Flag from their shelves in light of a racism-fulled shootout that
occurred in the US. Great! I have had the privilege to spend time in rural areas across Canada and that damn flag always seemed to
pop up. The Confederate Flag is an odious symbolic mixture of
racism against African Americans, rebellion against established
authority, and idiotic republicanism. None of which have any place
in Canada. Just maybe I will finally be seeing less of the
Confederate Flag and its oh-so-clever remixes.
Of course there are those who claim the flag is a harmless
declaration of rural pride. I'm sure this discussion will peter out
without resolution like most disputes concerning symbolism. But this great flag debate does provoke an interesting
question: is pushing offensive symbols to the margins the most effective means of attacking the beliefs behind them or is
it better to rehabilitate negative symbols?
The Confederate Flag has been compared to the Swastika Flag as a negative symbol. The Germans know a thing or two about dealing with offensive symbols. Indeed, if you want to look at a country that goes to great lengths to attack the
symbols racists and white pride groups use you can do no better than Germany. Their courts can and do ban
'unconstitutional groups' and the display of symbols associated with them. Obvious symbols covered is the swastika, SS
emblem, and (more recently) the ISIS flag. However, since this ban applies to any symbol a racist group decides to use it
has also affected the Celtic Cross (which annoys me both as a christian and as someone of Scotch-Irish decent) and
several of the old Imperial German Flags (which greatly annoys German monarchists). The ban occasionally also hits
people making anti-fascist symbols.
The list of banned symbols continues to grow as new racist groups emerge and adopt symbols to represent themselves.
Now, strictly speaking the ban only applies to symbols if being used to promote racism. This is a very fine line though. As
the case of the swastika demonstrates, once a negative association is made it tends not to go away.
Obviously the US and Canada aren't legally able to do this kind of thing. Such bans might occur on an informal basis as
people simply refuse to sell the Confederate Flag anymore. But is this eternal game of whack-a-mole the right tactic? To
borrow a chess term, are we not just ceding board control to the racists? A great number of symbols are now off-limits
to the general public but freely usable by racists. We have not censored them so much as we have censored ourselves. And the racists simply pick whatever new symbol takes their fancy. I'd like to suggest there is a better way.
Let's take a trip back in time to when Rome is still in control of the Western World. Travelling along any given road we
would be bound to come across a crucifixion taking place. The cross was a symbol of an absolutely terrible way to die and
a reminder of the price for defying Rome. Perhaps by 100 AD, and certainly by 300 AD, the cross was taking on a new
meaning. Far from being a symbol despair and fear it was becoming a symbol of hope. Instead of symbolizing the
ultimate authority of Rome it was coming to symbolize the limits of that authority. In short, the cross was co-opted from
the Romans by the Christians. Christianity has actually been very good at this. Indeed, I can't get through one holiday
without someone remarking on Facebook about how [insert symbol] once belonged to Paganism. The church adopted symbols from all over and in the process weakened the groups it was in conflict with. The Church was able through its co-opting of symbols to make its narrative the dominant one.
A modern example occurred recently in Japan. The Chinese have a few derogatory slurs for the Japanese and they tend to
come out whenever the two countries come into dispute. One of which is Rìběn guǐzi (roughly translates to 'Japanese devils').
A few people noticed that an alternate reading of the characters produced a legitimate, but fictional, Japanese name. It was decided that they were going to turn a racial slur into a cute anime girl.
Thus Hinomoto Oniko was born:
When did people stop using this highly effective strategy? And more importantly, why? Imagine if the Civil Rights
Movement had adopted the Confederate Flag as their banner during the 1960s & onward. They might have justified this
as 'taking back the South' or some other reason. How could a racist fly the Confederate Flag after that? Everyone would
think he supported the Civil Rights Movement! So the racists would pick a new symbol. And if people knew what was
good for them they would do the same thing again. Yes, this too is a treadmill. But, unlike the one I described earlier this one gives the public symbols they can use rather than giving them to the racists. Is it going to take some bigoted group adopting the Pride Flag as their symbol for people to realize they may be using the wrong tactic here? Sure, its underhanded and maybe a little mean but so too are the people we're fighting.
Anyways, those are my thoughts on how to solve this flag flap. Then again I'm the type of person who wonders why gun
control supports don't all just join the NRA and call a vote.