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Dear Knox County Neighbors

If you fly the Confederate flag in any form -- license plate to front door -- let me try to explain why I find it so objectionable.

I am Jewish, the son of a deceased World War II veteran, mortally wounded just after Normandy. I have lived in Knox County for 47 years.

My father wrote that he volunteered at age 30 to serve in the infantry precisely because he saw Nazism as evil. His father, an illiterate immigrant tailor from Russia had been a proud trade unionist. So I come to my Jewish Socialist heritage honestly.

They and all the other members of my family in the post-war generation taught me that American racism (anti Black, anti Catholic, anti Semitic and homophobic) was no less evil than the Nazism my father gave his life to defeat.

Like my father, I became a student of and then a teacher of American history. And I learned and then taught how these American racisms have poisoned us against AfricanAmericans in much the same way that Nazism condemned my European Jewish relatives to the Death Factories.

Slave labor in Nazi-Occupied Europe and slave labor on Southern plantations rests on the same pillars of dehumanizing racism and economic exploitation. In other words they are twin versions of evil.

In my own mind then, I cannot and will not distinguish between European and American racism and I cannot and will not distinguish between their symbols -- the Swastika and the confederate flag.

I ask you to please respect my family's American sacrifices and abandon your attachment to a symbol of racial hatred. We are, all of us, better that this divisive racist heritage.

Peter Rutkoff


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