Since Dylan Roof stormed into a church, killing nine African American churchgoers during a service in Charleston, South Carolina, the confederate flag has gone from a touchy subject to a hot button issue. Seen by some southerners as a reminder of their heritage and pride, it was viewed by many more as a symbol of racism. It was recently taken down from the statehouse building in South Carolina and removed from Wal-Mart, Amazon and other retailers. Many southern bands, including Lynyrd Skynrd and Alabama, used the confederate flag in their artwork to reference the rebellious spirit of the south. You can still purchase Pantera merchandise with the flag on it. With it dominating the news cycle, Philip Anselmo, Corey Taylor and Randy Blythe have been asked their thoughts on it.
Speaking to Hard Rock Haven, Anselmo distanced himself from the flag, saying it was love of Southern rock that first led the band to use the imagery:
There was never a time when it was okay to promote hate without a little bit of the tongue-in-cheek, you know. It was never this blatant thing unless I was completely out of my mind, which I was at points in time. I’ll own that for damn sure, but that was a long ass time ago. I’m coming up on 47 years old…and I think that if it’s upsetting enough to people in general, you know, I guess…this is tough to say without taking any side…like I said, I can see where if people see it as a symbol of hate then…these days, I wouldn’t want anything to fucking do with it because truthfully…I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t want much to fucking do with it at all and personally you know I would never…the way I feel and the group of people I’ve had to work with my whole life, you know…you see a Confederate flag out there that says “Heritage, not hate.” I’m not so sure I’m buying into that, you know?
But I can look at any…people can point out flaws in any social group, any ethnic group, any ideology and anything like that and that’s once again because everybody has different ideas about things and at this point in time I just wish everybody would chill the fuck out man and realize, you know, maybe a good dose of love, for lack of a better word, would do us all friggin’ a lot better instead of pulling sides, taking sides. You know everybody wants to have a firm stance on things, but maybe sometimes we should sit back and listen for a change.
Taylor, on the promotional trail for his new book, You’re Making Me Hate You, came out firmly against the flag being displayed on state grounds while on the Opie Show (via Blabbermouth) on Sirius XM:
“It’s interesting, ’cause everybody talks about heritage versus hate and everything. And it’s just, like, history kind of teaches us it is about hate. I mean, you can talk about the General Lee [Robert E. Lee, the leading Confederate General during the U.S. Civil War who has been venerated as a heroic figure in the South] all you want, but it still stands for the fact that you were trying to keep the right to own people.”
He continued: “I don’t get it. It’s 2015. It’s not like it’s fucking 1901. It’s 2015. If you can’t figure out why it’s wrong to put a Confederate flag in front of a place where you’re supposed to have fucking equal justice, then you need to go back to fucking sleep, man, ’cause you’re never gonna figure it out.”
He called the removal of the flag from Walmart an overreaction, however:
Everybody has the right to free speech, but when you’re flying that outside of a government building, it’s not right. I’m not taking anyway from anybody’s right to wear it — it’s fine; you can believe what you believe. You can actually superimpose your beliefs and what you think it stands for. ‘Cause a lot of people don’t understand what it stands for — they think it’s General Lee, it just represents the South and we’re good old boys and whatever, and that’s fine, but you don’t understand that there’s a whole other level that that represents, you know?! So, yeah, on the one hand, Walmart shouldn’t have done that, and it’s just another fucking overreaction to something that made sense here, but then people just completely overdid it and made it fucking contrite and stupid.
Lamb of God’s Randy Blythe, speaking on the Metal Injection livecast, echoed Taylor’s sentiment that he was glad the flag was removed from the statehouse, and also his point that the flag means a lot more than just a symbol of heritage to many people:
Number one: I am so glad it got taken down from the South Carolina capitol. And I’m probably going to get shot the next time I’m in Charleston, but I don’t give a fuck. These are taxpayers’ dollars maintaining this, paying for the people that raise that flag. This is not a Sons of the Confederacy building, this is your state capitol. Let’s be realistic. That being said, at the same time, and this is something I learned from my father, who is a liberal, highly intelligent, very moral man.
I don’t believe in censorship in America. I believe that anyone should be able to fly the swastika, right? I think it’s fucking despicable. I’m obviously anti-racist, anti-fascist, have been punk rock oi-oi, whatever… but you have that right. I don’t think half the people know what it means. It’s a military unit flag. But they have that right. Even the lowest of the low, the God Hates Fags people… they have the right to be idiots. We all have that right as Americans. I’ve been to places that are not free societies. This is a relatively free society and the minute we start clamping down just because we don’t like something like that, if it’s not directly hurting somebody else, that opens all sorts of doors.
I think it’s really good that that flag is down, and I think if some people are going to wave it, they need to realize what it symbolizes to other people. I think it’s simple-minded to equate it with a Nazi flag. Because, in fact, a lot of people in the south do look at it as a symbol of their heritage. I have relatives buried in graveyards who were Confederate flags. I live in Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy. But they don’t equate it with hate. Publicly displaying that stuff is offensive to people. Use some common sense.
The debate rages on, but it seems like much of America outside of the south, and many in it, are realizing that what others might read into the flag is a lot more than what they might see in it.