I’m a bit late on this one, but I read this story over the weekend about students at a York region high school who have taken to wearing clothing, bandannas and jewelry (including rings, a point which I’ll come back to in a moment) sporting the confederate flag, purportedly as a symbol of “country values”. Predictably, the school decided to ban the symbol. From Saturday’s Star:
At the sprawling school parking lot, marked by pickup trucks and snowmobile tracks, most students were angry the administration was intervening in what they choose to wear or accessorize with.
Some students in the town on the east shore of Lake Simcoe said the display of the flag wasn’t widespread, and many debated its meaning.
“It’s more about the country values, we don’t think of it as racist,” said a Grade 10 student, who has T-shirts, belt buckles and hats with the symbol, and plans to keep wearing them.
“I didn’t even know it was racist,” said Grade 12 student Jess Pasco, as her friend agreed. “Then I Googled it.”
Oh my, there are so many things wrong with this. First, “country pride”, my ass, they’re talking “white pride” here, and this “country” or “rural” pride schtick is just a pathetic cover. They’re using “country” to describe their “pride” in much the same way one uses “country” to describe music – as a euphemism for “white” (and in much the same way “urban” has become a euphemism for black – “urban” music, “urban” youths, etc.). Oh, aren’t they clever, but don’t think anyone with more than a room temperature IQ (in celsius – which would apparently exclude most of these students) is dumb enough to believe that bullshit line.
Second, just how dumb are these students? Jess Pasco claims she didn’t know that the confederate flag had racist connotations until she googled it? Well, you’d be the only one, sweetheart. Now, in fairness, I can almost believe her. After all, she’s been tought by an education system which has systematically devalued both Canadian history and world history generally (but which is really good on instilling “pride” and “self-esteem”in its students, despite, or perhaps as a result of, their ignorance). Oh, sure, they’ll learn what a racist and sexist country Canada is, there’s no shortage of THAT sort of history. But in terms of learning facts that might help them understand the Civilization in which they live, bah, who needs that. Civil war? Wat dat?
Rosemary Sadlier, president of the Ontario Black History Society nailed it when she said that stduents who want to represent their rural roots should consider an old Ontario flag. Right on! If they want to express pride in being rural Ontarians (or Canadian), strap on the old red ensign, under which a generation of country boys liberated Europe (and South Korea). Of course, to do that, they’d have to know a thing or two about Canadian history (and about those messy war things that Canadian educators don’t like). These students clearly don’t.
Third, only congenital losers derive pride from their identity, be it their race, region, nationality or whatever. Even if these clowns really believe that a confederate flag is a symbol of “rural pride”, the mere fact that they derive pride from that identity stamps them as losers. Winners derive pride from their OWN accomplishments, not from a common identity with people who vaguely look, sound, or act like they do. Being a country boy (or girl) isn’t, in itself, a source of pride (or shame, a point often lost on some of my city slicker friends), it’s just who you are. Pride comes from what you do with yourself. Again, the education system deserves a fair bit of the blame here, having for years promoted the “everyone is awesome, no matter how pathetic” school of thought, promoting “pride” rather than “accomplishment” (from which one derives real pride).
Finally, but perhaps most importantly, take a look at the picture in the original story (go ahead, I’ll wait). That’s a man wearing a ring with a confederate flag on it. Elie Mystal, over at abovethelaw, summarizes the definitive rules on when a man can, and can not, wear a ring:
If you would all turn to the chapter “On Jewelery” in your official “Being A Man” handbook, the section on rings clearly states, “A man shall only wear rings so earned through championship level athletic achievement, rings signifying a bond of holy matrimony, or rings that others can be forced to kiss in supplication to your rule.”
The point Mystal makes is that, unless you win the Superbowl, get married or are a pope, wearing a ring is a sign of male loserdom. He goes on:
Wearing a high school class ring tells everybody, “My life peaked at 17 and I’m going to die in the same town I grew up in.”
Wearing a college class ring says, “Just because I can’t make a jump shot or even credibly throw a Frisbee doesn’t mean my accomplishments in the classroom shouldn’t be rewarded. Well, ‘accomplishments’ in the broadest sense, it’s not like I’m a Rhodes Scholar or within shouting distance of the top of my class or anything.”
Wearing a law school class ring should be like putting a magnet on your hand that is irresistibly attracted to your face so you can’t stop punching yourself….
A law school class ring is like a singularity of douchiness: an infinitely dense accessory where the laws of normal human behavior break down.
Can’t disagree with his analysis, but where does this hierarchy of loserdom leave the high school kid sporting the confederate flag ring? Wearing a law school ring signifies that you’re a moron, with barely enough functioning synapses to graduate from the sort of fourth-tier law school that sells class rings. But this kid can’t even claim that. The only distinction this kid can claim is that he might, possibly, be wearing the tackiest thing on earth. No small feat, to be sure, but hardly something to take pride in.