Art Ethics: The South Carolina Toilet Brush Flag

SC flag design

You would think it’s such an easy principle to understand and execute. In art, as with all products and services, it is the quality of the work that matters, not the artist, creator or provider. But in the era of The Great Stupid, where woke sensibilities routinely turn logic and wisdom on their heads and inside out, something as intrinsically sensible as this suddenly becomes hard to grasp.

Take, for example, the new South Carolina flag design, as fine an example of “bias makes you stupid” as one could imagine. You see, the South Carolina flag has long consisted of a crescent moon and a palmetto tree, but designs varied. Why a palmetto tree? Also known as the Sabal palmetto, cabbage-palm, cabbage palmetto, blue palmetto, Carolina palmetto, common palmetto, swamp cabbage and sabal palm…

Palmetto

…the tree is native to the southern United States, as well as Cuba and the Bahamas. In the Revolutionary War, South Carolina palmettos played a key role in the defeat of the British fleet at Fort Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island. The fort was constructed out of palmetto logs, which efficiently absorbed the impact of cannon balls, according to the State Legislature’s website. Col. William Moultrie’s 2nd South Carolina Regiment wore uniforms of deep indigo, so Moultrie used the color as the background for the moon and the tree when he designed the first South Carolina flag. Since 1940, however, South Carolina has had no required design for its state flag, leading to an infinite number of variations on flags, logos, posters, mugs, T-shirts, and other merchandise. See?

Continue reading

Tales Of The Niggardly Principals

Quite a bit of the censorship, word-banning and historical air-brushing we are seeing during the George Floyd Freakout, aka The Great Stupid, are fueled by ignorance, like that of the black D.C. employee in 1999 who forced  David Howard, an aide to Mayor Anthony A. Williams, to resign for using a “racial slur.”  (“Niggardly (noun: niggard) is an adjective meaning  stingy or miserly. It is derived from the Middle English word nigard, which is probably derived from Old Norse hnǫggr , meaning “stingy”) After Howard was reinstated, there was wide agreement that this was political correctness run amuck. Julian Bond, then chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said, You hate to think you have to censor your language to meet other people’s lack of understanding…Seems to me the mayor has been niggardly in his judgment on the issue” and noted that the US has a “hair-trigger sensibility” on race that can be tripped by both real and false grievances.”

Ah, those were the days! Imagine as statement like that coming from the NAACP today.

The core idea behind the three Niggardly Principles is that ignorance and stupidity should not be enabled, reward or encouraged, though it is unkind—unethical—to deliberately set out to offend someone even if the source of the offense is the individual’s knowledge or intellectual deficit. (That’s the Second Niggardly Principle.)

I do not think that one applies to this episode: Greg and Kjersten Offenecker, owners of The Nordic Pineapple in St. Johns, Michigan removed  the Norwegian flag and an American flag posted outside their Civil War-era mansion last week because morons had accused them of promoting racism in the largely conservative Michigan town.

The couple said they capitulated after receiving “at least a dozen hateful emails” and other complaints.  “I don’t see it because I grew up with the Norwegian flag.To me they are two distinct flags,” shrugged Kjersten.

They ARE two distinct flags, you cowardly, submissive enabler of race bullies.!You should have issued each sender of those emails an explanation. You should have put out a press release clarifying the difference between the flags. You should have extended a little time and commitment  to protect speech and expression from sinister efforts to intimidate and censor by the proto-totalitarian Left, which is getting less proto- by the hour. Too much trouble to do your duty to fight for American values and principles, is it? Then I pronounce you a lazy and irresponsible citizen.

Here’s the Norwegian flag next to the Confederate flag:

They are not the same design. They do not have the same colors. Why are you allowing people this stupid to dictate your conduct? And if you remove the American flag because some vile mutation of citizen complains, you are as anti-American as it is. You are the kind of submissive coward who would raise a Nazi flag because your neighbors insisted on it.

The United States cannot survive if it is dominated by the ignorant and the meekly submissive.

Boy, Norway is so lovely this time of year. I don’t know how you can stay away… Continue reading

Saturday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/21/2019, Because Nobody Reads The Blog On Saturdays After Noon

Have yourself a Merry Little Four Days Before Christmas!

1.  Miss America Ethics. Wait…the winning Miss America’s “talent” was performing a chemistry experiment? I read that, but Ann Althouse picked up on the absurdity:

Now, I think pouring those chemicals into flasks could be done by just about anyone. It’s not like playing the piano, singing, and dancing — all of which take at least some talent and a lot of practice, but the woman in question, Camille Schrier “has two undergraduate science degrees and is studying a doctorate in pharmacy at Virginia Commonwealth University.” She made a stage show out of real achievements that just happened not to be in the performing arts.

That wasn’t the main ethics problem with the whateveritis, though. The problem is that this thing is an archaic beauty contest pretending to be something else, just like the winner’s “talent” wasn’t a talent. Did you see (if you were foolish enough to watch it) any plain, overweight or unattractive women up on the stage? I didn’t. Does that mean there aren’t any smart, talented women who don’t look like they belong in a Victoria’s Secret special in feathers and wings? Gee, I guess so.

2. There has been a lot of comment here and elsewhere about this weird story…the man who was sentenced to 15 years in prison for stealing an LGBTQ flag hanging at the United Church of Christ in Ames near Des Moines, and set it on fire outside a strip club. Much of the commentary involves finding it inconsistent that burning an American flag is considered free speech, but this guy burned an LGBTQ flag, so he was sent to jail.

Weeelll, that’s not quite accurate. Flag-burners bring their own flags; this guy stole one. Flag burners do their conflagration in demonstrations; you can’t just burn stuff in public. Prosecuting this as a hate crime, however, nicely shows what’s wrong with hate crime laws. And 15 years is indefensible. I assume that sentence won’t stand. This isn’t a freedom of speech case, though. Continue reading

Ethics Hero: World War II Veteran Marvin Strombo

Many Japanese soldiers during World War II went into battle carrying small “Rising sun” flags, the red sphere on the field of white, with the white field decorated by hundreds of classmates, family members and friends. The flags were for good luck, and to link soldiers to their loved ones while they fought for the Emperor.  I had never heard of this practice until today; my father served in the European theater, so he would not have known that many American soldiers took these personal talismans from the bodies of fallen Japanese soldiers as war trophies.

U.S. Marine Marvin Strombo was such a soldier. A member of  an elite sniper platoon during the bloody battle for the Pacific island of Saipan in 1944, he had taken a flag from a dead Japanese soldier lying on his left side—he remembered that the young man looked like he was  asleep—after he noticed something white sticking out from his jacket.

The flag with all the inscriptions on it hung behind glass in Strombo’s gun cabinet in his home in Montana for decades until 2012, when the son of his former commanding officer contacted him for assistance with a book he was writing about the exploits of his father’s platoon. (ARGHHH! I just remembered that I haven’t gotten back to a member of my Dad’s unit who wrote me a couple of months ago!) Working with the author,  Strombo learned about  the Obon Society, a nonprofit organization in Oregon that works to locate and return the personal Japanese flags to the families of the fallen soldiers who carried them. Researchers determined that the dead soldier Marvin’s flag had belonged to was named Yasue Sadao. What Strumbo thought was calligraphy were really the signatures of 180 friends and neighbors, including 42 relatives, who saw Yasue off to war from Higashi Shirakawa, a small village of about 2,400 people in the mountains roughly 200 miles west of Tokyo. Continue reading

Romanian Flag Ethics, or “Who Cares About Chad?”

 

The national flag of Romania (above left)  is designed with vertical stripes colored blue, yellow and red. It has a width-length ratio of 2:3. So does the national flag of Chad (right). In fact, they are identical. (One or the other supposedly has as slightly darker blue, indigo vs. cobalt, but I can’t see it.

Romania established the colors and the design by law in 1989, when its Communist government fell.  It essentially ripped off Chad’s flag, and Chad immediately protested. True, these had been the Rumania/Romania colors forever, but not in this exact form. Do you think Romania bothered to check whether than design was, like, taken? Nah. “There were more important things to care about,” rationalized the nation’s president at the time,  Ion Illiescu. More important to Chad, though? This is the essence of ethics: thinking about the other parties affected by your conduct.It is not the Romanian way, at least when it comes to flags.

What does Romania care about Chad? It’s one of the bleakest, poorest third world nations in the world. Who cares if Chad objects? Who listens to Chad? “It’s too far away,” reasons a Romanian quoted by the Wall Street Journal. Now there’s the keen logic, sense of fairness, and respect for the rest of the world we like to see from our fellow citizens of the planet.

There is no authorized body that referees flag theft. Of course, there shouldn’t have to be, as this is an act without plausible defenses. If a nation takes another country’s flag, it is either being spectacularly arrogant, disrespectful and dishonest,  or incredibly negligent. There is no third explanation. Continue reading

Speaking Of Doing The Right Thing For Unethical Reasons, TV Land Has Pulled “The Dukes of Hazzard”

Wait, there's a CAR in this photo?

Wait, there’s a CAR in this photo?

You know, I think I’m as sensitive as anyone (sane) to nascent racism, and yet somehow I missed the fact, when in my youth I would watch  TV’s “The Dukes of Hazzard” for an average of six minutes before thinking, “BOY is this dumb!” and change the channel lest my IQ be permanently lowered, that the show was a KKK product. That’s because there was nothing vaguely racist or even Confederacy-ish about the show, except the flag design on the fictional super-car the good ol’ Duke boys drove, “The General Lee,” named after a historical figure who, you will recall, was a Confederate general. What would you expect a car called the General Lee to have on its roof, the Portuguese flag?

Never mind. TV Land, the cable channel that celebrates TV shows so old that they provoke mid-life crises by their very existence, just decided to join the political correctness purge that has the Park Service representing at its battlefields that the Union prevailed over a mysterious foe Which Cannot Be Named, and which definitely had no flag to fight for. It has pulled “The Dukes of Hazzard” from its schedule….not because it is trash and no more worthy of preservation for future generations than less popular stinkers like “It’s About Time,” “Pink Lady and Jeff,” “Mr. Terrific” or “Hart to Hart,” but because of the design on the roof of the car.

As a self-appointed guardian of pop culture history, TV Land is obligated to resist such efforts at whitewashing, which I assume will also claim every Norman Lear show (You think you are a progressive, Norman? HA! You’re a racist who dealt in toxic stereotypes!!!) like “The Jeffersons,” “Sanford and Son,” and “Good Times.” Ah, but #blackhypersensitivitymatters, you know, a lot more than letting people watch Catherine Bach in her shorts. Continue reading

Introducing A Third Niggardly Principle, And A Dilemma: Does It Apply To The Confederate Flag?

Scarolina flag

Before unveiling the new Third Niggardly Principle, indulge me some observation  on the emergence of a renewed controversy over the Confederate flag as a response to the Charleston, South Carolina shooting of nine black churchgoers last week:

1. The Confederate battle flag did not cause Dylann Roof to start shooting. If  all the Confederate flag had been retired to museums 100 years ago, it would not have turned him into a civil rights advocate.

2. The effort of anti-flag advocates, who are frequently advocates of censorship and restrictions on free speech as well, to exploit this tragedy to advance their pet grievance is transparent and obnoxious, and is even more attenuated than the furious efforts of anti-gun zealots to do the same thing.

3. The flag, like many symbols, represents different things to different people. Racial hate and bigotry is only one of them. The flag legitimately represents pride in a family legacy (“My great grandfather died bravely in Pickett’s Charge”), the historical record, opposition to federal government overreach,  aesthetic appeal, or defiance of authority generally (“I’m a rebel”). Old Glory also represents different things to different people, and we do not ban it because what it symbolizes to some people is unpleasant for them. (Yes, I know some schools have done exactly that. One hopes they are outliers)

4. Mitt Romney’s much praised tweet—“Take down the #ConfederateFlag at the SC Capitol. To many, it is a symbol of racial hatred. Remove it now to honor #Charleston victims.” —is simple-minded and irresponsible. (See the previous post.) Is Mitt arguing that any speech, symbol or expression that “many” find offensive should be suppressed? It sounds like it to me. Since Roof’s act had nothing to do with the flag, nor was it related to slavery or the Confederacy, how does taking the flag down “honor” his victims? Sure: Roof liked the flag, because of what it symbolized to him. He also liked Gold’s Gym:

dylann-roof1

Would closing down all the Gold Gyms in South Carolina honor his victims? The fact that the attack was racially motivated and that racists often display Confederate flags does not make a state flying the flag complicit in the shootings. Stop using Twitter to discuss complex issues, Mitt! Continue reading

More Flag Ethics, More School Administrator Folly

In Del Rio, California, 13-year-old Cody Alicea rides with an American flag on the back of his bike. He does this, he says, to be patriotic and to honor veterans, like his grandfather. He’s been flying the flag on his bike for two months, but at the beginning of the week of Veteran’s Day was told by a school official at Denair Middle School that some students had been complaining about the flag and it was no longer allowed on school property. Continue reading