Sunday, July 5, 2015
There is almost nothing that we do not learn from, even a joke. We remember stories, tales, and humor for no seeming reason until one day Deja Vu will strike and what was once just some useless bit taking up gray matter becomes prophetic.
Long ago when I was a young man, I was trailering a sailboat back home to Orangeburg. I was on the Old Columbia Road near one of the entrances to the Kodak Plant when I happened to look into my rearview mirror and saw something small bounce away from the trailer. I pulled over and inspected things, and soon found that one of the four wheels had lost three of its four lug nuts. I was just about to panic (a highly refined skill of mine) when an old joke cropped up in my mind.
A man is driving and has a flat tire right beside the fence of the State Hospital. He gets out of his car, opens the trunk, and takes out the jack, spare, and lug wrench, all the while being watched by a patient on the other side of the fence. This just made the man nervous as he sat and hurriedly removed the lug nuts, setting them in the hub cap on the curb. Then he jacked the car up without really paying attention to what he was doing. When the flat tire lifted free of the ground it fell off the axle and onto the hub cap knocking the lug nuts out and down a sewer drain. The man threw up his arms in frustration crying out, “What will I do now?” The patient looked at him, tilted his head and said, “Why don’t you just use one lug nut from each of the other wheels? That will get you to the shop.” Stupefied, the man just stared at the robed figure before being able to stutter out, “How did you think of that?” The patient just grinned and responded, “I may be crazy, but I’m not stupid.”
Well, Déjà vu struck me once again the other night as I was reading some news on line. It seems apparently in Belfast, Ireland, someone had stuck the Confederate Flag on a flag pole opposite the house of a 13 year old black boy. When his football club coach saw this, he and the rest of the team immediately took the flag down. What struck me as odd was that in the articles I read, not one asked how a Confederate Flag came to be used in such a way in Ireland.
This is when the Déjà Vu moment began for me. I recalled that when I was at Clemson, a dear friend, running buddy, and mentor, Dr. Don LaTorre, told me a story. Don said early in his professorial career he taught at Winthrop College. One day, one of his colleagues killed a squirrel in the campus commons park. Don was outraged. He took his issues about animal cruelty as far up the administrative ladder as he could. After much debate and investigation, it was determined that the squirrels in the campus commons park had become too domesticated for their own safety. So the administration took the only logical course of action and had the remaining squirrels exterminated to restore balance between beasts and humans.
There is nothing wrong with passion, it has carried the human race to heights it could not have reached without it. But passion often does not come without a price. In the case of the Confederate Flag, the recent tragedy in Charleston, along with both related and unrelated racial tension issues have leveraged passion in an all-out assault on the Confederate Flag. Wanting the removal of the Confederate Flag from the South Carolina State House grounds is a good thing and should be done. That flag was specifically raised in the face of fight for civil rights back in 1962 and has no place there now.
However, in our passion for its complete destruction and removal, unintended consequences both silly and serious have begun to fall like dominoes. TV Land pulling reruns of the Dukes of Hazzard (a show picking fun at rednecks and not racist in the least) simply because those Duke boys’ car; the General Lee, had a Confederate Flag on it is misguided and silly. The Confederate Flag seen flying in Belfast raises the fallout of our passion to serious.
Where will these dominoes stop? In our righteous anger and indignation of just some of the symbolism of the Confederate Flag has given the flag bolder new hate status. It is quickly being pushed to the point that it can only be seen as a harbinger of hate, and worse than that, it appears now this sole damning view of the Confederate Flag is now becoming our hate export to the world. We are driving the Confederate Flag underground and worldwide.
Hating hate is not the opposite of hate. Love is the opposite of hate. This is the lesson from Charleston’s reaction to the horrible shooting at the Emmanuel AME Church. This is the lesson we should carry out into the world, that we are bigger than the hate, bigger than hate’s symbols, that we love our brothers and have their backs. In the face of the world’s evils we should always turn first to love, so that we may act rather than react, so that we may heal rather than perpetuate.