Monday, June 22, 2015

Move Over Caitlyn Jenner, The Country Now Turns Its Attention to The Confederate Flag

Safe to say the South Carolina shooter Dylann Roof is a racist and a murderer. To walk into a Church and kill 9 people is an evil act, which deserves the death penalty. A more evil act is hard to imagine.

A few days after the murders the American news media found a picture of Roof with a confederate flag. This was proof for the media and the intelligentsia that the flag is a racist symbol, which actually they determined years ago, but even worse the very sight of the flag encourages and incites violence.

My guess is Roof was a racist monster long before he laid eyes on the confederate flag, South African flag or Rhodesian flag. In other words correlation is not causation.

It is called the rebel flag or confederate flag, but specifically it was the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia. In fact it was designed right here in Fairfax county, less then a mile from where I write this post. But is the confederate flag a racist symbol?

Flags mean different things to different people. Years ago, I had an intern working for me from Argentina. Well, as a staunch anglophile I had a small British flag on my desk. I didn’t think much of the fact that I had the flag there, but the sight of the “Union Jack” offended my intern. You see as an Argentinean she grew up during the Falklands war. The British were occupying some of her country's islands. I am sure the British flag offends many around the world, especially from people in the former British colonies.

To my intern the British flag was a symbol of occupation, I saw the flag as a symbol of a great empire that produced Shakespeare and Jane Austen. Which one of us was correct?

Should I have taken the flag down? That might have made her happy, but what about my freedom of expression? My ancestors were English, and I was displaying the flag in part to express pride in my heritage.

Having grown up in a southern state, albeit it in Northern Virginia, I saw plenty of confederate flags. I knew students in Middle and High School who had the flag in their locker and in their rooms at home. The most common motive for displaying the flag was not race rather it was a sign of rebellion. The obstreperous students would display it to show defiance to authority, such as their parents, teachers etc. The battle flag is a powerful symbol for rebellion. And isn’t rebellion a virtue at times?

As a side note it is amazing how times have changed. In the 1980's a student in Fairfax county public schools had the freedom of displaying the confederate flag. I can't imagine the county allowing that anymore. Fairfax county public schools have become very PC. They have even adopted a transgendered bathroom policy. Conceivably the little boy can use the girls room, but he better not bring the confederate flag with him.

I also see the confederate battle flag at county music concerts. Are those people displaying the flag racist? Well, maybe some, but for the most part it is a cultural symbol, which is not based on hatred rather based on their love of the south, country music, girls in cowboy boots...etc.

The meaning of the flag is merely a matter of opinion. There is no right or wrong answer. We should be tolerant of different opinions, but should not accuse people that like the flag of being racists.

Dylann Roof does not have the power to make the final definition of the Confederate flag. I understand that there are people who are sincerely offended by the flag, but the first amendment protects freedom of speech and expression. Displaying a flag is constitutionally protected.

I hope the country starts to focus on real problems, not bemoan vague symbols they can’t ban.

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