Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Bashed with a baseball bat...

Yesterday, while riding home from Salzburg, I was passing time on Facebook when I noticed a friend had posted an outraged status.  Until yesterday, she and I had a mutual friend, an older woman who is very proud of her southern heritage.  Said mutual friend had posted a picture of the Confederate flag on her Facebook page with the comment that she "hoped the South would rise again."

My friend was upset by the picture and the comment about the South "rising" again.  She got pissed off and posted her own status update.  A minor argument ensued that resulted in unfriending.  Personally, I don't give a shit about the Confederate flag.  It doesn't bother me.  I see it as a symbol, one of many, that was used in the past.  The flag itself is not evil; it's just a symbol and symbols only have the power given to them by people.  Some people behind the flag committed evil acts by enslaving others.  Unfortunately, slavery is a part of American history.  Still, some people want to use the Confederate flag as a symbol of Southern pride.  Having grown up in the South, I can see why some people are proud of the South.  There are things to love about the American South.  There are other things that, I think, make the South a lot less lovable.  

I can certainly see why some people are offended by the Confederate flag.  I don't think it's a symbol that will ever totally go away, but there is a segment of society that seems to be trying really hard to get rid of it.  A lot of people would like to forget about America's painful checkered past and whitewash all things Confederate.  They are so distressed by it and conscious of racism that they want to suppress other people who mention it.  And so, if someone posts a picture of the Confederate flag on their Facebook page, they run the risk of being called out by outraged folks.

Actually, yesterday, as we were driving back home, we passed a guy in a cowboy hat driving a huge pickup.  There was a Confederate flag on his window and a bumper sticker of Texas with the Confederate flag on it.  I don't know if the guy was American.  He probably was, although I've seen the Confederate flag displayed in Italy.  For some reasons, some Italians seem to identify with it as a symbol.  They display it and probably get little flak for it.  To many of them, it's just a "cool looking" flag.

In a similar vein, one of the first things I read this morning was an article about a "hate preacher" who got bashed in the head with a baseball bat for holding up a sign that read "You deserve rape." and preaching hate speech about gays and lesbians.  19 year old Tabitha Brubaker apparently got good and pissed when Dean Saxton of Glendale, Arizona started "preaching" about the evils of homosexuality.  She hit Saxton upside the head with a baseball bat and was arrested for felony assault and marijuana possession.  Saxton left the scene with a bloody head, but now Brubaker's got legal problems.  I have to wonder if hitting him was worth what it will cost.

Seriously, though, this guy is an asshole...  

At first blush, these two situations may have little to do with one another.  One is about two Facebook friends splitting up over a disagreement about the South and the Confederate flag.  The other is about a guy who got busted upside the head with a baseball bat for preaching about the so-called evils of homosexuality.  When I think about it, though, it seems like these two things have more in common than meets the eye.  They both involve people trying to take a moral highground and telling someone else what they can or can't say.

A lot of people think Saxton deserved to be hit with the baseball bat.  It's true, I have zero sympathy for the guy.  However, we can't go around hitting people with bats whenever they say offensive things.  It would have a chilling effect on the freedom of expression.  Many people would agree that Saxton's comments were distasteful and would agree with shutting him up.  But if we shut him up, doesn't it stand to reason that people could theoretically shut up anyone who voices an opinion outside the norm?  And is it really okay to use violence to do that?

I don't think Saxton is worth going to jail over, even if I wouldn't be surprised if Brubaker ended up with a light sentence.  I just think that those who applaud his being hit with the bat are missing the big picture.  If we let people be violent over "offensive" comments, what's to stop everyone from being violent over any comment?

The same goes with my friends arguing over the Confederate flag.  One friend is southern and proud of it.  She doesn't see the Confederate flag as a symbol of hatred.  A lot of people don't see it as a symbol of hatred, though a more vocal group thinks it's about nothing but slavery and racism.  I guess I see it as more of a gray area and, even if I were offended by the flag, would not want to see freedom of expression squelched in the name of political correctness.  I think people should communicate and not be cowed by baseball bats or Facebook arguments.

Ah hell... this probably doesn't make a lot of sense.  I'm still pretty tired from our travel.  Suffice to say, I'm for freedom of expression, even if it's stuff most of us don't want to hear.  


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