Symbols matter. Except some symbols matter more than others. As George Orwell wrote, “All animals are equal. Some animals are more equal.” These are Orwellian times – and likely to get much more so.
A troubled teen commits mass murder in South Carolina. So, the Confederate Battle Flag – actually, the flag of the Army of Northern Virginia – flying at the war memorial on the grounds of the South Carolina statehouse has to come down. Formerly, when such hysteria prevailed a witch would be called out and burned at the stake. Emotion is more satisfying than thought. Or logic. Or science or history-based reason. Tragedy should arouse sympathy, love and kindness – as it has at the scene of the crime in Charleston. Not serve PC cultural cleansing.
Scapegoating the Confederate flag would be silly, simply silly, if the hysteria weren’t so real. And, the political agenda so old and obvious.
When millions of Americans joined the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s, especially in Northern states with large immigrant populations marched, and marched with American flags – Old Glory – the sin of their hatred didn’t stain the cloth. But, when thousands of Americans in the 1950/60s, including the very large contingent of FBI informants, protested racial integration with Confederate Flags, the Battle Flag became the permanent symbol of Southern racism. How odd how hatred and racism only stick to one flag. How convenient.
Making symbols and speech “Verboten” is the work of dictators, tyrants, and zealots.
Enter the Left. The Human Secularists whose ideas evolved from the French Revolution – and its Terror. In Virginia they want every symbol of Southern Culture or Christianity suppressed. The people who oppose the Cross of St. Andrew’s find the Cross of Jesus offensive. Neither symbol is welcome in the public square. Offensiveness is selective. The rainbow flag of homosexuals and black flag of Muslim ISIS are okay. Trampling on or burning the American flag is free speech. But waving a Confederate Flag is forbidden speech, because it is hate speech.
The idea of Hate speech is one issue.
Certainly, there is hateful speech. Rude, inflammatory, obnoxious, stupid speech. But, there is no wrongful speech - no hate speech – nor should there be in Virginia. The limits on free speech are in the Code of Virginia – for libel, slander, conspiracy and inciting to violence. No more are needed. No more should be imposed outside the law by public schools, other government agencies. Businesses shouldn’t squelch free speech to stop ‘hate’ speech.
Likewise with symbols. Let’s not tell people what they can say or do – and can’t say or do – except as the Rule of Law demands for our social contract in Virginia. Let’s not ban politically incorrect symbols. Let’s gain wisdom from history, not hysteria.
If all future Virginians can claim the heritage of Virginia’s role in the American Revolution from 240 years ago, then they can claim the best heritage from Virginia’s role in the Recent Unpleasantness from 150 years ago. Honor history for what should be carried forward. Learn from history for what should not be repeated. Appreciate the complexity of the past as we sort our way through confusion to chart a better path for our future.
Give Grace to your neighbors who honor their history and heritage. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, Virginia.