Yes, take down the Confederate flag from its place on the grounds of the state capitol in South Carolina. It doesn't deserve the state's sanction.

Take down the statues of Jefferson Davis, and please take his name off Route One in Virginia.

But leave Robert E. Lee alone. He opposed secession, and in his later years did the right things for his country. And please, do not think of shelving Gone With The Wind, that irresistible book (and riveting movie) on the grounds that it was a pro-Dixie screed. Do its critics know that the book's four leading characters — Scarlett, Rhett, Ashley and Melanie — never thought that the South should secede?

In one of the first scenes, Rhett Butler starts a war of his own when he tells a group of enthused Confederates not only that they will lose the war but how and why they will lose it — because the North has more money, munitions and people than they do, while they have slaves, cotton and arrogance.

"Ashley wrote me that we should not be fighting the Yankees," Melanie tells Scarlett. "We have been betrayed into it by statesmen and orators mouthing catchwords and prejudices…he meant exactly what Captain Butler said, only he didn't say it in such a rude way." Scarlett agrees. "They both see the truth of this war but Ashley is willing to die about it, and Rhett isn't," Scarlett is thinking. "I think this shows Rhett's good sense."

When the casualty lists come in from the battle of Gettysburg, Scarlett tells Rhett the South should have let the slaves go much earlier. And Rhett himself is hardly a fan of Old Dixie. "Our Southern way of living is as antiquated as the feudal system of the Middle Ages," he tells Scarlett. "It had to go, and it's going. You expect me to listen to orators...who tell me our Cause is just and holy?...What kind of fool do you think I am?"

In fact, creative destruction, and its celebration, is the genuine theme of this book. The theme is survival, not secession or slavery. Secession and slavery interest the author mainly as being the agents of fate that collapse the old order, causing those involved and caught up in its ruin to fight for survival or die.

Rhett sees this as good, a ritual cleansing that clears out the dead wood that affixes itself onto any fixed order, and lets new blood and new people appear. When the world upends, as Rhett says, "Everyone loses everything, and everyone is equal…they all start again…with nothing at all…some people…have neither cunning not strength…and so they go under…But there are always a hardy few who come through, and, given time, they are right back where they were."

Scarlett, Rhett and some others are those who climb back where they were, but some around them slide backwards, and, in the view of the author, quite properly so.

"There never was anything to those folks but money and darkies, and now that the money and darkies are gone, those folks will be Crackers in another generation," says Scarlett's tough grandmother. "You've changed with the changing times…Well, go to it, I say."

This is a book that defends the Old South? It's not Dixiecrat, but wholly Darwinian. It reflects the views of the static, caste-ridden, agrarian Southern society much less than those of the restless, egalitarian, churning and mercantile North.

Here is warning in confronting the Lost Cause and its symbols: In addressing the luggage of cultural icons, things may not be as they seem.

Noemie Emery, a Washington Examiner columnist, is a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard and author of "Great Expectations: The Troubled Lives of Political Families."