Confederate Flag debate should spur discussion on other topics

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Photo above: Dylann Storm Roof (Facebook)

There may actually be hope for the future of our great country as it moves to rid itself of this symbol, the Confederate flag. While I fully support this movement, I must also say I agree with those who claim it represents freedom of speech to wear it or display it. It also represents a complete lack of regard for an entire race of people while supporting one of the uglier elements of our past. But, to each his own.

When South Carolina lawmakers listened to the outrage of citizens over the use of this deplorable symbol and began to discuss removing it from state buildings, it demonstrated one of the few times we see elected leaders actually listening to the people they represent while allowing us to see who those are who refuse to change with the tide of public opinion.

And when companies like Wal-Mart and Ebay agree to stop selling products with the Confederate logo on them, it tells us big business can listen to the public and put our wishes before their profits.

But why is it we can succeed at ridding ourselves of a racist symbol after a horrific shooting, while remaining unable to rid ourselves of something as deplorable as the “N” word?

Perhaps a better comparison is not with the “N” word, but with the term “Redskin” and its use by the NFL’s Washington Redskins football team. Attempts to legislate the use of the term and logo have largely failed and will never be as effective as publicly pressuring those who profit from it to change.

Daniel Snyder, the owner of the Washington Redskins, should be free to use the name if that is what he wants. However, when enough people, football fans especially, are offended by the name and refuse to attend or watch their games on television, when they refuse to purchase any NFL items with the Redskin logo on it, and when they insist the NFL stop producing and profiting off of the sale of Redskin products or face a league-wide boycott, the name will be changed.

Snyder is, after all, a businessman first and foremost and he is smart enough to know when it is in his financial interest to change his team’s name or sell the franchise. He does not need it to be legislated. Doing so will only incite his fan base and lead to their continued support.

Marc Maron with President Obama (YouTube)
Marc Maron with President Obama (YouTube)

The “N” word is trickier. It can be used when done in context as our president recently demonstrated. While people are free to try and profit off it through the sale of flags, beer can holders, t-shirts, or license plate frames, it has yet to be easily done. This has pretty much relegated the use of the word among truly ignorant racists and those who identify with the rap culture (I must add, I feel they are just as ignorant).

Following the Charleston shooting of nine blacks in a prayer meeting, there became more cries for greater gun control. Just as with the aftermath of Columbine, Aurora, and Newtown, the debate raged between two stubborn camps over the effectiveness of stricter gun laws.

These debates, oddly enough, only result in an increase in the sale of firearms, which is why our country now has almost one gun for every citizen. It is proof legislating change, or even the threat of it, rarely works as planned. It is also why, when you succeed at changing the mindset of a culture first, it then makes legislating change much easier.

A law-abiding citizen who respects the Second Amendment will legally purchase a gun and go to great lengths to use it in a safe manner. Criminals, on the other hand, will never care what the law states and go to any length necessary to secure a gun and use it to do harm to others.

However, a culture that does not glorify or go to great lengths to profit off of gun violence – think of Hollywood, video games, and the over use of our military abroad – will not only lose its thirst for collecting guns, they will lose their reliance on their use in general when trying to solve personal or political problems.

It seems our culture is finally ready to rid itself of a symbol of a past none of us should be proud to embrace. We have also rid ourselves, for the most part, of the fear of two people of the same sex getting married, women serving in the military, and blacks becoming President of the United States.

Perhaps there is hope through all of this we can rid ourselves of the fear of the color of another person’s skin and start going about working together to solve problems the affect all of us rather than having to deal with only those that divide us.