The recent uproar over the Confederate flag illustrates everything that’s wrong-headed and unhealthy about today’s American culture.
It’s so easy to run out in the world, on social media or elsewhere, and be seen as against something like the Confederate flag. But if your reasons for being against the flag are mistaken — or, worse yet, if you don’t even know your reasons — then you hardly deserve the congratulatory and self-conscious self-praise you feel you have earned, both from yourself and your approving peers.
Let’s get one thing straight. Of course it makes no sense to fly the Confederate flag at a state government building.
One of the bloodiest civil wars in human history was fought over the Confederacy. More than that, the Confederacy did not represent a republic based on respect for natural, individual rights. The United States Constitution (represented by the Union side of the war) approached that ideal much more consistently and closely; to celebrate the Confederacy is to celebrate the legalization of bondage for a segment of the population.
You might as well be flying the Nazi or the Communist flag over a government building. The institution of slavery was just as monstrous, and based on the same evasion of individual, natural rights as those other defeated systems of government.
Nevertheless, the reasons given for taking down the Confederate flag were disingenuous, at best.
Many people claimed that the flag contributed to a sense of hatred that pushed a young white racist to open fire on a black church recently in South Carolina. That’s absurd. The young racist would have been a racist with or without that flag flying over the statehouse in South Carolina. It was his own ideas that shaped him, not some outdated flag.
You cannot claim that a symbol “makes” people do certain things. The moment you do so, you set the intellectual and political table for censorship. While it’s improper for the government in a state of a supposedly free country to fly a flag that celebrates collectivism and slavery, people can and must be free to value and enjoy whatever symbols or ideas they wish, regardless of the rationality (or lack thereof) implied by those symbols.
Some people still follow the Nazi or Communist movements, even though the worldwide symbolism of Communism (the Soviet hammer and sickle) has been gone for 25 years now, and the Nazi government was defeated back in 1945. People think and believe what they wish to think and believe; no flag can cause them to act a certain way.
Of course, the individual rights to private property, sovereignty over one’s own life, and the pursuit of happiness were not, generally, the reasons given for opposing the Confederate flag. Instead of a concern with individual rights and political freedom, the outcry was over “racism” and “hatred.” Leftist advocates of gun control and restrictions on political speech saw it as an opportunity to advance their views. “See? I told you so. The Confederate flag fosters hatred. We have to get rid of things that foster hatred.”
No, that’s not the case. The whole rational reason for opposing the Confederate flag is because it represents and upholds a literal and extreme violation of individual rights. The political problem with the Confederacy was not that it fostered hatred (although it arguably did); the political problem with the Confederacy was that it upheld slavery. Slavery is always wrong, regardless of whether the slavery is imposed for racial reasons, economic reasons, or various other ideological reasons (as in Nazism or Communism).
Of course, this is not the message that most of the people opposing the Confederate flag wish to convey. Instead, they want to trap people who disagree with Obama-type collectivism into a false alternative. Either you stand up for the Confederate flag, and in the process endorse an obvious symbol of race-based slavery; or you oppose the flag and stand with them (the progressive leftists) on their agenda of socialized medicine, “social” justice, “racial” justice, progressive taxation, socialism, mandated affirmative action, lawsuits against private businesses, and all the rest.
By this false alternative, there’s no room left for the only argument that matters: defense of individual rights. By this standard, of course the Confederate flag is an appalling demonstration of anti-individualist collectivism — quite literally, slavery. But so are most of the things that the flag opponents stand for, in contemporary America. Socialized medicine is a form of slavery; it traps doctors and patients into a government monopoly. Public education does something similar. Regulation of the marketplace prevents customers and businesses from entering into arrangements they would otherwise prefer to enter. Drug laws squander government energy and dollars on prosecuting victimless crimes and inspiring a violent underground market, instead of focusing on protecting us from terrorists and other violent criminals.
For this reason, I can emotionally understand the rush to defend the Confederate flag, as much as I detest and oppose everything for which it stands. It’s not a desire to defend that flag or what it symbolizes, at least not in my own case; it’s a desire to oppose all the politically correct little fascists who are trying to impose different forms of slavery and collectivism on the rest of us.
It’s important to understand that while such an emotional response, at least initially, may be understandable, it’s still an error. And it’s also a victory for the proponents of the false alternative, that it’s either racism or socialism — and there’s no other choice, such as the natural, equal individual rights of all human beings.
The other thing wrong with this whole Confederate flag fiasco is the self-conscious, terrified need to make it look like you’re not racist that followed, in many quarters.
Consider this foxnews.com story from 7/1/15:
The latest victim of the growing controversy over the Confederate flag is the 1980s TV series “The Dukes of Hazzard.”
A TV Land spokesperson confirmed Tuesday that the network has pulled reruns of the series from its schedule, which had been airing twice a day.
The network declined to comment on why the episodes were removed, but the southern-set show has come under fire recently for its depiction of the Confederate flag, which is emblazoned on the hood of the Duke Boys’ signature 1969 orange Dodge Charger.
While I never had any use for this particular television show, the depiction of the flag on the series is no reason to pull it from a profitable time slot. By acting on the interests of “political correctness” rather than the wants and needs of their viewers/customers, TV Land is sanctioning the idea that yes, images can control people’s attitudes and make them do violent things.
Even on its own terms, that idea is absurd. Watching The Dukes of Hazard will not turn you into a racist. And the flag is not even utilized on that show as a means of political expression. Only someone obsessed with race and racism in every dimension of life would think such a thing.
The social, psychological and probably even political pressure involved in such self-conscious proclamations of terrified private business owners is also enough to tempt one to rush and defend the Confederate flag. Again, the reason would not be due to any sympathy for slavery or racism. It would be due to the defense of freedom in the media. Who knows what lawsuits or even regulatory pressure from Obama’s FCC might have come down on TV Land if they had not complied with such ridiculous attitudes?
The presence of the Confederate flag on a thirty-year-old television show is not an endorsement of slavery or racism. Even if it were, the government does not — or should not — have the pull over a private network’s decision that it properly does over a government statehouse.
Being right for the wrong reasons is almost as bad as being wrong — sometimes, even worse. The sad controversy over the Confederate flag is an illustration of that fact. The rush to run away from the Confederate flag for the wrong reasons simply reinforces and expands all the irrational, anti-freedom and anti-liberty ideas presently overtaking our whole culture. The Dukes of Hazard makes for an improbable symbol of freedom, yet that’s what happens when we chose to listen to, and elect, a pack of militant little sycophants with fascist tendencies to tell us all how to think and feel.
It’s so easy to take a stand on a subject like this — yet so hard to take a stand on what really matters. You know: Things like the financial solvency of our currency; our unsustainable federal debt; our bankrupt entitlement programs; the erosion of private property rights along with the economic innovation and growth that normally accompany them; and the gradual transition of the United States in the twenty-first century to something as bad, if not even worse, than the Confederacy itself.
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