Rep. Mark Sanford, a Republican from South Carolina, said Wednesday that he supported the call to remove the Confederate flag from the South Carolina statehouse grounds, but cautioned that it would be "insanity" to begin removing other public monuments to the Confederacy.
"The idea of becoming so politically correct that we got to remove every other remembrance of our past is insanity," Sanford, who served as governor of South Carolina from 2003 to 2011, said. "Because, you know, the reality of our human history as individuals, and collectively as a civilization, is that there are gonna be good parts, and there are gonna be bad parts."
Sanford made his remarks in an interview on The Morning Report With Jay Harper, a South Carolina talk radio show.
"The governor decided to act, and then the question you gotta ask yourself is: 'Will you support the governor, or won't you?" said Sanford. "And I did."
"The problem with symbols is they can represent anything to anybody, and people hold strong onto those symbols," Sanford continued. "And that's where I think you really do have to go to the Bible and say: 'What does it say on this subject?'"
"What it says," Sanford explained, "is if you've got something that causes a brother to stumble, at times you just need to be magnanimous, though you may be right in your view, and just fold the cards."
Stanford went on to compare the dispute over the flag to "a horrible divorce, wherein the couple starts fighting over a chair."
"The chair really means nothing at the end of the day," Sanford mused, "but it symbolizes 'no, I'm not giving up any more. But the only way to break that free is for somebody to be magnanimous and say: 'Tell you what: you keep the chair.'"
Sanford voiced strong opposition, however, when asked if he supported removing other public monuments to the Confederacy, saying he would "vigorously work in the opposite direction" of such efforts.
"In this case you've got a flag that is flown, and I think appropriately on a state capitol grounds there should be two flags: the American flag, and the flag of the sovereign state, and that's it — that's where I happen to fall out on this one," said Sanford. "But the idea of becoming so politically correct that we got to remove every other remembrance of our past is insanity."
"You know, the reality of our human history as individuals, and collectively as a civilization, is that there are gonna be good parts, and there are gonna be bad parts," Sanford mused. "I just this morning went by the Jefferson memorial, and I was sitting there thinking: 'Are we gonna take that thing down?'"
Sanford called it "some level of groupthink, and mistaken in notion" to "become so politically correct trying to remove the past."
"If you look at different countries around the world, where they've had things that go bad, whether it's genocide or other," he added, "once they try to wipe the slate clean, and pretend it did't happen, [they] don't learn from the history."
Sanford called a critical re-appraisal of history "the mark of a growing civilization," but argued that instead of removing controversial memorials, Americans should acknowledge that "this and that we got wrong, but we can learn from it."
"We've got to remember our past," the congressman concluded, "to move forward into our future."
Ilan Ben-Meir is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Ilan Ben-Meir at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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