I’m not giving Gov. Nikki Haley and South Carolina Republicans any Profiles In Courage awards for their about-face on the Confederate flag: clearly they heard from business leaders in the state, who gave them their marching orders. I can almost hear the conversation now: “Do not make us the next Indiana!”
Ditto Walmart, which announced it will no longer sell Confederate flag merchandise, and Mississippi House Speaker Philip Gunn: nobody wants to be the target of boycotts. The Confederate flag has had its last stand, so to speak.
It’s amazing to me that this is what it took, though. The brutal slaughter of nine innocent people in their church, targeted for no reason other than their skin color. That it took something this heinous to finally get Southern stalwarts to see the light just makes me hurt for humanity.
I also think the Confederate flag has been a comparatively easy response for us. When tragedy strikes, Americans want to do something, and removing a symbol of hate from the public square is both easy and a no-brainer. Dealing with more pernicious issues like gun violence or the racism that is deeply embedded in American culture? Not so easy.
President Obama told Marc Maron that Congress’ inaction after Sandy Hook “disgusted” him. It disgusted a lot of us.
He said of gun control efforts post-Charleston:
I don’t foresee any legislative action being taken in this Congress, and I don’t foresee any real action being taken until the American public feels a sufficient sense of urgency and they say to themselves, ‘This is not normal.'”
I agree with the President. He’s absolutely right. Removing a symbol of hate from the public square is the easy response. Dealing with gun laws? Much harder. And as a commenter recently pointed out, if gunning down some little kids in their school classrooms didn’t shock us into action, nothing will.
Guns are going to have to be bad for business, the way the Confederate flag is bad for business, before anyone in Congress decides the NRA needs to go the way of the Stars and Bars. And make no mistake: the event that sparks that profile in courage will be truly horrific. We’ve had mass shootings at a movie theater, shopping mall, grocery store, fast food restaurants, you name it. None of that has ginned up sufficient shock and outrage to stop the flood of guns into public life.
But that day will come, it always does. And it will be truly awful, in a way these things are always truly awful. America’s gun lunacy isn’t going to fade gently into that good night. No, it’s going to have to be stomped out, not just in anger and outrage — lord knows we’ve had plenty of that — but by corporate CEOs and Chamber of Commerce types, who finally realize that a populace too afraid to leave their homes is bad for business.