"RICHARD M. MCMURRY, a native of Atlanta, Georgia, is a historian, author, and lecturer of Civil War history. He graduated from the Virginia Military Academy, earned a PhD in history from Emory University, and taught at Valdosta State University and North Carolina State University. He has written four major books on the western theater, one of which was awarded the Laney Prize, and many articles and essays for history journals and magazines. Dr. McMurry compiled a biographical encyclopedia of the alumni of the Virginia Military Institute who served in the Civil War."
Some quotes follow:
"First, we must understand that symbols like the Confederate Flag have no intrinsic meaning. The meanings symbols carry is that which humans attach from their own learning. Thus, any viewer of a symbol is free to assign it any range of meanings. The symbol itself, then is constant, but the value symbolized is not. Assuming that the Confederate Flag is an element of our culture, it becomes neccesary to define culture. Stephen M. Fjellman, in his book Vinyl Leaves, defines cultre as: "a public, more-or-less shared set of symbols, meanings, understandings, and beliefs people use to make sense of and reproduce their normal lives." Culture and symbols, like the Confederate Flag, can be shared on an international, local, regional, economic, racial, ethnic, or family level, all of which can overlap forming an infinite array of possibilities. Herein lies the source of controversy over the Confederate flag.
Semiotics is the term for this "study of signs." Semiotics involves a sort of unpacking of signs by looking at them not as having any natural meaning, but as constructs reproducing society's beliefs. As Valetin Volosinov put it: "Whenever a sign is present, ideology is present" (cited in Chandler). For a more detailed explanation of Semiotics, see Daniel Chandler's Semiotics for Beginners."
"The flag was a symbol of the Confederate States of America, the losing party in the Civil War. Volumes upon volumes have been written about the causes of the Civil War, but most historians agree slavery was the one single issue without which the war could have been avoided. The war was not fought over slavery in the South, but slavery in the territories, especially those acquired from Mexico in 1848. Southerner's feared any kind of government regulation of their "peculiar institution," and saw the outlawing of slavery in the territories as a sure sign that slavery in the South would soon end as well. "
The current flap is an update of civil rights movement and the issue of white supremacy.