Hunting Symbols, Neglecting Sentiments

The confederate flag continues to garner disapproval. Recently, Marine Corps. Commander David H. Berger ordered the removal of all confederate paraphernalia from military installations.

Athens, Ohio Mayor Steve Patterson, who was disappointed with the Flair Agricultural Society’s sale of confederate merchandise at the annual county fair, wrote in a letter to the agricultural society,  

The historic business relationship and leases between the city and Agricultural Society have been mutually beneficial, but the city of Athens will re-evaluate extending them in the future based on your actions.

In Arizona, Assembly woman Lane Santa Cruz (D) expressed her disapproval of the confederate flag being flown in the Tucson Rodeo Parade, stating

until the Tucson Rodeo Parade Committee takes corrective action I will continue to refuse to participate, and I believe that the City of Tucson should stop investing in the parade

The general rationale behind removing the confederate flag often lies in its assessment as being bigoted and/or treacherous. Unfortunately, what’s seldom covered is the actual difference confederate flag removal would make on the conduct of confederate flag supporters.

No matter the rationale behind an individual’s decision to showcase the confederate flag, ordering its removal on any basis does nothing to undo the characteristics of the people who support the flag. A flag in this case is simply a symbol of particular beliefs. Whether or not the symbol itself is visible to the public is irrelevant regarding whether or not the flags represented ideology is present in the public. A Klansman is not any less of a Klansman in absence of the infamous hooded white robe, nor is a bigot any less of an intolerant person by the suppression of their preferred signal.

It is important to remember that people have reasons for their beliefs concerning others of different categories. While the logical soundness and incentives behind said reasons can be objectionable, leaving them unsuccessfully countered allows the belief holder’s rationale to remain intact. So long as the reasoning for beliefs remains present, the beliefs themselves will likewise remain present.

Banning a symbol may send a message that certain ideologies are not welcome and/or won’t be tolerated but sending a message does not automatically result in quelling undesirable behavior. Less overt, more innocuous methods of spreading an ideology can be developed in little time and prove a challenge to track and definitively define. By not confronting the ideology directly, there could be an increase in its development that becomes more difficult to manage.

Those who support the confederate flag for its heritage and cultural significance are also unlikely to be ideologically moved in any way by its removal. The negative connotation of the confederate flag is common knowledge at this point and is well known among supporters from a variety of different standpoints. Their support of the flag rests on a fundamental disagreement about what it symbolizes. Forcing the removal of the flag under an opposing notion does not convey the correctness of that notion. It does, however, contribute to the view of persecution that many non-bigotry based confederate flag supporters already have. Suppressing the confederate flag may cause an increase in animosity from this group and disincentivize them from aligning with causes they would otherwise have no problem with. A person who prides country music, southern dishes, the rural lifestyle, and rustic art may be inclined to sport the confederate flag while being hospitable to people of different backgrounds. If these kinds of flag supporters become agitated from the pressures placed on them to change their expressions, they may spitefully alienate themselves from or oppose certain political ventures due to the grievance. This could prove detrimental in scenarios where marginal input can have a decisive effect such as voting or petition signatures.

Despite what reason a person has for exhibiting a confederate flag, banning its display is insufficient for addressing whatever sentiments spurred the display. The causes that resulted in the confederate flag’s display will remain with or with out the flag in view unless those causes are rectified directly and efficiently. Banning the confederate flag in an attempt to address undesirable sentiments is the equivalent of blind folding the target of a firing squad to avoid the bullets.

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