You can, as of now, buy a belt buckle featuring the Confederate flag on Amazon for $13.81. You can also buy, elsewhere on the Internet, a Confederate flag t-shirt. And a necklace. And a shower curtain. And regular curtains. And paper napkins. And a beer koozie. And a beer pong table. And a pocket knife. And a beach towel. And a bikini. And flip-flops. And a baseball cap. And a saddle pad. And a money clip. And a baby onesie. And a lawnmower.
On Monday, Governor Nikki Haley called for the Confederate flag to be taken down from grounds of the South Carolina State House. On the same day, Walmart announced that it would remove Confederate flag merchandise from its stores. So did Sears. So did, on Tuesday, eBay. Which came on the heels of Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe announcing his plans to phase out a state-sponsored license plate featuring an image of the Confederate flag: He declared the image to be “unnecessarily divisive and hurtful.”
And then Amazon joined in: The megastore, its spokesperson has confirmed, will at some point in the future pull its Confederate flag-related merchandise.
The speed of all of this movement is astounding—a testament to the fact that the arc of history not only bends toward justice, but occasionally races toward it. What the swiftness belies, however, are the deep structural challenges associated with relegating the flag to, as President Obama suggested, “a museum.” The Confederate flag isn’t merely a physical item, flown in physical places and available as merchandise in big-box stores and souvenir shops and the junk-selling stretches of the Internet. Its symbolism is also incorporated into the flags of seven—seven—different states. It has appeared in artwork both high and low, and on album covers, and at concerts, and on television, and in movies. It was used in a button for—if not necessarily produced by—the Clinton-Gore campaign of ‘92. It is the visual embodiment of Americans’ storied capacity to forget our own history: an expansion of the highways that are named for Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee, of the statues of Lee, Davis, and CSA Vice President Alexander Stephens that remain in the U.S. Capitol’s Statuary Hall, of the multiple schools whose names pay tribute to Lee, Davis, and Stonewall Jackson.