by Pat Burns)

Though The Record Express is a local newspaper, at least two national issues this week fired up conversation among readers who expressed varying opinions on the U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage and the pushback over the Confederate flag.

Flag expert Marty Weinberg held court at his Bald Eagle Flags stand at Green Dragon in Ephrata Friday.

“I had customers parked in their cars, sitting, waiting for me to get their Confederate Rebel Flags,” he said.

Weinberg offered historical perspective on the Confederate flag, which he said is in great demand, especially from Civil War reenactors and historians.

He ran out of the flags last week and is waiting for more supplies from a dwindling number of companies willing to still distribute the flag following the pushback spawned out of a racially motivated shooting in South Carolina, which flies the flag at its Statehouse Grounds.

“I had to take (customer’s) names and phone numbers and get back with them as soon as I can,” Weinberg said.

Glenn Knight of Lititz is a Civil War historian, a former Gettysburg Battlefield “interpretive ranger” tour guide, who also does living history portrayals.

Knight said he was not surprised by the reaction to the flag which included Gettysburg Foundation President Joanne Hanley’s request that the bookstore operator, Event Network, stop selling the flag there.

National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis asked park superintendents on June 24 to “voluntarily withdraw from sale items that solely depict a Confederate flag.”

“How do I feel about doing away with the “Confederate flag?” asked Knight. “That was done in the late 19th Century. The emblems of the old Confederacy were seldom if ever seen until the Naval Ensign was reprised by the KKK to represent racial hatred.”

When that happened, said Knight, who is also former director of the Lancaster Historical Society, “few, if any, in the south complained that their “emblem of honor” was being distorted by the KKK.”

“Then in the 1960s the federal government set out on a course to eradicate segregation,” Knight said. “ In response southern jurisdictions began putting Confederate emblems on flagpoles, flag designs, government seals and buildings,” he said. “No one in the south stood up to this gross misinterpretation of honored emblems as representing segregation in the face of the federal mandate. By not standing up for the honor of these emblems, those who represent to love them most have forfeited the honor for the hate and segregation that they have now come to represent.”

While social media has lit up on the flag issue and gay marriage, few elected officials responded to our requests to weigh in, including state Sen. Ryan Aument, and representatives Steve Mentzer and Dave Zimmerman, who said he would respond later after working on the state budget in Harrisburg.

A representative from Sen. Bob Casey’s office on Monday said “Senator Casey agrees with the call by the National Park Service to remove the Confederate battle flag from the shelves.”

Meanwhile, Congressman Joe Pitts and Casey fired off more forceful missives on Friday’s Supreme Court decision that states must authorize and recognize gay and lesbian marriages

Casey called the ruling “a substantial victory for equality across our nation.”

“This was the right decision and will ensure that all couples will be treated with basic dignity when it comes to marriage,” Casey said in a press release. “As a U.S. Senator representing Pennsylvania, I have heard from many LGBT Pennsylvanians and their families who want nothing more than equal rights under the law.”

Pitts responded immediately in a disapproving press release stating the Supreme Court’s ruling “will lead to grave infringements of religious freedom across the United States.”

Pitts also posted comments on his Facebook page &tstr; labeling Supreme Court justices who approved gay marriage “five unelected lawyers” &tstr; which inspired a barrage of responses.

Though he received some supportive Facebook comments, most disagreed with Pitts.

“Sadly, you are on the wrong side of history on this one, as are the other “four unelected lawyers” who voted exactly as you wanted them too.

“The only thing gay marriage threatens is bigotry!” said David Meiser.

Among the 409 comments posted to Pitts’ condemnation of gay marriage was this from Mitzie LaRocco: “Thank you for your courage to educate and inform. A strong example I can learn from.”

Patrick Burns is a staff writer and social media editor for the Lititz Record Express. He welcomes your questions and comments and can be reached at pburns.eph@lnpnews.com or at 721-4455. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *