Banning the sale of the confederate flag from family-friendly fairs and festivals is an issue of decency — not freedom of speech.

The confederate flag has been an issue that has sparked great debate in Ashtabula County in the past few months. Following an incident in Texas involving rapper Tone Loc and an Ashtabula teen over a confederate flag hat the boy was wearing, the issue has been raised with both the Grape Jamboree and Ashtabula County Fair. We are glad to see steps being taken on this issue, though there is room for more progress.

Ashtabula County Fair Board President Brian Edelman said vendors will be discouraged from selling the emblem, but not prohibited. “If we ban it, then 10,000 people will show up wearing the flag on a T-shirt and make a big parade out of it.”

The Grape Jamboree did ban it — but grudgingly. David Johnson, Grape Jamboree Committee president, said he felt forced into the move after the Geneva City Council said it would hold off on its annual vote to allow the festival to go forward until the Jamboree enacted such a policy. “We were very disappointed in how this occurred. And the fact that council was saying that if we don’t decide to ban the flag then basically they weren’t going to bring it up to a vote to approve the Grape Jamboree. I had no choice at that point.”

While we understand organizers concerns about pushback, and we do agree both these moves show serious incremental progress, the right thing to do is clear and we look forward to all local festivals embracing the elimination of a symbol of hate.

Not everyone who wears the symbol is necessarily a racist or white supremacist, but it is time for everyone to accept the symbol has been fully co-opted by those hate groups. Even if to the wearer of the flag it represents “southern pride” or “being a rebel” that is not what it signifies to most people, and certainly not to those oppressed or persecuted under its banner. At one time, the swastika meant “good fortune” or “well-being” with its roots in ancient Greece. Today, it is a clear symbol of hatred and violence and no one could claim otherwise. The confederate flag should be treated the same way.

We applaud to efforts of Jeff Griffiths — who in full disclosure is running for Geneva City Council — for making the case to both events to drop flag sales. Events like the Grape Jamboree and County Fair have standards. They would never allow the sale of Nazi symbols or pornographic images, and no one would argue they should based on the First Amendment. Standards of decency should dictate the sale of a symbol with a long, detailed history of violence and trauma, which makes many minorities feel profoundly unsafe, should not be welcome.

And the flag does represent that history. Those claiming otherwise seek to embrace a more comfortable past that rewrites the facts behind the civil war and minimizes slavery and other racial atrocities. If we don’t correct these misrepresentations, those lessons then get passed on to children who perpetuate a false belief and failure to recognize the horrors done under the confederate flag, both during the civil war and up to the present day.

We should not forget our history or ignore, but preserve it — in books and museums, not on hats and shirts, and certainly not on memorabilia for sale at our fairs and festivals.

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