My Pops and I sat on his porch yesterday morning and listened to the birds sing. It was Father’s Day and I had brought over some bagels and coffee before church. Bright and early, just the way he likes it. He asked me what was going on in the world. I pretended to know, though one mostly doesn’t have a clue, for he wasn’t there and the news sources are not to be trusted.
“There was another shooting in the south. A white kid and nine black victims. In a church, I think.”
“Ah yes I heard about that. Rome burns. Toss me the cream cheese.”
“The online world is demanding the retiring of the Confederate Flag. After this event, it is no longer socially appropriate. Inspires racism and such things, mass shootings of blacks, allegedly.”
“Ha! That’s ridiculous. It’s a piece of cloth. Its social offense, besides being constructed by the media’s decision to especially cover one event, is caused by people choosing to be offended. Flags don’t cause society’s ills. Boy, you better not believe that for a second.”
Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, wrote in the Washington Post that “It’s time to take down the Confederate Flag” because of its historical connections to slavery. He states that “[s]ome would say that the Confederate battle flag is simply about heritage, not about hate.” But then responds to this by saying that the “the Confederate States of America was constitutionally committed to the continuation, with protections of law, to a great evil.” He summarizes the core of his argument— and its timing— by writing: “White Christians ought to think about what that flag says to our African American brothers and sisters in Christ, especially in the aftermath of yet another act of white supremacist terrorism against them.”
I see in all this a continuation of a huge social meme; specifically, the meme that we live in a racist world, wherein racism (and sexism and “homophobia”— to name the top three) is “our” chief sin, wherein one group of people needs to collectively and constantly apologize to another group of people, wherein unless we agree with the media’s narratives, we should be “socially shunned.”
Mostly, I see a dangerous perpetuation of “groupthink,” of collectivism, and of refusing to challenge the cultural paradigm.
The Confederate flag to so many represents a distinctly southern culture, it represents a disdain for the encroachment of the Federal Government, it represents the right to secession, the cultural tendency to be wary of centralization of government. There are also those who have used this flag to symbolize their disdain for individuals of other races. The goal of the Secular Theocrats is to draw a line between racism and the cultural hesitancy toward the expansion of the Federal Government. This point is monumentally important. I don’t blame Moore being part of this effort, but I am concerned that he has fallen for it.
Consider, by way of example, Tom Woods’ libertarian smash hit “interview with a zombie” in which he sought to defend the principle of nullification in a time of expansionary Federal tendencies. The “zombie” (Bob Murphy) who was “interviewing” him would interrupt the several historical and theoretical points that Woods was making on behalf of nullifying Federal laws with the accusation of “raaccisssm….” The point here is that the cultural mindset is to associate disagreement with the Federal Government and a cultural desire for the “south” to go its own way with historical realities such as “slavery” and “racism.” It is a form of institutionalized ad hominem.
Moore writes that “White Christians ought to think about what that flag says to our African American brothers and sisters in Christ, especially in the aftermath of yet another act of white supremacist terrorism against them.” As fiercely independent young black man, it shocks me that so many of my Christian brothers have bought into such collectivist thinking. The flag literally communicates nothing to me. To say that it “says” things that ought to offend me assumes that I choose to be offended by a symbol that some have used as part of their sinful activity, yet at the same time, I choose to ignore those healthy mindsets that this flag has also represented. It assumes that my mentality is such that presume to know what is going on in the heart of all that use it. And how many, really, in our day and age actually use this flag for purposes of racial strife? And of those, how many do what Dylann Roof did in Charleston? A fraction of one percent? And yet, we are supposed to all be offended by a flag. This is silly. I refuse to be offended.
And more importantly, notice that Moore wrote—and this seems to be the running “theme” in our hyper-sensitive society— that there was an “act of white supremacist terrorism” against “them.” Who? The “African American brothers and sisters in Christ.” With all respect to Moore, this is a staggering level of collectivist irrationality. I, along with millions of other blacks, were not the victims of Roof’s despicable crime. I was not the recipient of the “terrorism” (this is a politically charged word– I prefer “crime.”) The nine dead (and their families and those close to them) are the victims. This was a crime by an individual against several individuals. This was not a crime by whites against blacks generally and collectively. We must not participate in the social phenomenon of “white guilt” and I will not demand that my white brothers in Christ feed guilty about something that they did not do. Further, I will confront any of my black brothers and sisters who expect us to feel victimized here. While I am at it, I did not suffer from slavery, I have never struggled under the domination of institutionalized racism, I am not at the wrong end of “white privilege,” neither society nor “white America” owes me anything.
The Confederate flag did no wrong. A man, in rebellion against his creator, did wrong!
I have written time after time about my thoughts on the racism meme. And the reader is free to dissent from my view on this. But I see the entire anti-Confederate flag push as an example of selective outrage. Consider what Lew Rockwell observed back in 2001 about Salon’s early war on the Confederate flag (and make sure you click the link I just cited to view the pictures):
Dahlia Lithwick of Slate, in a typical treatment that also attacks Dixie Outfitters, refers to the Confederate flag as “the proud symbol of the Ku Klux Klan.” In fact, the KKK — a nationalist, nativist outfit if there ever was one — used the US flag exclusively in its days of power.
The 1965 book by David M. Chalmers, Hooded Americanism: The First Century of the Ku Klux Klan, 1865-1965 (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co., 1965) was the definitive treatment at the time. It features many pictures of the Klan in operation. Not one shows a Confederate flag. Many feature the US flag.
In other words, to cast the ban hammer toward the confederate flag because a few had used it to promote a cause that most people find horrific, would logically require this same end to be pursued of the US flag. The US flag has been used as much as the Confederate flag for all kinds of ludicrous goals. However, there is no push toward the elimination of the US flag because it doesn’t help the social theme of associating tendencies toward secession and independence with social ills such as racism and slavery. Moreover, consider the shocking number of offensive wars and abortion-murders over which the US flag flies proudly. Does not the Stars and Stripes represent a Government that is swarming in financial and moral corruption, constantly approving of socialist measures, abortions, and wars of aggression? Does this mean I hate the US flag and think it shouldn’t be used? Of course not. Because banning flags is not the point. The point is that must stop focusing our selective outrage against flags and symbols and must rather get to the heart of the matter. Literally. Where there is sin, let us be clear; but we mustn’t let the dominant social themes get the best of us.
And what of the actual racists, to use a label that has been dramatically over-applied (there are few of them, but they are given special attention by the media, who pretend like they are in the majority)? My Pops taught me an important lesson early on: if someone doesn’t like you, don’t spend time with them. Pretty simple right? So, someone doesn’t like me very much. What can I do about it? Is it worth doing anything? I have a life to live! I have an awesome family and have a job and a place to live! I have a church of which I am a member, I have a community that invests in me and I in them, and I have never been the victim of a huge social effort to drive me out of society. Why must I take up the outrage that the news sources tells me I must? If someone isn’t fond of me, I find other friends. What a novel (and old fashioned) idea! It’s is remarkably childish to take to the trenches to make sure that everyone approves of me. Let the racists be racist. I have plenty of friends! And yet I turn on the news and, as Pops says, Rome burns. But the news has a vested interest in capturing the flames and sending it to my computer so that I may partake in the shock and indignation.
No thanks. I’d rather eat bagels on the porch with my old man and listen to the birds.
Ultimately, I see here a desire to wage war on an entire culture (much of which I actually appreciate– its family-orientedness, its appreciation of localized politics, its love of tradition, etc.) based on the sins of a few. The collectivization and socialization of guilt is not a coincidence. It is strategic, it is useful toward those who desire to manage society and break down the American way of life. The politics of guilt is a powerful tool. Neither my white brothers nor my black brothers should let the pursuit of media-initiated conflict come between them.
Seek to not cause offense in the world of the perpetually offended, but seek not to be offended in the world of strategic conflict. You must make a mental decision, an individual exercise in our world of collectivist emphasis, to refuse to take offense, even though the world tells you that you should be offended. Don’t drink from the cup.
Rest in the grace of our great God, who saved us from his deserved wrath, and overwhelm others with this grace.