Douglas Wilson, a Christian Reconstruction and slavery apologist from Idaho, has jumped neck deep into discussion about the Charleston shootings and the Confederate flag, offering up an unsurprisingly appalling opinion on the whole matter. He explains why he wants that flag to remain up (other than the obvious fact, which he won’t admit, that he is a racist asshole).
First, as I explained in another post after another shooting, it is unseemly to politicize these horrors when the families are still weeping. Whether the issue is gun control or something else, whenever a hard sell comes in the immediate aftermath of a tragedy, the only thing it makes me want to do is wonder at how boorish some people can be. If this the case when the political issue is arguably connected, as with gun control, how much more is it the case when it is so obliquely related? Did the alleged shooter even know about the flag? Boorish behavior can be exhibited by either side. If one man starts a roaring debate in favor of gun control the same day of the shooting, the situation is not improved if an advocate of open carry does the same thing the next day. The families involved, who include godly Christian people calling for repentance and a turn to Christ, ought not to be distracted by apparatchiks trying to make some political hay out of their grief.
Oh yes, of course, we must not relate the murders to any issue at all. It happened in a vacuum. How convenient.
The issue of taking the flag down, or leaving it up for that matter, is an issue of symbolism. And as this kind of controversy demonstrates, we don’t understand symbolism very well. We don’t know how it works. We don’t know how the meaning of symbols gets assigned, we don’t have any clear way of determining what groups have a right to be offended by a particular symbol, who has a right to speak for those groups, or how we balance competing claims for the right to use the symbol. The Confederate flag can mean that you are at a KKK rally, that you are looking at a truck decal in a NASCAR rally parking lot, that you are at a Skynyrd concert, that you are looking a commemorative calendar painted by a memorabilia artist, that you are driving by a car dealership in rural Virginia, or that you saw a photo of Kanye West taking his confusions to a whole new level.
And if you don’t understand how the battle over symbols is being conducted, the chances are excellent that the flag at the state capitol will be taken down, a rainbow gay flag will replace it in a couple years, and the shootings will continue apace.
At least a rainbow gay flag does not exist solely because it was created as the battle flag of an army raised to defend the cause of slavery. This is something that Wilson knows a lot about, since he has long defended it himself. In a pamphlet he published called Southern Slavery, As It Was, he wrote that “slavery produced in the South a genuine affection between the races that we believe we can say has never existed in any nation before the War or since.” That pamphlet was co-authored with the co-founder of the League of the South, a white nationalist group still longing for the good old days of the 1850s.