We Can Talk About Flags, Not Guns


This week’s post ventures into serious territory. There are a lot of opinions out there on the tragedy in South Carolina and a lot of eloquent things have been said (and a lot of idiotic things.) I don’t watch TV or cable news, but I get the impression that the networks are handling their coverage as badly as we would expect. It’s irritating that the massacre has resulted in a debate about the Confederate Flag, but talking about gun control is “politicizing” their deaths. If we could take a poll of people who died in mass shootings, I’m guessing that somewhere in the neighborhood of 100% of them wouldn’t mind their death being used to enact some reasonable regulations for obtaining a deadly weapon – you know, the same sort of thing we do for people who buys cars (registration, liability insurance, taxes.) Even more frustrating to me is that it seems like the shooting in Charleston isn’t rising to the level of Cheney, Schwerner & Goodman, Medger Evers, or Emmett Till. How will we remember the summer of 2015? We’re debating whether Obama can use the “N” word. We’re so programmed that each side in a debate has validity, that we give equal time to lies.

Guns Don’t Kill People – Flags Do

Oh… the Confederate Flag… excuse me, “Battle” Flag. I moved to the deep south when I was 15, so I’ve seen some crazy stuff, but I’ve been lucky to miss the worst the South has to offer. I’m not letting the rest of the country off the hook because I’ve lived on the west coast and the midwest and no region is innocent.  It’s easy to pick on the South because country clubs ban blacks and women and people fly Confederate Flags on their trucks (and houses and boats and motorcycles and shirts and bikinis.) I know the rationale – “A. the flag isn’t racist,” “B. it’s celebrating heritage;” “C. the racists are misusing it;” “D. it wasn’t the national flag of the Confederacy.” (A. Yes it is, B. No it’s not, C. How coincidental!, D. So what?) But if we’re being honest, the KKK and countless white supremacist groups have used it as their symbol, and no one who sees a Confederate Flag sees a symbol of Southern Heritage. Please don’t tell me that the Confederate Flag has a PR problem.

A while back a cafe in India opened with a Hitler theme, swastikas and all. It was an example of how distant India was culturally from World War II, and also a naive owner’s unfortunate attempt at being original. Apparently, the swastika has a different reputation in India and was around for 5,000 before Hitler used it. It sounds pretty outrageous, but I could see an American merchant making a similar mistake once or…uh… 14 times – Urban Outfitters. In fact, when I was having covers designed for my book, one of my early ideas was a clock face with hands in the shape of a swastika. Obviously (hopefully, obviously) a swastika on the cover of a novel has a different context than if I had a swastika on a bumper sticker on my car. But when I focus-grouped my cover ideas on Pickfu.com, I had not one, but two comments from people saying in effect, “I could never be seen reading a book with a swastika on the cover.” This surprised me a little, and definitely impacted my decision to downplay the Nazi symbol, without removing it entirely. I wanted the symbol to loom ominously, not be celebrated. I would go as far as to say that other than a book cover, there aren’t many places that you can put a swastika – or a Confederate Flag. Both symbols have been co-opted by racists. That is their heritage.

I’m not trying to start or settle a fight. These are arguments that shouldn’t be happening. This may come as a surprise to some, but taking down every rebel flag isn’t going to stop the next lunatic from taking out a church, movie theatre, or schoolhouse.

But… we can’t talk about that.


P.S. I didn’t promote this post on social media because like many, I am weary of important issues getting distilled down to a snarky meme. I almost didn’t post this at all, but decided that more voices would be better than fewer. Thanks for reading.


2 thoughts on “We Can Talk About Flags, Not Guns

  1. Dan

    Ah yes the old “the same sort of thing we do for people who buys cars (registration, liability insurance, taxes” argument. Then why is it so unreasonable to have someone show an ID when they vote?

    • Because there is no evidence that voter fraud exists in any meaningful way, and we already have an effective voter registration system. Photo IDs create a barrier to voting that disproportionately impacts the poor and minorities (and that is illegal.) It’s hard enough to get people to vote, much less fake-vote. Think about who wants these laws and then ask why they really want them. They aren’t to prevent voter fraud, they are to prevent voting.

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