Flogging the Confederate Flag – A Case Study in Rational Moral Certainty

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July 1, 2015 by Anders Ingemarson

The recent racist motivated church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, re-ignited the debate over flying the Confederate flag in general, and flying it at the capitol in Columbia in particular. After some initial stalling and ho-humming among politicians and pundits, the current of moral indignation became too strong for anybody to swim against.

Suddenly every public person of some significance agreed (or at least seemed to) that displaying the Confederate flag in general, and displaying it at the capitol in Columbia in particular, is not only bad taste, but unethical. Efforts are now underway both in South Carolina and Mississippi to remove public displays of versions of the Confederate flag. We’ll see if Georgia will follow.

This development shows the power of moral certainty based on rational principles, in this case that racism is morally wrong. When moral indignation reaches a certain critical mass, one event often becomes the catalyst for seemingly overnight change.

The moral outrage is justified on rational grounds. The Confederate flag is a symbol of racism in the same vein as the Nazi swastika. To call it a symbol of “Southern pride and heritage” is at best misguided, at worst a thinly veiled desire for turning back the clock to a shameful period in the history of the South. There is no doubt a lot to be proud of in the former confederate states, but please find another expression of that pride than the Confederate flag.

This doesn’t mean that the flag should be banned from display and purchase/sale in the private sphere; if you or I don’t like someone’s use of the flag, we may attempt to make the moral case to that person and hopefully change his mind. But in the end, he has the individual right to continue to display or transact the flag on his or, by agreement, somebody else’s private property.

And displaying the Confederate flag in museums, textbooks, on Wikipedia, etc., serves an obvious purpose as part of never letting us forget the darker periods in our country’s past, just as the swastika reminds us of the Nazi WWII atrocities.

Moral convictions take a long time to change in a society; it is, and has to be, a battle for the mind of one individual at a time. In the case of the Confederate flag, we can hope that it is one of the last, and for the most part symbolic, battles in the fight against racial prejudice that has been going on since the founding of our country.

But we shouldn’t fool ourselves into believing that those who disagree are forever disarmed. When rational moral principles gain the upper hand, the dissenters tend to retreat back into the shadows where they belong, occasionally bursting out in protest with, as in this case, a church burning or two. And at the first sight of a serious crack in our armor—a lack of moral certainty, or an attempt to compromise between our rational and the enemy’s irrational principles—they may stage a more organized comeback.

The long-range, two-step-forward-one-step-back nature of changing moral perceptions can be discouraging, but there are no shortcuts. You cannot force a person to change his mind. Protecting individual rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness includes protecting the rights of those with hateful, bigoted, evasive, wrong or simply mistaken views to follow their own convictions, as long as they don’t violate the individual rights of others. And no, your individual rights do not give you the right to not see the Confederate flag waving in your neighbor’s yard, however offensive it may seem to you. His property rights, just as yours, should be absolute.

Here at SEPARATE! we’re in the business of changing moral perceptions. Championing the moral case for separating state and the economy means constantly challenging the dominant altruist morality in our society; the ethical code that falsely teaches that it is moral to rob (tax) and regulate you to provide for your neighbor’s healthcare, retirement, education, housing, welfare, and a multitude of other products and services.

The Confederate flag is a symbol of the racist shackles of the past. We are fighting to remove the collectivist shackles of today; the shackles that prevent you from exercising your individual rights to manage your own life. We’re championing the moral case for separating state and retirement, removing the shackles of Social Security, allowing you to plan for your golden age without government interference. We’re championing the moral case for separating state and healthcare, removing the shackles of Obamacare, Medicare, and health insurance regulation, allowing you and your doctor to manage your health to the best of your ability. We’re championing the moral case for separating state and education, removing the shackles of government (“public”) education, allowing you and your family to decide what is the best education for your children. Check out the Separate What? section on our website for the other areas of the economy the state should get out of.

We’re aware of the long-range nature of our battle, but we’re not discouraged. We see signs daily that we’re on the path to moral critical mass. Signs that Americans are slowly waking up to the fact that they are their neighbors’ involuntary servants, and that they are willing to challenge the altruist moral code that let it happen in the first place. It will just take a little more rational moral certainty.

Fire away!

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