Culture

The Battle-Flag Battle

(Romangorielov/Dreamstime)
On the left, outrage has its limits.

Perhaps soon in Muslim countries some provocateur will hold an “Everyone Draw the Confederate Flag” contest. Social Justice Warriors might crash it with strongly worded pickets, and perhaps some damning chants (“Hey Hey Ho Ho / Racist men were Duke and Bo”). Such a thing would have been absurd a week ago, but the culture turns on a dime these days — a dime with the portrait of a president who interned people for their race, and isn’t that a tad problematic? — and now the Stars and Bars have been scrubbed from Amazon, Sears, Etsy, eBay, and all other merchants eager to scramble to the virtuous side of the modern moral ledger. Within a week there will be a law that grants the right to wear a Confederate-flag tattoo, but if you go out in public you have to wear a piece of waxed paper over it, preferably smeared with Vaseline.

Insert obligatory boilerplate about the South and the Flag here; imagine counterargument right . . . here. Are we good? Good. Those issues aren’t the point here. Consider a complaint going around the right side of the Internet lately, which notes that merchants eager to drop the Confederate flag like a flaming sack of feces are perfectly fine carrying — well, this:

Hurry! Only four left! Be the first on your block to proclaim your love of omnicidal tyrants.

Or, if you prefer more artisanal, small-batch killers, there’s everyone’s favorite hairy homophobe:

So why are these okay? many on the right ask. Typical, isn’t it? They have no idea.

1. Che was cool. You can tell he was cool because he was totally into universal health care and building a new society where everything was taken care of and you could concentrate on art instead of worrying about things like money. He and Fidel overthrew that Babtisto guy who the CIA put in there to torture people so they would harvest sugar for Coca-Cola. I mean, look at his expression! Noble. Unselfish. Looking up to the future with calm, confident resolve.

Or, it’s the look of a man who’s thinking, “Never fails. Two minutes after the firing squad’s done, and here come the buzzards.”

2. Communism is kinda awesome! First of all, the USSR stuff is amaaazing from a graphic-design point; they used revolutionary styles to spread their egalitarian message, just like people today are using responsive web design to garner awareness about the need to ban plastic bags. A lot of those artists wouldn’t have gotten jobs in the U.S. They would have ended up in some small town doing drawings for the local newspaper, which is practically like going to the Gulag. And if some of those artists did die in the labor camps, well, you have to break a few eggs to make an omelette, and also purge several million chickens who were hoarding eggs by laying them too slowly. And then you have to purge the men who run the chicken coops for wrecking the five-year plan to produce twice as many eggs with half as many chickens. Have you seen old Soviet art for the Chicken Production Drive of 1924? It’s awesome.

I mean, sure, Stalin did some things, but they were way ahead of everyone else when it came to font selection. They probably had like a Ministry of Fonts.

Remember, Communism has never been tried, really, but every manifestation of capitalism — including Sweden in the Seventies — is totally capitalism.

3. Communism is really a noble idea, and it’s never been tried. I mean pure Communism, where everyone is taken care of and stuff gets made because everyone’s on board and pitching in. Not like today’s dog-eat-dog society, where you get out of college with a Masters in Fine Art focused on Iberian lute dirges and a ton of debt, and you can’t get a job that isn’t handing a cup of caffeinated sugar to some bro in a suit. In Communism, college is free and you get a job afterwards teaching people about Iberian lute dirges. If that’s what you want! I mean you can be a doctor too, but it’s not like you’ll make more money.

Remember, Communism has never been tried, really, but every manifestation of capitalism — including Sweden in the Seventies — is totally capitalism.

4. As for the millions and millions of people who “suffered” under that Soviet flag or went so far as to “die,” as some hysterics put it, well, you have to understand the times and the culture, and really, you can quote One Day in the Life of Alexander Denisovich all you like, but Solzineitzsche or whatever lived to write it, didn’t he? And he got it published, right? Compare that with the screenwriters who lost their livelihoods because of the Hollywood Blacklists.

That’s the other thing! Flying a Communist flag is like a thumb in the eye of all those people who got bent out of shape over Communists in the Fifties, or were all like “USA! USA!” when Reagan seized power. It doesn’t meant we love Communism — okay, maybe a secret crush — it just means we hate America, except for the parts when it was run by JFK or Obama or some of those parts with Clinton when he was doing stuff like supporting abortion. I’m just saying, if you had to choose, which would be better? The society where all men (men!) are “created equal,” or the one where the state makes sure everyone really is equal? So yeah. I’m not saying the USSR was perfect, but the people who like to point out its flaws are really blowing dog whistles about how America is so awesome and we should go back to the Fifties, when they used to hit gay people with Bibles at Woolworth lunch counters.

So yes, keep those flags in the store. They have North Korean ones too! Have you seen those pictures of Kim Jong One or whatever pretending to look at a missile or a unicorn? Of course they’re photoshopped, but the Norks are getting really good at it. North Korea is hilarious.

— James Lileks is a columnist for National Review Online.

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