The target of the crowd's rage is wholly arbitrary. Take the current row over the Confederate battle flag in South Carolina. There are arguments for flying or not flying that standard. I've never much cared for it — its revival after World War II owed more to contemporary arguments about desegregation than to any sudden interest in history — but there are sincere people who take a different view. And whatever side you're on, it's hard to see any connection with the abominable murders in Charleston.
And, indeed, no one has claimed that Dylann Roof was inspired by the 13 stars of the Confederacy. Nor has anyone tried to argue that race relations in South Carolina are worse than elsewhere in the South. On the contrary, the first state to secede from the Union has also become the first, since Reconstruction, to elect a black Republican senator. But this was never really about flags. It was about finding something — anything — that would allow people to express their revulsion at the shootings. In no time, Amazon, eBay, Google and the rest had pulled any Confederate-branded merchandise, and Warner Bros stopped making toy cars modeled after the one in The Dukes of Hazzard.
It's always easier to keep your head down. Write about these subjects, as I'm doing now, and you run the risk of being called a sexist or a racist or whatever. But surely we have to take a stand. The next time you see a mob gibbering and shrieking and demanding someone's dismissal, don't hunker down. Speak up. Someone has to, for Heaven's sake.
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