A defense of the Confederate flag

Wade Yarbrough of Apple Valley waded into hostile territory in today’s Star Tribune with his op-ed urging restraint in judging people who fly the Confederate flag.

His family flew it once a year in Richfield, he writes. His dad grew up in Georgia and was stationed at Fort Snelling.

And on Robert E. Lee’s birthday each year, up went the flag.

Yarbrough says one year the neighbors circulated a petition to force a black family out of the neighborhood.

I happened to be home one afternoon when there was a knocking at the door. I opened it, and there stood our neighbor from across the street, Art, holding a clipboard. He asked if Pop was in, and I called him over. Art told Pop the neighbors were putting together a petition to get the new couple to move out.

Pop told him, “Look, Art, I don’t know if the man is good, bad or indifferent, but I sure as hell am not signing any petition against him.” I never heard any more about the petition. As I recall, we received far fewer Christmas cards that year. Two years later the couple moved out, after being fine neighbors.

Whenever I read or hear about Minnesota smugness toward a Southern state, I always think back to that time. A time when a mixed-race couple had the temerity to move into a lily-white Minnesota suburb in 1967, and a Southern gentleman who happened to fly the Confederate flag once a year befriended and defended them.

It’s a fine story, but it doesn’t necessarily neutralize a fact in the news today: The Ku Klux Klan has received approval from South Carolina officials to hold a pro-Confederate flag rally at the state capitol.

In his op-ed, Yarbrough appropriately takes note of his father’s favorite saying: “If you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.”