You know, the only silver lining regarding this resurgent controversy surrounding the Confederate flag is that, as more idiots keep doing more idiot things, it’s one more week that I don’t have to start writing about the 2016 presidential election.
And though the appearance of Donald Trump effigy piñatas popping up all across Latin America is perhaps God’s greatest simultaneous gift to karma and comedy — at least until Jenny McCarthy starts showing signs of some as-yet-undiscovered adult-onset autism — I’m still going to hold off on covering election politics until the clown car that is the Republican field is only half-full, as opposed to bursting at the seams with gibbering hate.
The downside, of course, is that I’m paying lip service to petty morons like Chuck Netzhammer of Slidell, Louisiana. If you missed this the first time around, congratulations. Also, I’m sorry for ruining your day.
Netzhammer called into a Walmart bakery in Slidell to request a Confederate flag cake that said “Heritage, not Hate.” This is a duplex of stupid, because 1) a rebel flag belongs on top of a cake as much as it belongs on top of a government building, and 2) while “Heritage, not Hate” is a pretty-sounding phrase and, okay, carries a valid ideological argument, it’s invalid as far as the real world is concerned. I got into this more in-depth last week, but it doesn’t matter what a symbol used to represent. What matters is how the symbol is interpreted, at large, right now.
Because Walmart has discontinued the sale of any product featuring the Confederate flag, the request was denied. But Netzhammer didn’t stop there. He has studied at the Kirk Cameron School of Polemics, and so he called back later on and ordered a cake based on a different flag, of which he sent in a picture to help the cake-maker out. It happened to be a picture of the Islamic State flag, also known as the ISIS flag, also known as Oh S**t.
Netzhammer did this, ostensibly, to prove a point, to turn the tables and make it seem as if the Confederate flag supporters are the victims, and not the African-Americans who have been murdered or otherwise victimized in the name of that flag.
There are, to put it mildly, a couple of problems with Netzhammer’s logic here: 1) rebel flag supporters trying to portray themselves as victims is ridiculous. It’s like if an auto-erotic asphyxiation practitioner sued the silk scarf producer for the four-hour erection it gave him; 2) while the name of ISIS is, unfortunately, pretty commonly known, the appearance of the group’s flag is not. Frankly, it looks fairly innocuous from a visual standpoint: start white and black, with the phrases “There is no god but God” and “Muhammad is the messenger of God,” which together form a simple declaration of faith that appears throughout the Muslim world.
The average American, honestly, would have trouble picking it out from a group of similar flags.
This is trolling of the pettiest type, and it’s pretty troubling that this and extreme violence seem to be the last resorts of rebel flag supporters. What’s saddest, though, is that they’re making it much more difficult for themselves in framing this as a cultural conflict, as another “war” of sorts. It needn’t be; ideally, this would be an instance of a group of people recognizing the inherent danger, the inherent negative and hateful connotation that a symbol carries, and deciding, as a society, to retire it.
And I get it; we don’t live in an ideal world. That means that, in a case like this, the two opposing groups are engaging in a dialogue on completely different wavelengths; essentially, we are speaking different languages, and we do not fundamentally understand each other. As much as we’ve accomplished as a society, I’d hoped by now that the human capacity for empathy would have evolved as well. And I’m sure that, if there is a God, he wishes the same thing; otherwise, I give it another generation before he disables the comments section.