Kevin Seefried, a Delaware man, has been arrested for trespassing at the Capitol on Jan. 6 along with his son. Kevin Seefried was photographed carrying a Confederal flag during the riot.

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This is good timing for a piece of history I learned today courtesy of Ty Seidule, a retired Army general and author of an acclaimed book, “Robert E. Lee and Me: A Southerner’s Reckoning with the Myth of the Lost Cause.”

I stumbled across this on a Facebook page created by alumni of Washington and Lee University, my alma mater. They are working to remove Lee from the school’s name and make other changes to encourage diversity on campus and lessen the schools’ appearance as a shrine to a leader of the Lost Cause, who spent his last years as the college president. Seidule now is a visiting professor at Hamilton College. An article he contributed to a college publication following the Jan. 6 Capitol riot was republished on the W&L Facebook website and it’s both instructive and relevant.

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We are likely to have another discussion of the meaning of flags at the coming Arkansas legislative session, specifically the Confederate reference in the Arkansas flag. Already in the bill hopper is an effort to protect the Capitol grounds monuments to the war to preserve slavery. So here’s what the general had to say:

SEDITION
by Ty Seidule
Chamberlain Fellow and Professor of History, Hamilton College
Professor Emeritus of History, West Point
Retired US Army Brigadier General

In 1861, insurrectionists refused to accept the outcome of a free and fair democratic election. They created a new flag when they chose secession.

 

Yesterday, insurrectionists brought that flag into the U.S. Capitol, desecrating the people’s house. A photographer captured the flag-bearing white supremacist as he passed the portrait of Charles Sumner, the noted Massachusetts abolitionist. Sumner nearly died in 1856 when a South Carolina congressman beat him with a cane for Sumner’s excoriation of enslavers.

 

Political violence is as American as apple pie, but this felt different. Never before had a president incited supporters to violence so directly, asked them to march to the Capitol, asked them to disavow an election violently.

 

I wish elected officials, especially Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz who gave fuel to this conflagration, had read their oath. The same oath I took to serve in uniform. The same oath taken by everyone in the federal government.

 

The author of the oath was none other than Charles Sumner. Written in 1862, the oath was a reaction to secession and treason. “I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic.” Who were domestic enemies? Confederates who refused to accept the results of a democratic election. Who should we think of as domestic enemies today? Those who refuse to accept the results of a free and fair election.

 

The Confederate flag in the U.S. Capitol carried by insurrectionists provides a potent symbol that sedition to enforce white supremacy remains an American problem.

(From “Faculty Reflect on Issues of Governance after Capitol Assault,” Hamilton College News. Jan 8, 2021.)