Saturday, June 20, 2015

It's not about a flag

It's taken me a few days to process Charleston, in part because I was still processing Coral Ridge Mall. And during the three days since Wednesday's mass murder, a goal and rallying point has emerged.

Somehow, the issue that has come out of a white supremacist targeting a historic, politically active black church and murdering nine people has become a Confederate flag debate.

In part this is because of the scene of the murder,South Carolina, where the Confederate flag, and its display on state grounds, has been at the middle of public debate for a few decades. Fewer decades than you would think, because as the symbols of segregation were less important while actual, old school, colored fountain legal segregation was the law of the land in South Carolina.

Symbolism is powerful. Symbolism is important. Symbolism matters. It should be a no brainer to remove the Confederate flag from its remaining places of official display. Tear it down and light it on fire with a bottle of Jack Daniel's. And defining it and stigmatizing it s a racist symbol will be a step forward in defining and stigmatizing racism. Maybe down the road a couple decades, combines with a lot of other steps, it'll keep some other child from growing into this kind of a monster.

But it won't eliminate racism, either the casually accepted type or the violent Stormfront variety displayed by the murderer. Hauling the Confederate flag down from the South Carolina state capitol would be a good thing, a great thing in fact. But it would not have saved those nine lives.

Sensible gun control laws might have.

The post-Charleston discussion has turned to the flag in part because the killer chose flags for their symbolic power. But I can't help but feel like part of the reason the flag fight has become a symbol of victory here is because people feel a desperate need to do something, but have given up on trying to take on the gun issue.

There's an acceptance of the unacceptable. Yes, we know that every couple months in America some angry white boy will shoot up a place and kill a bunch of people, but that's just how it is and we'll never be able to change it. No, easier to take on a symbolic fight rather than a substantive fight.

After last week's shooting in my community, I broke the taboo and said in public for the first time what I've believed for years. It's time to repeal the Second Amendment and eliminate the archaic notion and Constitutional misinterpretation that owning a weapon is an absolute right. No other country on the planet has anything like the Second Amendment and our gun culture, and no other country on the planet has anything like our mass murder rate.

And then we need to enact strict gun control laws like the rest of the world had. Maybe in order to stop these shootings, it really does need to be harder to get a deer rifle. Maybe that's the only way we can do it. One thing's for sure, we've never actually tried.

Maybe we'll never eliminate monstrous hate like what we saw Wednesday. Maybe it will take more generations that I will see, and maybe we need to take some symbolic steps along the way. But in the meantime, we need to do our best to limit the means of destruction.

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