Reading/watching the news is usually a grim way to spend time. I was driving some Amish last night and in passing a church with a sign showing solidarity for the church in Charleston they asked me what happened because they had no idea. They were duly horrified when I explained. While I like to be informed, sometimes I wonder if it is healthy to be too informed, too caught up in the day to day stuff that is almost always negative.
I have been thinking about this sudden and visceral backlash against the Confederate flag or the "Army of Northern Virginia Battle Flag" as some like to point out, which is accurate but come on, the people who fly it are 99.99% not aware that it is not the actual flag of the Confederacy. I have no dog in this fight. I was born, grew up in and lived almost exclusively in Northern states. I never understood someone in northern Michigan would have a flag representing the Confederacy in the window of their pick-up truck. I always wanted to ask them if they knew that Michigan was on the other side in that war. To me that flag was the flag of the losing side and was only flown to preserve "Southern heritage" which was a less than subtle reference to "the good old days when we went to war to keep people enslaved". Like I said I am a Northerner through and through and there is plenty of racism in the north but I don't think the problem is that this is "a Southern thang, y'all wouldn't understand". No, I understand all right, I just think it is juvenile and disgusting. No offense intended to my Southern friends and readers but I have never found anything praiseworthy in the history of the South from that era. I don't find the great leaders of the Confederacy to be all that great because no matter how you nuance it they were fighting to keep slavery, just as I don't care if Erwin Rommel was a swell guy. To make matters worse, going to war over this particular issue once and for all skewed the question of state's rights versus Federal rights in favor of the Federal and forever tainted the conversation about state's rights with the enslavement of human beings. I think you can point back to the Civil War in any conversation about the grotesque reach of the Federal government today.
Having said all that, the response to this act of terror by a lone, disturbed, young man who was on psychotropic drugs like so many mass killers has been breath-taking and more than a little worrisome. I don't think the presence of the rebel flag on the grounds of the state capitol in South Carolina was the trigger that set this guy off, although I don't know why it was flying there in the first place. I imagine this kid was a) mentally disturbed in the first place, b) was on mood altering drugs and c) was probably fed racist drivel and then sought out every nutcase who thinks that shooting up a church full of black people worshiping was somehow going to strike a blow for the white man. I also don't understand why Wal-Mart and Amazon and places like that carried merchandise with the rebel flag in the first place other than it was a way to make a buck. I do know why they yanked everything so quickly while leaving Nazi memorabilia for sale, simply because corporate America as a whole is a risk averse enterprise that is terrified of bad publicity to the point of knee-jerk reacting to any event so as to avoid bad press. Our tendency as a culture to overreact to anything and everything is going to come back and bite us. Sure the Confederate flag is low hanging fruit, it is hard to defend in the first place so it easy to try to erase it from our culture. What if Dylan Roof had prominently been wearing a crucifix around his next? Would these stores stop selling selling? Would we see crucifixes pulled down in religious buildings? Before you laugh that off, let me have you talk to me ten years ago and explain that the Supreme Court of the United States just created a "right" for homosexuals to marry. Nothing is off the table these days. More on that later.
At some point we need to remember that we are allegedly living in a free society, although it is harder to make that case by the day. You do not, as a citizen of this republic, have a right to not be offended. In fact just the opposite is true. Part of living in a free society means we tolerate all sorts of offensive nonsense all the time. I am not calling for anyone to lock up Louis Farrakhan no matter how much dangerous nonsense he spouts off. I am not calling on anyone to banish the entire Palin family to a remote island, even if doing so would benefit society as a whole. Free speech, free expression and free association include dumb speech, dumb expression and dumb association.
The point I am trying to get to here is that we as a people might need to tone down the outrage meter and think a little bit before we act. The real reasons behind these senseless murders have little to do with a Confederate flag and taking it down from state capitol buildings and not selling merchandise with the Confederate flag is not going to stop these sorts of people in the future. In fact it likely is going to embolden them by reinforcing their conspiracy theories. Likewise the calls for gun control that invariably follow tragedies like this do nothing to stop the problem. What is needed is a discussion of what is really going on, why people feel emboldened to gun other people down. What is needed is a real conversation about the mass murder on a daily basis of black babies by "doctors". What is needed is an honest discussion of young black men killing young black men on a scale that makes Dylan Roof look like the punk he is. In our rush to "do something" we end up not doing anything and look as confused the next time this happens. Sadly I am not sure that we in America as a people are intellectually capable of doing much more than pulling down flags and ending the sale of "General Lee" model cars. So ignorance will continue to rule, people will die and the masses will ask "why?".