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Blaming a Flag for Mass Murder Is Silly

Something almost unbelievable occurred during media’s coverage of the racist massacre of nine people in a historically black Charleston church. Very early on, it emerged that the killer Dylann Roof had at one point touched an Xbox. And yet, not one national outlet went into hysterics about violent video games.

It’s a turning point for a country that once blamed Doom for the murder of 21 people. But 16 years after Columbine, the notion that the actions of clearly disturbed individuals should be blamed on a video game played by millions has virtually disappeared.

…Only to be replaced by a flag.

Former Obama official Brandon Friedman got the ball rolling before the bodies were even cold. “In October, Gov. Nikki Haley defended flying the Confederate flag outside the South Carolina statehouse,” he tweeted. But while Friedman got a lot of flak for blaming Haley, it soon emerged that Roof had a Confederate flag license plate, and liberals grabbed the Confederate flag theme and ran with it.

I’ll be up front; as a Yankee, I really don’t get Southerners’ obsession with the Confederate battle flag. From a purely aesthetic point-of-view, the flag’s beautiful enough (unlike the actual Confederate flag). But I’ve always found it horribly hypocritical that many of my fellow conservatives would express patriotism and support of the troops, only to celebrate a nation that warred against the United States for five years.

But to others, the flag is a deviation from East Coast liberal norms, and therefore must always and only be a) racist and b) summarily crush and relegated to the dustbin of history. That’s a perfectly fine opinion to hold. But tying a flag to a racist massacre intended to ignite a race war is just unfair.

The Confederate battle flag has flown over South Carolina’s State House for over 50 years. In that time-span, millions of South Carolinians were born, raised, and died with the Confederate battle flag flying over the South Carolina State House. Everyone of them knew the history behind the flag, racist warts and all. Exactly one of them committed a racist massacre.

That murderer had a history of drug use, a history of racist comments, a burgeoning criminal record at the ripe old age of 21, and the flags of apartheid-era Rhodesia and South Africa on his jacket. There are no apartheid flags flying over state buildings or hanging in Ole Miss dorm rooms. Roof’s racial animus and extremist views clearly went above and beyond whatever casual racism liberals believe permeate Southern culture.

But yes, he had a Confederate flag license plate. Just like literally thousands of Americans who somehow manage not to try to ignite race wars on a daily business. Likewise, 61% of South Carolinians, including one in four black South Carolinians, support keeping the Confederate flag over the State Capitol. But for some reason, we have to treat his embrace of the Confederate flag as the emblematic symbol of his racist beliefs.

Let us suppose that ten years ago, opponents of the Confederate flag got everything they wanted: no more Confederate flag over state capitols, no more flags on the back of pickup trucks, a full ban on reruns of The Dukes of Hazzard. Does anyone believe that pressuring Southerners to give up a cultural icon with an accusation of racism would have improved racial relations? That racist banter and extremism on the Internet would have diminished?

More importantly, does any intellectually honest person believe that a flag flying over the state capitol was what caused a man to murder nine people who had prayed with and for him minutes before, most of them elderly? If not, how is using the latter to ban the former anything other than opportunistic exploitation?

Too many liberals have become the hyperventilating soccer moms of the ’90s. Desperate to make sense of a tragedy, they’ve rooted through the shooter’s personal history for anything that would help explain it. Violent video games made perfect sense back then: the shooters were violent, they played violent video games, ergo the games made them violent and the games have to go. The same logic is being applied today: the shooter was racist, the Confederate flag is venerated by racists, flag has to go.

Ironically, the same individuals recoil in horror when prominent conservatives blame rap music for black criminality. At least conservative prudes are going off on lyrics explicitly promoting domestic abuse, drug use, and gang warfare. But the same individuals who see the nuance, artistic value, and culture behind “Cop Killer” seem incapable of extending the same benefit of the doubt to a flag millions died defending.

I don’t like the Confederate flag, and I probably never will. Just like I don’t particularly like rap music, or System of the Down, or Quentin Tarantino, or any other of the easy scapegoats for cultural ills. But to blame it for the evil in one man’s twisted heart is cheap, illogical, and just an easy way to avoid addressing the real issues.

[Image via @BRios82]
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