I do not care for the Confederate battle flag, and I have no problems with its coming down off the flagpoles and municipal buildings of the South. It is, after all, a military symbol of a nation dedicated primarily to slavery—slavery being roughly correlative to a First Principle for the Confederacy—and though I can’t stand political correctness, one can appreciate that the flag is uniquely offensive and onerous to black Americans, and that its removal from the public square constitutes a material improvement, however small, on the issue of race relations in this country. Take it down.
Nevertheless, there was something both pathetic and sad about the recent anti-Confederate flag flurry that gripped the nation. It seemed to come upon everyone all at once, and suddenly we were defacing monuments, climbing flagpoles, and banning even historical video games that featured the flag as part of an historical setting. It was the kind of pompous, we’re-making-history movement that can only come about in the age of social media: lightning-fast, self-gratifying, grandiose, and gone as quickly as it came. It’s not that I’m not glad many of the flags are gone—as I said, it’s good that they’ve been ditched—it’s that it was accomplished in part because of the social media mob, which is a terrifying and unruly tool: Internet social justice warriors should be a weapon of last resort, the kind of thing behind a BREAK THIS GLASS IN CASE OF EMERGENCY box. Eventually, as we’ve seen time and again, these people will turn on you, and tear down something that you like, and eventually devour you, even if you’re nominally on their side. Use at your own risk.
As risky as the mob is, however, there is perhaps a greater threat to the peace and stability of our society. It’s called cultural illiteracy:
A man in Louisiana is asking for an explanation from Walmart after his request for a Confederate flag cake at one of its bakeries was rejected, but a design with the ISIS flag was accepted.
Chuck Netzhammer said he ordered the image of the Confederate flag on a cake with the words, “Heritage Not Hate,” on Thursday at a Walmart in Slidell, Louisiana. But the bakery denied his request, he said. At some point later, he ordered the image of the ISIS flag that represents the terrorist group.
“I went back yesterday and managed to get an ISIS battleflag printed. ISIS happens to be somebody who we’re fighting against right now who are killing our men and boys overseas and are beheading Christians,” Netzhammer said.
Now, on the one hand, you can appreciate that some Walmart associates in Louisiana recognized the Confederate flag over the ISIS one—surely the average person in Louisiana has had more experience with the former over the latter. Just the same, it’s kind of amazing that this was allowed to pass, especially given that Walmart has taken the incredible step in recent days of removing all Confederate-themed merchandise from their stores. They’ve gotten uptight about offensive symbols representing evil, barbarous causes. So you’d think they might have been clued in to recognize perhaps the most prominent Islamic terrorist group on the planet, a bunch of guys who are running around beheading, stoning, raping, destroying, and—yes—enslaving thousands and thousands of people across the Middle East. Is it too much to ask that these folks watch the news every once in a while?
To its credit, Walmart apologized and admitted that the cake “should not have been made.” That’s a point for consistency, at least. But it is still troubling. People are familiar with and can recognize certain unsavory aspects of our shared historical baggage—the Confederate flag—and yet they’d prefer to try and forget about this stuff altogether. But they’re also happy to remain perfectly ignorant about a real, actual, present-day threat, one that’s currently boiling over a large part of the planet and shaping it into a primitive seventh-century hell-hole. So we’ve arrived at the curious cultural crossroads, in which we’ve done away with any toys related to the Dukes of Hazzard, but we’ll allow cakes to be made featuring prominently the symbol of a head-chopping, gay-stoning, child-raping military/religious tyranny. Is this progress?