Thursday, June 25, 2015

Safer to Debate the Flag

Yesterday I posted to a Facebook group in response to a comment about "the flag."  I commented about a concern that I have these days, that is, that while we're all worked up about the Confederate flag, the even more important debate about gun control has gotten left behind -- just the way the NRA wants it.

Minutes later, someone replied in a rage.  She posted something to the effect that first we got her flag and now we want to take away her guns, and added "don't you people ever have enough?"  I thought about ignoring the rant, and then I thought about being intimidated by crazy people with guns.  So I replied that I wondered what was wrong with a debate about guns, and also, who "you people" are.  My first thought was that my picture was on my post and I am very obviously not an African American.  But no, her reply (which I merely scanned as she was getting more wild and long-winded) indicated that the group of "you people" to which I belonged was liberals.

Two days after her press conference about the flag, I heard an MSNBC commentator ask, "Nikki Haley being considered for vice president?"  This was after I had been stewing about what a shrewd political move this was on Haley's part.  Of course, the question at this point is idiotic, but her goals of being on the national stage are evident.

What makes me want to pull my hair out is just how clever her move was.  It may be time to take the flag down, she said, but let's not forget all those people who truly see the flag as a proud representation of their southern heritage.  Really, she repeated, let's not forget those people who love them their confederate flag.  And said it a couple more times.  She pretty nearly said the flag should come down, but she also made it quite clear that it wouldn't be up to her. 

While in Alabama for-goodness-sake the republican governor ordered all four flags removed from the capitol grounds, Nikki is letting us all know that her greatest concern is following the letter of the law.   Wink, wink.  That's the Nikki Haley that has never let the letter of the law get in the way of doing what she wants where her own self interest is concerned.

And as if Alabama hadn't had our heads spinning enough, Paul Thurmond, son of that old racist Strom, spoke eloquently and unequivocally calling for the end to the waving of the flag that represented racism and slavery.

So while Bentley of Alabama and our own Paul Thurmond are proving themselves to be on the right side of history on this one, I'm thinking that this is still a win-win for Haley.  She gets to sound like a reformer while making it clear that her heart is also with her redneck base.  She's going to let idiot senator Lee Bright take up the call for the paranoid and delusional.  As he is quoted in the New York Times:

“There are those of us who have ancestors that fought and spilled blood on the side of the South when they were fighting for states’ rights, and we don’t want our ancestors relegated to the ash heaps of history,” he said. “Through the years, the heroes of the South have been slandered, maligned and misrepresented, and this is a further activity in that.”

I am aware of just how quickly a pleasant southerner can turn rabid when certain trigger words come up.  It once was "Clinton" as in Bill, and then it became "Obama."  I imagine that over the coming months people will start to foam at the mouth over "Hillary."  But there are words like "confederate flag" and "gun control," "taxes" and "unions" that accomplish that same effect.  And republican politicians here in South Carolina have trained their followers well.

I don't think Dylann Roof created the firestorm that is brewing in our state.  It has always been close to the surface.  If we are truly going to "debate" the flag, we are going to see the crazies coming out of the woodwork.  And that leads me to my main point.

Nikki Haley lept at the chance to take her stand with the confederate flag.  She got to sound strong, and she got to move the debate away from gun control.  You may have heard that at a church vigil last week, a call for gun control was met by a roar of approval and a standing ovation -- except for Nikki Haley and Tim Scott, conspicuously seated in the front row.

It is clear that while Haley may shed a few crocodile tears for these victims of gun violence, she is able to pull herself together for the NRA.  Tim Scott, who pretends to be one with the African American community, is on the side of money and power -- as usual -- in this case, feet firmly planted on the same side as wacko Lee Bright, for the freedom to wield weapons.  Scott and Haley made a striking pair, sitting at the vigil for nine dead who would be alive but for the ease with which Dylann Roof could get a gun.

And that's the thing.  While we all fight one important battle -- to take down that flag that represents the enslavement and subsequent fear and hatred for free and equal African Americans, the issue of guns in the hands of the haters is left on the back burner.  Those bills promoting guns in schools and shops and on the street, open carry, lessening of training requirements, Second Amendment Awareness Day, tax free holidays for guns, they aren't going anywhere.  And how do we fight it anyway?  If the angry rednecks are getting ready for a showdown over the confederate flag, what will they do if they think the issue is taking away their guns?

I was unnerved by the strange Facebook attack yesterday.  But I am going to continue to talk about the need for gun control.  You can see, though, how much easier it would be to go after the flag and once again let the whole gun thing go away, until next time.

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