social media

“Shame, shame… everybody knows your name!” When people of today, shame others over events from the past…

Back in the 80s, I used to love watching sitcoms on television. One of my favorites from those days was Alice, which, over several years, starred Linda Lavin, Vic Tayback, Beth Howland, Polly Holliday, Diane Ladd, and Celia Weston. A few years ago, I downloaded the entire series and watched all of the episodes. As I was watching the show, I had forgotten that Alice, along with many other TV shows from that era, wasn’t always “politically correct” by today’s standards.

I remember one episode featured cast members from The Dukes of Hazzard, which was a huge hit in the early 80s. I was still a child in the 80s, and I grew up in southern Virginia, where people proudly displayed Confederate battle flags. Consequently, when Alice originally aired in the 80s, I wasn’t shocked when an episode featured Boss Hogg and Enos, of The Dukes of Hazzard. Mel Sharples (Tayback), crotchety owner of Mel’s Diner, welcomed them by putting little Confederate battle flags on all the tables. In those days, seeing that flag was pretty common and even considered “normal”, especially in the South. I was about ten years old, anyway, and at that time, didn’t know anything about racism, or any of the issues surrounding that topic.

Yes, Enos and Boss Hogg visited Mel’s Diner.

I would later learn much more about racism, and why the Confederate flag is so offensive to many people, but I’m probably still pretty ignorant about the subject. What I know is mostly based on book learning and conversations I’ve had with people of color. I did happen to live in South Carolina when the Confederate flag was finally taken down from the top of the Statehouse dome. Because I was living on the campus at the University of South Carolina, I could actually see the flag come down from my apartment, as it was also being televised on CNN. The flag was moved to the Statehouse grounds, where it was guarded by a state trooper for some time. I believe the powers that be in South Carolina eventually removed the battle flag from the Statehouse grounds altogether, although I can’t swear to it, since I haven’t been in Columbia in years.

This certainly wouldn’t fly today… but it was considered perfectly fine in the 80s. We can’t change that by shaming people.

One thing I remember from Alice was that the character of Vera, played by Beth Howland, was famously ditzy, “dinghy”, and batty. One of Vera’s best remembered taglines was “shame, shame… everybody knows your name!” She would always say it with the appropriate level of disgust and disdain, which usually got a laugh from the studio audience. That old line is in my head this morning, as I reflect upon a shaming comment I received this morning from a complete stranger. It’s actually one of a few unpleasant interactions I’ve had with complete strangers on Facebook over the past 24 hours.

I’m in a Facebook group called “Exploring Virginia”. It’s mainly a “feel good” group in which people share beautiful photos and memories of Virginia. I spent most of my childhood and a good portion of my young adult life in Virginia. It’s my home. I was born there, and both sides of my family of origin have been there for generations. I spent my childhood riding horses, and since my discipline was “hunt seat”, that means I went on the occasional fox hunt. Virginia, being one of the original British colonies, does have a lot of traditions that are British. Some people are continuing those old traditions, even if they seem wrong now.

Yesterday, someone shared a photo from a fox hunt in Middleburg, Virginia. Middleburg is horse country. I never lived in Middleburg, but I do know that’s where a lot of really stellar hunter jumpers are born and bred. So, it stands to reason that there would be fox hunts in Middleburg. I thought it was nice that someone shared a photo from a hunt, and posted:

“I used to go on fox hunts in my youth… Was a lot of fun!”

I haven’t been fox hunting since, oh, around 1986 or so… at that time, fox hunts weren’t necessarily considered politically incorrect. They were even still legal in the United Kingdom, which banned them in 2004, because they are considered “cruel” . Fox hunting is still permitted in Northern Ireland. I believe they are still popular in Ireland, too, based on the YouTube videos I’ve seen. Anyway, it’s been many years since I last partook of that sport. In fact, I haven’t even been riding since the mid 90s, and riding used to be a huge part of my life. Seeing that fox hunting photo brought back good memories of when I spent most of my free time with my horse.

Most follow up comments to mine were friendly. Several other people also wrote that they used to enjoy fox hunting. Others just expressed appreciation for the photo, which again, wasn’t my photo. But then, this morning, I got a comment from someone who felt the need to single me out, and shame me, for fondly remembering my fox hunting days. She wrote, in direct response to my comment that hunting was fun, “not for the fox.”

I decided to reply to her, which I think I managed to do in a somewhat measured tone. I wrote:

“In all of the years that I hunted, I never saw any killing. We mostly chased deer, who also weren’t killed. Think trail ride while wearing fancy riding clothes. I think I saw one fox in all the times we hunted. We all said “tallyho”, and that was it.”

I understand that fox hunting is no longer considered “politically correct”, because many people consider it to be cruel. However, when I went fox hunting, I was a child growing up in rural Gloucester, Virginia, where my classmates would routinely bring rifles on school grounds so they could go hunting after school. That’s how things were in the 80s, and it was normal for me, and my classmates. Maybe fox hunting wouldn’t be considered “right” by some people today, but when I was a young horsewoman, it was perfectly fine, and part of taking riding lessons. I also competed in horse shows and went on competitive trail rides. Doing all of that helped keep me physically fit, taught me responsibility, and sportsmanship. It also kept me occupied and out of trouble. Moreover, hunting– of all kinds– was part of the culture in Gloucester.

In fact, when I was in middle school, I remember having to take a hunter safety course as part of our health and P.E. curriculum. Teachers actually taught us about how to safely handle firearms, even though I have never actually owned a weapon. Enough people in my community had guns, that the school board felt it was a good idea to teach school kids about gun safety. In light of all the gun violence in schools today, maybe it wasn’t such a bad idea. Should I be ashamed that I took a hunter safety course, too? I don’t remember having a choice in the matter.

Anyway, the actual kind of fox hunting we did was more of a ceremonial thing. It genuinely was fun, on the mornings when it wasn’t absolutely frigid outside. It basically boiled down to people putting on breeches, long johns, black boots, turtlenecks, and coats, and riding through the woods on fall mornings. After a few spirited canters through the woods, and a few jumps over ditches, fallen tree trunks, and fences that were put up by the hunt club, the adults would pass around a flask of Jack Daniels. It seemed to be more about camaraderie than a bloody sport involving wild animals being torn apart by dogs. I never once saw that happen, but even if I did, it’s not as if people weren’t also using their guns to kill wild animals in those days, and now.

While I probably wouldn’t choose to go fox hunting now, I don’t feel offended when I see a picture of a man in hunting attire on horseback with his dogs. Hunting serves a practical purpose. Some people get their meat that way, and actually hunt because that’s partly how they feed their families. Many people are going to choose to eat meat, no matter what animal rights activists say about it.

I don’t think I should be shamed because I once enjoyed fox hunting, especially since I was a kid at the time, and nothing was ever actually killed. What’s the point of shaming someone for something like that, other than trying to make them feel like shit? I can’t change the fact that I used to fox hunt and mostly enjoyed it. It was part of growing up in rural Virginia around horses. Given that Exploring Virginia is supposed to be a “feel good” group, I think that lady’s comment was out of place. As I was writing this, some other lady gave me a “sad” reaction. Seriously? I decided to just delete my comment, because I don’t want to spend my Friday being annoyed by shamers. I’m sure that reaction was not what the group creators had in mind when they started their group.

For more reading about fox hunting in Virginia, here’s an excellent blog post by someone who describes exactly what I remember from my “hunting days”.

Cue the judgmental responses from the vegan crowd…

I’m not the only one who’s gotten shamed, though. Singer-songwriter Janis Ian shared the featured photo yesterday. Janis Ian regularly posts things that get people riled up and snarky. I like her music, and often agree with her views. She can be funny, too. But I rarely comment on her posts, mainly because I’ve noticed that she can get quite testy in responses to people and, at times, she’s a bit hypocritical. On the other hand, some of her fans are pretty obnoxious. One person commented,

“Yes! I didn’t realise that you are a vegan!”

To which Janis posted, “I’m not.”

The post then became inundated with comments from a preachy vegan who shamed those who enjoy eating meat. There were also a couple of comments about people who feed their cats a vegan diet, which I think is a cruel practice. Cats are true carnivores, and they shouldn’t be forced to be vegans because some humans think hunting is cruel. Even the ASPCA agrees. Cats hunt. It’s in their nature. No matter how many human beings think killing and eating animals is cruel, there will always be creatures who kill their food. It’s part of life.

That being said, I totally agree that factory farming is horrible, and too many of us eat way too much meat. But a holier than thou exchange on Facebook with a complete stranger about veganism isn’t going to make me change my diet, nor do I think the complete stranger really cares. I think it’s more about them feeling superior and more “evolved” than other people.

Personally, I truly admire vegans, but I don’t think I could be a vegan. I might be able to be a vegetarian, if I really desired to make that change. But I will tell you one thing… being preachy and judgmental is not going to make me want to join the vegan cause.

When it comes to animal rights, there are varying degrees on what some people think should be reality. Some animal rights activists, for instance, don’t think humans should even have pets. I’d love to know what they think we should do with all of the dogs and cats and horses who depend on their relationships with humans for their survival. You can’t tell me that my dogs don’t love Bill and me, either. I refuse to feel guilty and ashamed for loving my pets, who also eat meat.

I guess what it comes down to is that everybody has an opinion. In a just world, people would respect other people’s rights to express their opinions without resorting to shaming or climbing up on a moral high horse.

And finally…

Yesterday, I got shamed for “not being fertile”. Some guy in a discussion about abortion commented that he thinks that since half of a developing fetus’s DNA belongs to the father, the father should be allowed to force the mother to gestate. It’s as if this guy thinks of the fetus as his property, even though it’s not developing in his body.

I wrote that it’s too bad that MALES aren’t the ones whose health and life are on the line. And the guy responded by saying “most men prefer women who are fertile.” That struck me as a totally stupid comment. I actually laughed out loud. I considered offering a snarky rebuttal, but then decided that the guy’s comment was so incredibly dumb that it was better to block him. I don’t want to have anything to do with an asshole like that. 😉

But seriously… on so many levels, that comment was very offensive. First off, how does he know about my fertility, or lack thereof? I don’t look old in my photo. Secondly, why is he speaking for all men? And thirdly, it’s those kinds of misogynistic comments that make a lot of women not want to have anything to do with men. I can totally understand why my cousin decided to conceive using donor sperm, rather than being involved with a man. For one thing, she’s a lesbian. For another, so many men are just assholes. I truly hope that no fertile woman lets that dude get within fifty yards of her vagina.

Yeah, yeah, yeah… I need to get off of Facebook.

Standard
Military, modern problems, social media

Your shit stinks too…

I didn’t post any fresh content yesterday because I didn’t have anything on my mind that I was just burning to write about. Ever since I moved my blog from Blogspot, I’ve decided it’s better to post quality content over quantity. I realize that some readers may not think the content is necessarily better on this blog. I used to post less about politics and more about Mormonism and steplife issues than I do now. I no longer need to write as much about either of those topics, so I have noticed some formerly loyal readers have moved on. Some people used to like reading my posts about true crime. I do still write about that, but not as often. Maybe it’s because the president is a criminal and writing about him is kind of like writing about true crime, too.

As time passes, priorities change. Right now, I’m fixated more on politics than I’ve ever been. I used to not care at all about politics. Donald Trump changed that. I often like to say that good things can come out of almost every situation. Maybe one thing Trump has done is make people less complacent about their leadership. As people are less complacent about leadership, they also become more vocal about other issues.

Last night, I saw an article on Military Times about how Iraq War veteran Rep. Anthony Brown, D-Md. introduced a proposal to ban the display of the Confederate battle flag on all Department of Defense sites. Exceptions would be made for museum exhibits, state-approved license plates and grave sites of Confederate soldiers. However, the ban would include military work spaces, break rooms, living quarters, bumper stickers and personal apparel. Disobeying the order could lead to disciplinary action.

This measure comes up as the Marine Corps recently banned the display of the Confederate Battle flag. The Marine Corps’ decision was actually fresh news in April of this year, but it’s recently come up again as the Army has not followed suit. Ten Army installations are named after Confederate generals and many servicemembers, particularly those who are from southern states, identify the “rebel flag” as a symbol of regional pride and their heritage.

The battle flag issue also coincides with the Black Lives Matter movement, which has been raging for the past few weeks as people have been protesting police brutality toward people of color as well as the general issue of racism that still pervades American culture so many years after the Civil War ended. There have been lots of protests and riots, but I’ve also noticed some good conversations amid ridiculous displays of false bravado. I’m sure a lot of people reading this post have seen the pictures of St. Louis lawyer Mark McCloskey and his wife, Patricia, in their bare feet as they brandished weapons outside of their historic mansion. McCloskey claims that he and his wife were frightened for their lives as they pointed loaded weapons at about 500 protesters on their way to St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson’s house.

I only know what I’ve read in the news and seen in pictures. For all I know, Mr. and Mrs. McCloskey really were terrified for their lives. However, if the crowd was really that huge, it seems like the McCloskeys’ two guns wouldn’t be enough to stave them off for long if the crowd actually threatened them with violence. If it came down to it, maybe the McCloskeys would have managed to pick off a few people before they were overcome by the huge mass of people. Moreover, in the photos I’ve seen, the McCloskeys don’t look especially frightened. They look angry and aggressive. But I will grant that I wasn’t there and I’m not them, so what they were actually feeling and experiencing, I don’t know.

After I read the Military Times article, I read some of the Facebook comments. I noticed one posted by a German woman. I knew she was German by her first name, Hannelore, but she also identified herself as such when she rather smugly pointed out that Germans are doing better because Nazi symbols such as the swastika are illegal to display in Germany (unless it’s part of an art exhibit or civic education).

I have noticed this self-congratulatory attitude quite often among many Europeans, but especially Germans. They are quite proud of themselves for confronting their past history and trying to make amends. And I would be the first to congratulate them for doing that. I do think it’s admirable that Germans are not afraid to express their shame regarding their not so distant Nazi past. However, just because they’ve banned Nazi symbols, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem with racism in Germany. Moreover, I have actually seen the Confederate flag displayed in parts of Europe. So far, I’ve seen it in Italy, Ireland, and Germany. In fact, there’s a Harley-Davidson themed bar in the very next village that has recently had a “rebel flag” prominently displayed.

This flag is in the village next to where we live here in Germany. Harley-Davidson is an American brand, but this flag is flying here on German land. Or, at least it was a year ago. I haven’t recently checked to see if it still is.

So I pointed this out to Hannelore, who came back at me with vehement defensiveness. She pointed out that it’s not illegal to display the rebel flag in Germany. That may be so– and, in fact, it’s not illegal in the United States to display the rebel flag or swastikas, though that may soon change in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement. However, even in America, if you display one of those symbols, it says something about you. I wouldn’t say most Americans would be alright with a business displaying a swastika, whether or not it’s “legal”. And although I do recall seeing businesses in the Deep South flying the rebel flag, nowadays it’s not a particularly smart business move.

Another German woman piped up, claiming that the Confederate flags were brought to Germany by American G.I.s. But even if that’s true, it’s not like Germans don’t have access to the Internet. It’s not like the owner of the Harley-Davidson garage in Wallau, who is mostly likely German or a resident of the European Union, doesn’t have access to information about the Confederate flag and what it stands for… or what it means to many, especially black, Americans.

I remember this ad from 1981 very well. It aired all the time when I was about 9 years old. Funny thing is, the actors who played Bo and Luke Duke weren’t even from the South.
And one from 1982…

I don’t think less of Germany or Germans because I’ve seen the Confederate battle flag displayed here. It doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing to Europeans as it does to Americans. They don’t have the same history with that flag that Americans have, just as many Americans don’t have the same history with the swastika that Germans have. Moreover, it really hasn’t been that long that the Confederate flag was that controversial. I grew up in the southern United States seeing that flag everywhere, not just in my neighborhood and at school, but also on television.

When I was a child, one of the most popular shows on prime time television was The Dukes of Hazzard, which featured a 1969 Dodge Charger with a rebel flag on the roof dubbed “The General Lee”. The show was so popular that there were toys, games, and other merchandise sold everywhere– I remember having a Dukes of Hazzard TV tray (exactly like the one pictured) and a board game based on the show. I seem to remember McDonald’s even had Dukes of Hazzard themed Happy Meals for sale. The 1980s may seem like ages ago to younger people, but I remember that time well, and I’m still under 50.

I got this game for Christmas one year. I don’t remember playing it more than once or twice. Looks like Ideal didn’t include the stars and bars on top of the General Lee.

I went to graduate school at the University of South Carolina in Columbia. I had an apartment on campus and could see the Statehouse from my window. In 1999, when I began my studies there, the Confederate flag still flew on the Statehouse dome. I watched from my window and on CNN as the flag was finally lowered on July 1, 2000, only to be moved to the Statehouse grounds, where it remained until just five years ago. Republican Governor Nikki Haley ordered it moved to a museum after white supremacist Dylann Roof shot up a church in Charleston, killing nine black church members. As of July 10, 2020, it will have been just five years since the flag was moved… and the United States still has a state that includes the battle flag on its state flag, although it looks like Mississippi has finally decided to change their state flag to one that is more acceptable for modern times. Georgia also used to have a Confederate symbol on its state flag, but that changed in 2001.

I also remember that when I was in graduate school, Maurice’s Piggie Park, a South Carolina barbecue chain restaurant, had Confederate flags in front of its locations. I believe Maurice Bessinger has died since I left South Carolina and his descendants have taken down the flags. But I didn’t finish grad school until 2002. That’s still less than twenty years ago.

An episode of Alice that aired in the 1980s. Boss Hogge and Enos of The Dukes of Hazzard paid a visit to Mel’s Diner, which was decked out with little Confederate flags.

Many people are changing their hearts and minds about the prominent display of racist symbols like monuments and flags, but meaningful change takes time. Some people will never change their minds, and we’ll just have to wait until they pass on to the next existence. The United States is also a much younger country than Germany is. It’s only existed for a mere few hundred years, and there are bound to be “growing pains”. Germany has a much longer history and has already had a lot of growing pains. Moreover, while Germans don’t display the swastika because of their deep shame regarding Hitler’s era, the fact that some Germans embrace the Confederate battle flag tells me that they’re not necessarily any “better” than Americans are. However, to their credit, they do seem to be willing to check themselves when their hypocrisy is pointed out.

Hannelore and I managed to end our discussion on a friendly note, especially when I told her that I’m grateful to be in Germany, especially right now. I’ve been extremely fortunate to have had this opportunity to experience living abroad. I have really loved living here, and have made some friends and memories I hope will last for many years to come. But racism is a worldwide problem. It’s not just a U.S. problem. And just because swastikas are banned in Germany, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a problem with race based hatred here.

I told a German friend about my conversation with Hannelore and another German lady last night, and how they claimed that the battle flag was introduced by American G.I.s. My German friend, who is a research superstar, provided me with a link to a German news article about how the Confederate flag is being embraced in East Germany, particularly by bikers and truckers. There’s a great love of 19th century North American culture in the east… and there are no American G.I.s posted there. They love cowboys, line dancing, and yes, some of them love the Confederate flag, which is less of a cowboy thing from out west than it is a southern thing. I think sometimes Germans forget how huge the United States is. Yes, Texas is considered a southern state, but it’s a different kind of southern, particularly as you head west, into the newer part of the country.

When we lived in Germany the first time, there was even a (laughable) American style restaurant near where we lived, which featured the German interpretation of American style Old West food and decor. It was once called Sitting Bull, but when we were there, it was known as “Buffalo Bill’s Saloon”. That restaurant eventually closed down, but I seem to remember there were two flags flying in front of it. One was a German flag… the other was American, I think. Bill used to get very upset every time he saw it, because it was extremely threadbare and worn. As a Soldier, he wanted to retire it properly. We ate there once or twice and it didn’t necessarily satisfy our cravings for American style barbecue. But it was fun seeing the western style decor. I don’t remember if it included Confederate flags, although it does seem that some Germans think the Confederate flag is an Old West thing. It’s really more of a southeastern US thing, which isn’t necessarily cowboy land.

Anyway… I’d really like to see people focus on being less hateful and judgmental all the way around. I think that significant progress toward equality can’t come until people have honest discussions with each other and learn to be more accepting of visible differences while also understanding that, underneath it all, we really aren’t as different from each other as we think we are. We’re all made of the same stuff, and when it comes down to it, your shit stinks just as badly as mine does.

Standard
musings

Offensive fashion statements… or, who was that hooded, masked man?

As Patrick Starfish would say, “Good morning, Krusty Krew.” This morning, in contrast to yesterday morning, I am actually itching to write something of substance. Before I get cranked up with today’s post, I want to thank those of you who took the time to listen to my musical offerings yesterday. I truly appreciate it when anyone listens and comments on my recordings. I don’t put them out there very often because I hate making videos and I never know how they’re going to be received. But it does bring me great joy to sing songs and share them with others. So if you took the time to click on my channel, thank you very much. It means a lot to me, even though I did lose one subscriber on YouTube (bwahahahaha!). It’s okay. I’ll stay humble and stick to my day job.

Now, on with today’s controversial topic, which I hope readers will read and consider with an open mind.

Yesterday evening, I came across two news articles that caused me to react in different ways. After thinking about both of these issues, I realize that they’re two pieces of the same “puzzle” that faces everyone on the planet today. The first article that upset me was in the Washington Post. It was a piece by Robin Givhan about how face masks are “here to stay” and have now become a fashion accessory which may, very soon, become as essential as undergarments. Givhan writes:

Fashion always finds a way. Human beings are undaunted in their search for ways to stand out, to communicate, to thrive in a treacherous environment. And so the face mask — once purely functional, once perceived as an exotic accessory — has evolved at breakneck speed into something more.

It’s more essential because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that Americans wear a mask when interacting with others. It’s more aesthetically pleasing. It’s also a more complicated cultural proposition. And, of course, the face mask is political because both the president and the vice president have refused to wear one on highly public occasions and because some protesters have insinuated that masks are un-American.

As the country moves toward reopening, masks are assuredly part of our future. And in some ways, their evolution is the perfect encapsulation of how much life has changed in a blink of an eye — and how challenging, both intellectually and emotionally, it will be for us to go forward.

I have written in previous pieces about how, personally, I don’t like seeing face masks being normalized and turning into fashion statements. I realize that I can’t stop them from evolving in such a way. Some people like wearing them and feel safer with them with them on. However, count me among those who have no desire to be mandated to wear a face mask for the rest of my life. In fact, I don’t even like that the masks are being pushed on everyone via peer pressure. I would hate to see them become like seatbelts, which most everyone is compelled to wear nowadays.

When I was a child, seatbelts were entirely optional. I have many memories of riding without them in those days, lying in cargo areas in my dad’s many vans or riding in the back of pick up trucks. At one time, my dad had a Volkswagen pop top camper, which had a bar across the ceiling that we had to push to get the camper top to go up. I used to swing on that bar like a monkey when I was a kid. It was very unsafe and unthinkable today, but great fun back then. I don’t regret the experience of swinging on that bar as we cruised down the interstates.

Now… as a sensible adult, I understand why all U.S. states and many developed countries require people to wear seatbelts. New Hampshire, the one seatbelt law hold out, currently doesn’t require seatbelt use for adults, but does require people under age 17 to wear them. It also looks like New Hampshire will soon require seatbelt use for everyone. However, generally speaking, I am opposed to “nanny” laws in principal. I think people should wear seatbelts because it’s the smart thing to do, not because they might get a ticket. I also wear one because if I don’t, my husband turns into Pat Boone.

I have seen face masks being compared to seatbelts. I don’t think they’re the quite same thing. Riding in a car without a seatbelt has always been inherently dangerous. Being in public without a face mask has not. Moreover, facial expression is a big component in effective communication and identification. A lot of things can’t be feasibly done in public if a person is wearing a mask… things that bring joy, like eating, drinking, lip reading, and smoking (although smoking is not something that brings me joy) or playing woodwind instruments or horns. Although speaking and singing are possible while wearing a mask, they aren’t as easy to do. Breathing isn’t as easy to do while wearing a mask, either.

I imagine that when summer is fully upon us, people who don’t routinely wear masks will realize what being forced to wear one at all times could mean. The thought of it really depresses me, especially since there is still some debate as to how helpful the masks really are. Face masks in 90 degree weather sound like a recipe for a lot of sweat, smelling of one’s own bad breath, and possible tan lines, not to mention kind of a creepy dystopian feel to society in which we won’t be allowed to see each other’s smiles in every day society.

I was a bit perturbed after reading Givhan’s article about how masks are becoming a fashion statement, especially since so many people commenting seem to be all for it being a permanent fixture. I don’t think a lot of people have thought about it very deeply. I intend to resist that trend as much as possible and only wear masks when I absolutely have to in order to avoid harassment or legal trouble. I posted about it on Facebook and my friend Sara, who is a nurse at the Mayo Clinic and has to wear a mask all day, fully agreed with me that wearing masks full time should be a no go. Especially since the coronavirus epidemic hasn’t been an issue for that long. Some people are now pushing for laws… and I know that I’m not the only one upset about the prospect of face masks being as necessary as underwear. In fact, another article drove home the idea that requiring face coverings at all times could be a very slippery slope.

Just before I was about to go to bed, I noticed a news item posted by a friend in California. A man in Santee, California went into a grocery store wearing a white, cone shaped hood. The San Diego Union-Tribune referred to the hood as a “KKK hood”, which it probably was. However, the man was not identified by name by the newspaper. In fact, other than a picture of the guy demonstrating his choice to wear the hood, along with shorts, t-shirt, and shoes, not much information about the man was provided at all.

I shared the article on Facebook, and a few friends automatically labeled the guy a racist. And, to be honest, he probably IS a racist. However, there is no way to know for sure. I suspect the guy wore the mask to make a point about the requirement to wear face masks. The rules are pretty broad right now. Your nose and mouth are supposed to be covered. The white hood accomplishes that. Because a hateful group of racists have co-opted the white, cone shaped hood into a symbol that immediately identifies one as a white supremacist, it’s taboo to wear a hood that looks like that in public. This guy chose to wear one anyway. He technically followed the rules by covering his face and mouth, but he did so in a way that was sure to offend other people.

I brought up the fact that since I’ve lived in Europe, I’ve noticed the Confederate battle flag being flown or otherwise displayed in various places here. When I’ve shared my observations with American friends, they almost always react with shock and dismay. To many Americans, the Confederate battle flag (which was actually only one of many used by Confederates during the Civil War) is ALWAYS a racist display. I grew up in the South and saw that flag all the time while growing up. Hell, when I was in South Carolina going to graduate school, there was a Confederate battle flag on top of the Statehouse. It was later relocated to the grounds of the Statehouse, where it stayed for years before it was finally put away for good. Yes, many people see that flag as a racist symbol, but others still insist that it’s about southern pride and a spirit of rebellion.

I once had an Italian Facebook friend. I guess we’re technically still friends, but he left Facebook last year, claiming that people didn’t want to engage in healthy debates with him. I’m sorry he left, especially since we have lost touch. Although he could be very obnoxious and even kind of mean at times, I liked the perspective he presented. He is an intelligent and articulate guy, and I miss getting his input on some topics. One time, he explained why it’s not really uncommon to see the Confederate battle flag displayed in Italy. That flag doesn’t have the same connotations to many Europeans as it does to Americans. A lot of people in Europe see that flag as only a symbol of southern rebellion. In fact, there’s a Harley Davidson garage located not two kilometers near where we live, and they proudly fly the Confederate battle flag. I’ve also seen it on a cab driver’s bumper in Ireland. To many Europeans, it doesn’t stand for racism like it does in the United States.

While the white hood and, especially, the swastika are definitely taboo in Europe, as they are in the United States, I would imagine that those symbols, when taken to a place where they have no meaning at all, would not inspire outrage. When it comes down to it, they’re just symbols, and they only have the meaning that people give them. Personally, I think we should pay more attention to the racist attitudes that actual people have rather than the symbols used to promote those attitudes. It’s also not lost on me that when those symbols are presented, they identify those who have those sentiments. That makes it much easier to choose not to associate with them… although a lot of them are simply ignorant, and their ignorance doesn’t necessarily make them horrible people. At least not in my opinion.

Does “God” feel the same way about Confederate battle flags and white hoods made of cloth?
Isn’t this a blip? My father was a proud flag carrying conservative, but he never hesitated to wear ugly clothes inspired by the American flag. I think Americans should probably think longer and harder about this issue.

Back when football player Colin Kaepernick was regularly in the news for “taking a knee”during the “Star Spangled Banner” to protest racism, a lot of conservatives were upset because they saw his actions as disrespecting the American flag. Curiously enough, “God”, the popular Facebook page, even referred to the American flag as a “piece of cloth” and the national anthem as just a song. I remember blogging about this subject, and to make my point, I included the photo below.

I am not at all condoning the actions of the “very fine people”. However, one could argue that the Confederate battle flag and, in fact, other symbols made of fabric, such as white, cone shaped hoods, are also just “pieces of cloth”, as “God” claims the American flag is.

So anyway… all of this led me to conclude that the guy who walked into the grocery store in his white hood is possibly more of a pissed off Trump supporter, rather than a flat out racist. He’s pissed off because he resents government overreach, and he sees having to wear a face mask at the grocery store as a violation of his personal liberties. He may also be pissed because Trump may very well (hopefully) get his ass kicked during the elections this November, and that may mean more left swinging laws. Remember, Trump and Pence don’t willingly wear masks, either, and Trump has gone as far as to encourage citizens to rise up against their state governments and demand that restrictions be lifted so life can get back to “normal”.

So instead of grudgingly wearing a regular face mask like a good citizen would, he decided to cover his face in a different way. He wore a white, cone-shaped hood, which to many people is an extremely horrifying symbol of racism and hatred. He made a lot of people very uncomfortable. However, he wasn’t violent and didn’t physically hurt anyone, and after being asked repeatedly to remove the hood (and probably what was his nose and mouth covering), he did comply. He paid for his items and left the store without incident, although local law enforcement is “looking into the matter”. Santee, California reportedly has a “checkered past” when it comes to racism, and its mayor has gone on record to denounce the hooded shopper’s actions.

It occurred to me that ultimately, the white cone hat guy was expressing himself. Granted, he was expressing hatred, disrespect, and disdain, which are ugly, antisocial expressions. But when it came down to it, he was expressing himself, which in the United States, he still has the right to do. Then I thought about it some more. Judging by the photo in the news article, I’m about 99.9% certain this dude probably is a racist on some level. But– is it possible he wasn’t? What if he was just a smart assed troll trying to rile people up? What if he was from another country and wasn’t aware that the hood would offend (highly unlikely, but technically possible)? Maybe someone paid him to wear the cone shaped hood on a dare? Not knowing anything about the guy, I can’t know for sure what his story is, although I think it’s perfectly reasonable to assume he’s a racist. Or maybe he’s just a frustrated, pissed off American making his feelings known in the most offensive way he can think of, not unlike when Melania Trump wore her “I really don’t care, do U?” jacket. I am certainly not condoning that the man chose that way to express himself… but I can see how that explanation could be a possibility.

The fact that the man wore the offensive KKK-esque hood into the store, technically complying with the order that he cover his mouth and nose, may seem like a bad thing. But, as I sat at the breakfast table talking about this with Bill, I concluded that his actions were not necessarily such a bad thing overall. Because it’s getting people thinking and talking about this issue. If face masks do become the law for the foreseeable future, people are probably going to have to come up with some guidelines. The guidelines aren’t going to suit everyone, and it may take some time to come to a consensus. By then, maybe a vaccine will be created and we can move beyond this pandemic without forcing another nanny law on the populace.

The first article I referenced in this post is about how the face masks are becoming “fashion”. Well, fashion is frequently distasteful. That’s part of the reason fashion is a thing, just like any art is. Art isn’t always beautiful or simple. Sometimes, it’s ugly and offensive. And if we want to mandate face masks for people, we should probably be prepared for those who will use their masks to make their feelings known through offensive fashion statements. I know a lot of people got a kick out of Mindy Vincent, the lady in Utah who made a face mask out of cloth that had penises on it. Plenty of people found that funny, especially when she told people that if they could tell her face mask has penises on it, they were too close. But other people, no doubt, were offended by it. Mindy Vincent has been selling the masks and has reportedly donated a lot of money to charity. That’s probably a good thing, depending on the charity. Some people would probably criticize her for that, too… or for the charity she’s chosen to donate to. The nice thing about America is that we can still have these thoughts and discussions… at least for now.

It’ll be interesting to see what becomes of the hood wearing guy and whether or not his stunt will have any legal repercussions, especially if we do have to wear the fucking face masks from now on.

Standard
poor judgment

Will the swastika design ever be okay again?

Many thanks to Wikipedia user Wojsław Brożyna, for use of today’s  image.

120px-Four-swastika_collage_(transparent)

Please note: This is a volatile enough subject that I must preemptively state that I’m not advocating for the display of hateful symbols. I present this topic only as food for thought.

For thousands of years, the humble swastika was a symbol of peace, prosperity, and good luck in Hindu and Buddhist cultures.  This earliest known use of the ancient character dates back to 10,000 BC, in Mezine, Ukraine, where it was found in archaeological remains.  For most of its existence, the swastika was regarded as a positive symbol promoting auspiciousness and bounty. But then came World War I, when the swastika was co-opted by other organizations.  Then there was World War II, Adolf Hitler, and the Nazi Party, which carried out the Holocaust.  Now, swastikas are regarded by most people in western culture as a symbol of terror, racism, and hatred. 

In Germany today, it’s illegal to display swastikas or any other symbol related to Nazism.  Many people from the west recoil when they see a swastika, even though it’s still revered in Eastern cultures.Yesterday, I read a news story about a ride at a German amusement park that opened in late July.  It’s operated less than three weeks, but is now shut down because its design looks like a couple of swirling swastikas.  The ride, called Eagle Fly, was designed by an Italian company and had just been installed at Tatzmania, an amusement park in the Black Forest town of Löffingen.  The park’s owner, Rüdiger Braun, had not noticed the ride’s resemblance to swastikas when he made plans to have it built.  When the unfortunate design was pointed out to him, Braun was quick to take the ride out of service, where it was reconfigured so that the gondolas no longer resemble swastikas.  There will now be three gondolas per axle instead of four.

I don’t think it’s a bad thing that the ride is now reconfigured.  Germans are understandably very sensitive about swastikas.  It’s forbidden to display them in Germany, and someone no doubt would have complained about the design.  Mr. Braun probably would have been fined and forced to change the design, anyway.  However, when I was reading about this mishap, once again, I was reminded of how much emphasis we put on symbols and their ability to offend.  I wondered if the ride’s designer had really intended the gondolas to be configured in such a way that they’d remind people of the Holocaust.  I also wondered how many people immediately thought of Hitler when they saw the ride in operation.  Obviously, Mr. Braun hadn’t noticed it himself.

I shared this article on Facebook.  My German friend, Susanne, is very familiar with Tatzmania before it was named such.  She is originally from Freiburg, and Tatzmania, which used to be called Schwarzwaldpark, is located not far from there.  She wrote that Schwarzwaldpark used to be pretty awesome, but then it was purchased by new owners, who kind of ran it into the ground.  She hoped that the new owner would bring the park back to its prior “super” level, although having a ride that resembles swirling swastikas may have gotten things off on the wrong foot. 

Susanne shared another story with me about clothing racks at a Berlin outlet of the German store, Kik.  The racks looked like swastikas, and a teenager had criticized it.  Later, it was said that the teen was banned from the store for making that comment.  Kik representatives later said that teen had not been banned and furthermore, the clothing racks were not meant to symbolize anything hateful.  They were simply intended to hold up clothes.  Officials from Kik also plainly stated that the company is opposed to racism, xenophobia, and neo-Nazism.

It occurred to me that even though I’ve read a lot about the Holocaust, I probably wouldn’t have even noticed that the clothes racks were shaped like swastikas.  Maybe it’s because I’m not Jewish.  I also doubt that the people behind the racks’ design meant to offend more than they meant to present a practical design for displaying clothes to paying customers.On my old blog, I’ve written a couple of posts about how I’ve seen Europeans displaying the “stars and bars” version of the Confederate flag, especially on the Autobahns. 

A few years ago, I saw several battle flags on display at a truck stop in northern Italy, not far from the Swiss border.  One of my Italian friends explained that the Confederate battle flag has been adopted by some southern Italians who relate to it, not because they believe in slavery or white supremacy, but because of the “battle” between the northern and southern regions of Italy.  They identify with the southern United States and its rivalry with the north.I also saw a Confederate battle flag in Ireland.  It was on the back of our cab driver’s car.  I doubt it had the same significance to him that it did to Bill and me.  He probably just thought it was a cool symbol of rebellion.  That symbol doesn’t mean as much to him because he’s Irish, and American history isn’t a priority to him.  It would have been strange to tell him that the battle flag on his car is offensive to many Americans, even though I’m sure it got a lot of double takes from my countrymen.  After all, Ireland isn’t my country, and I was a guest.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  I think revising the attitudes behind hateful symbols is much more important than quashing the symbols themselves.  In my opinion, symbols only have the power that people give to them.  Does that mean I think it’s a wise thing for someone to display Confederate battle flags and swastikas willy nilly?  No, it doesn’t.  But I also think people should use common sense and determine context before they get too excited about some things.  

This isn’t a new topic for me.  I’ve written lots of times about how much I dislike the idea of banning words and burying symbols.  I think all words have a use, even if the use is mostly negative.  I’ve read too many slave narratives and listened to too much Stevie Wonder to be in favor of banning the so-called “n word”.  Taken in context, that word has a purpose.  It should never be used to hurt others, but it would be crazy to remove it from historical documents.  That word has been used to hurt and denigrate Black people for hundreds of years.  No, we shouldn’t continue to use it to hurt and denigrate, but erasing it from history would also be wrong.  It’s an ugly part of history, but it’s still a part of history.  If we remove it simply because it’s offensive, then people might forget about its impact. 

But also consider that even words like “fag” and “retard”, considered “hateful” in some societies today, also had practical uses before they were co-opted by the hateful.  In fact, in countries other than the United States, those words are used all the time and aren’t considered offensive.  They don’t mean the same thing in England or Italy as they do in the USA.  And if we ban those words and symbols, those groups will simply come up with new ones.I did share my basic thoughts on the swirling swastika ride on Facebook. 

I think one of my Jewish friends was slightly offended that I wasn’t more outraged by it.  I certainly mean no disrespect to my Jewish friends.  The Holocaust was absolutely a horrible time in history.  But swastikas were ripped off by Nazis.  For thousands of years, they had no negative connotation at all.  If the world doesn’t end in the next couple of hundred years, there may come a time when people no longer see it as offensive.  It will be just another part of history. 

I think many westerners think only about their own cultures and perspectives when they see or hear certain things.  It may be helpful to broaden one’s perspective regarding words and symbols before allowing them to be too upsetting. Isn’t there enough legitimately awful stuff in the world to be offended about, rather than something that brings to mind something offensive, even if it really wasn’t meant to be?

Standard