Thursday, June 25, 2015

Slipping Down that Slippery Slope

Of course, we now see people saying that taking the Confederate flag down is starting us down a slippery slope.  My response: slippery slope is a dumb argument.  How so?

First, while there are waves and momentum in politics, there are plenty of discrete decisions to be had.  That making one decision does not make anything else automatic.  Even precedent-setting Supreme Court decisions do not necessarily knock down all dominoes, as there can (and always is) resistance to implementation, varied interpretations, the possibility of new legislation, and, of course, new SC decisions that modify or reverse the precedent. 

So, anyone saying that taking down the confederate flag will lead to its banishment is simply wrong.  The 1st amendment will stand in the way, big time.  And rightly so.  People can say what they want, even if it is stuff we find offensive.  We can ban the confederate flag from public spaces in a limited way--that governments should not hoist a symbol of slavery.  But people will still be able to carry their personal flags, their confederate fanny packs and belt buckles and whatever wherever they go (the Nazis can march in Skokie, etc). Oh, and people can point at them and say "traitors" as that is there right, too.  Oh, and the Fox stuff of the next step being the American flag is just so silly.  Just count how many candidates for President do not wear a flag pin.  Exactly.

Second, sometimes sliding down a slippery slope can be fun.  I mean, have you seen my skiing pictures?  If this week's events lead to the renaming of military bases away from Confederate generals and towards Medal of Honor winners or other American heroes, that is a win.  If we take down busts of KKK leaders from State Houses (Tennessee seems to be in the act of doing that), that is a win. If we stop venerating those who led the fight to uphold slavery, that is a win

None of this solves or fixes racism either in the South or the North, but one aspect of institutional racism has been the whitewashing of history, making heroes out of those who engaged in treason in support of one of the most awful "technologies" or "strategies" or economic processes or whatever you want to call slavery.  Slavery has been and always will be America's original sin. 

When folks like Lincoln and Obama say that we need to keep striving to perfect the union, it means both that the country will never be perfect but that the effort to improve it must always continue.  I have gotten into arguments with Mrs. Spew and College Spew about "progress"--that things are better.  To be clear, they have also gotten worse--mass incarceration to name the most egregious regression.  But I harp on progress because things have gotten better, not to say that the effort needs to stop but that the fight can and should go on since it is not hopeless.  That improvements can be made.  No single decision, vote, or law will be the one that means the fight is over, that the war is won.  But those individual wins not only can improve the conditions of those who have been oppressed and discriminated against but also might just give some momentum for the next battle.

For instance, I hope this week's progress can provide some energy as we need to fight #voterfraudfraud both because it is evil and because it gets in the way of making yet more progress.  Better representation is fundamental as politicians do respond to voters and not just big interest groups and big lobbies, as we have seen this past week.

We shall see how much of what has changed this week will stick.  But if we can put the Confederate stuff where it belongs, in a museum, and revise the revised histories, then this momentum (a.k.a. slippery slope) will be not only a fun ride but an important dynamic in the longer struggle.  You can call it a slippery slope, but I will call it progress.

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