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Do we really need a state Coat of Arms?
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Do we really need a state Coat of Arms?

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Alabama lawmakers are debating the makeup of the state Coat of Arms, an image that has stood as an official emblem of the state since its adoption in 1939.

At issue is a representation of a flag of the Confederacy, and the consideration follows efforts nationally to remove Confederate imagery and statues. At least one state — neighboring Mississippi — removed the Confederate flag from its state emblems.

It would be unlikely to see Alabama lawmakers follow suit; after all, the Legislature banned the removal of historical statues in an effort to stymy local government attempts to dismantle Confederate-era monuments.

We understand the offense many Alabamians take at the pervasive Confederate imagery. For many residents of the state, the Confederacy is associated with the preservation of slavery, and the constant reminders are an affront to dignity.

Others see it as heritage, homage to a noble fight to preserve states’ rights. More than 150 years after the end of the war, the debate over its cause still rages.

In the same vein, the content of the state Coat of Arms is also open to interpretation. The Confederate flag isn’t the only image there. Two bald eagles flank a shield featuring the flags of five nations that have exercised control of Alabama: A French coat of arms; representation of Spain’s Crown of Castile; a Union Flag of the United Kingdom; and the Confederate Battle Flag. At the crest is a representation of the French ship Badine, which delivered the first French settlers to the Alabama Territory.

In that context, the inclusion of the Confederate Battle Flag not only makes sense, but is essential in reflecting the history, good or bad, of our state.

But here’s a thought: Do we really need a state Coat of Arms?

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