How exquisitely American, after a psychotic racist with a gun kills nine people who were studying the Bible in church, to address the incident not by taking guns away from psychos, or limiting their future access to guns, but by lowering a flag!
And what a historical flag! This is a flag which Southern Americans followed when fighting Union forces, an emblem of the cause that captured the devotion of fervent Christians like Stonewall Jackson and brilliant commanders such as Robert E. Lee.
Readers of this blog may remember that in a previous post (“On Waving Flags”) I confessed both my respect for flags and my general dislike of them. Future readers of our book, Hunt the Devil, will come to know that we warn against the perils of demonization of enemies and opponents as an activity that is conducive to war and detrimental to a vibrant democracy.
The problem with de-humanizations and devil hunts is not only that we distort the nature of our enemy to our disadvantage, but also that we fall prey to a fatal illusion: when we say that our enemy is evil, we also say that we are good. Since “they” are bad they do bad things; since “we” are good, nothing we do can possibly be “bad.” For thousands of years, spiritual leaders have warned us that this is the moment of doom before the fall.
A recent article in Mother Jones traces a brief history of the demonization and prohibition of the Confederate flag. We are pleased with ourselves because we take down the Confederate flag during the last few days; and yet if it was to come down, the flag—most importantly what it represents in modern America—should have disappeared decades ago. We desecrate the Southern flag as symbol of hatred, racism and slavery; but we ignore the fact that within my lifetime, two African-American athletes were harried and persecuted because they pointed out, with a symbolic gesture at the 1968 Olympics, that the U.S. flag was a symbol of hatred, racism and oppression.
I live next to the Gila River Indian Community in Arizona. All that is necessary for your point of view to change is to look at things through the eyes of First Peoples. In A Century of Dishonor (1881), Helen Hunt Jackson documented the fact that there is nothing you can say about the Stars and Bars that you cannot also say about the Stars and Stripes.
In Arizona, racists, bigots and white supremacists do not wrap themselves in the Confederate flag; they rather pledge their allegiance—boldly and belligerently—to the U.S. flag.
If we take down the flag that is symbolic of slavery, what should we do with the flag that is symbolic of genocide?