It's Just Like Saying the N—– Word

The flag of those who supported the dissolution of the Union.

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

Seattle Times (Erik Lacitis) reports:

The news tip a few days ago said:

"Hi. Suddenly there is a Confederate flag flying in front of a house in my Greenwood neighborhood. It is at the north-east corner of 92nd and Palatine, just a block west of 92nd and Greenwood Ave N. I would love to know what this 'means' … but of course don't want to knock on their door. Maybe others in the area are flying the flag? Maybe it's a story? Thank you." …

Darold Norman Stangeland lives at the [house].

"That's a Norwegian flag," he says. "It's been up there since the start of the Olympics."

The Norwegian flag has a red background, with an off-center white-and-blue cross.

NEXT: Justices Thomas and Sotomayor Debate Legislative History

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Suggest the headline might be funnier still with, “the N——– Word”

    1. For “Norwegian”? The five-hyphen version seemed to me to work well with “Norway.”

  2. Straight outta Oslo, a crazy-ass Norwegian
    When we’re not awarding prizes, we’re winning them as fast as we can

  3. I just looked up “Norwegian Americans” in Wikipedia and found that there’s a big Norwegian-American population in Seattle.

    I guess some people in Seattle just aren’t that multicultural.

    1. Greenwood is only half a mile or so from Ballard, a neighborhood where Syttende Mai, Norwegian independence day, is a public holiday and whose motto is Uff Da! Traditionally most residents of Greenwood did their shopping on Ballard Ave. where Norwegian flags vie with Swedish for dominance.

      In other words this woman should be run out of town on a rail and have her Washington State citizenship revoked.

    2. Norwegians like boats and areas with boating jobs. Go figure.

    3. It’s progressive cracker central. So easy to be tolerant when everyone within ten miles of you are the same pasty white skin tone and all worship the same ideology.

      1. Interesting. It also is easy to be broadly intolerant when everyone within 10 miles of you is the same pastey white skin tone and all worship the same ideology, as our shambling, bigoted, right-wing rural and southern communities demonstrate.

  4. Is the trauma that these victims experienced upon seeing this flag diminished because it turned out to be a Norwegian flag? I think not. If we care about our citizens’ safety, we must ban the violent Norwegian flag immediately.

    1. Indeed. What matters was not the purported intent of the person who displayed the flag, but the perception of it by others. Any reasonable person would immediately have realized that a red, white, and blue flag with a roughly cruciform pattern on it might’ve been taken for a Confederate flag, and would impact the right of others to feel safe in the neighborhood.

    2. The first corrective step, of course, must be a trigger warning so everyone knows that an offensive flag might be encountered. Next should be a town meeting so people can come together to discuss how upsetting it is to have to see the flags of other nations.

  5. Dissolution of the Norway-Sweden union? Forgive me if I am wrong, trying to do this without big G.

    1. Yes, exactly. You get special bonus points for knowing that if the “-son” in your name isn’t from Sweden (or thereabouts).

      1. Yay! I definitely deserve bonus points, and can prove it thusly: my name comes from the Yiddish pronunciation of the Hebrew name Ephraim – Efroyam. My Indiana ancestors however changed the E from short to long, and made the y silent, so more like E-from-son, I suppose to fit in with the Swedes.

  6. There is no comparison between the Norwegian and Confederate Flags. Or am I missing something.

    1. In a world where a banana can be a racist symbol…

    2. If a pop tart can be a gun – – – – – –

    3. When Hillary Clinton is triggered by a cartoon frog . . . .

    4. Sure there is!

      They’re both cloth rectangles.

      They’re both red, white, and blue.

      They both have long stripey bits in the middle that intersect!

      (I mean, I can sort of see it at a glance, if there’s no wind; the difference in form is less obvious in a slack flag. It’s not like we’re talking about a poster.

      The lack of stars on the Norwegian flag ought to make it clear.

      As should the context of the part of Seattle it’s in where Norwegians are farkin’ everywhere and the Norwegian flag is not remotely an unknown symbol.)

      1. Both the American flag and the Confederate battle flag are red, white, and blue, and have stars. That’s why people are so triggered by the American flag now.

  7. Isn’t pot legal there? That would certainly explain things.

  8. According to the reporter (and I don’t know if this is true), the Confederate flag tip “was from Rebecca Morris, who is an author of The New York Times best-seller true-crime books.”

    1. She apparently co-writes with a fellow named Gregg Olsen, so even if he is a filthy Dane he must bear some responsibility.

    2. Well, since there is a faint relationship to the NYT, we all should have known it was fake news.

  9. Well they did launch an unsuccessful rebellion, are mostly white…for now, and almost certainly had slaves. Close enough.

  10. Their slaves were British. Does that count?

    1. NO.
      Despite centuries of worldwide slavery by all races of all races, only the few years of slavery in the United States, and only of blacks, was ever evil. ‘Everyone’ knows that slavery was purely racist, never economic.

      1. Hopefully, your pouty sarcasm regarding the economic causes ? free labor! ? of slavery is the hottest take I read all day.

        400+ years != “A few”

        1. This may come as a surprise to you, but the United States has not existed for “400+” years, and has (at least on paper) prohibited chattel slavery for the majority of its history. I don’t know what your point is supposed to be, but it doesn’t matter — clearly your opinions are based on imaginary facts.

          1. I seem to recall it was around fourscore and seven years (give or take a few) between the founding of the US and the adoption of an antislavery policy by the feds.

            1. The 14th Amendment was adopted in 1868.

              Let’s take “America” back to the Declaration in 1776.

              That’s 92 years of American government tolerating slavery (as the debates for the Constitution showed, the Federal level never really liked it; accepting it was necessary for the Union at the time, no more).

              It’s 2018. That’s 150 years later than 1868.

              Half again as long without slavery as with it, that’s “the majority of its history”, easily – over 3/5 of the time there’s been anything like an American polity, it has banned slavery entirely, not just partially.

              1. That’s true enough, but in fairness there was 100 years or so of Jim Crow. It wasn’t outright slavery, but it wasn’t freedom either.

                1. Of course, I was replying to a comment re slavery.

                2. True enough. Progressive Democrats moved from plantation slavery to government slavery with KKK, Jim Crow laws, segregating the fed gov’t, etc.

                  1. ” Progressive Democrats moved from plantation slavery to government slavery ”

                    What else could they do? First the cause was lost, then all of the vicious racists migrated to the Republican Party.

                    1. *All* of the vicious racists?

                      You mean that Louis Farrakhan is a Republican?

                    2. I do not recall that Farrakhan was a Democrat able to migrate to the Republican Party with all of the other racists, but if he was, you got me — one Democrat might not have migrated to the Republican Party with all of the other vicious, backward racists . . . and that one, if he existed, endorsed Donald J. Trump, if I remember correctly.

                      Good call on importing all of those racists, though, Republicans — they probably provided the margin for Trump. Enjoy those memories as a generation of voters that has seen conservatives branded with bigotry and backwardness vote for a half-century or so.

                    3. Hmmm, Farrakhan certainly seems like a Trump supporter:

                      “”When Mr. Trump was elected, the onion was being peeled back and white civility was gone,” the Minister asserted. “They are angry and they are killing us. … A war is brewing. Are they planning war? Is it against black youth and black people? Yes.””

                    4. “Farrakhan did have praise for one president however, Barack Obama, whom he compared to a biblical figure. And he chastised Trump for not showing respect, saying, “Barack Obama, you called him a weak president because he’s not like you or his predecessors. He’s like Jonah, a reluctant prophet.””

                    5. Leaving in place Grand Dragon Byrd (D). A prominent and respected (by dems) party member. Bull Conner migrated from turning police dogs and fire hoses on non-violent black civil rights marchers to heads of the DNC.

      2. Why do they keep making such a big deal about your itty bitty dalliance with some mild slavery?

      3. I can’t tell whether Longtobefree’s comment comes from an awkward junior high schooler or, instead, an adult bigot.

        Either way, I hope the author learns how to interact with modern society.

        1. Wrongthink! Off to re-education with him.

          1. Why? The broadly intolerant, the half-educated, the authoritarian right-wingers . . . they (and others) have rights, too, including the right to believe and speak as they wish.

            Indeed, I enjoy observing conservatives speak voluntarily and publicly about misogyny, gay-bashing, racism, xenophobia, and similar topics. A new group of young people is introduced to the public debates each day, and each generation should know how the current Republican-conservative electoral coalition thinks and operates.

  11. Missing the real offense: flying two national flags from the same flagpole, one under the other.

    Bzzzt. Wrong.

    1. Even up here in Northern Virginia, we have yahoos who fly the US flag and on the same pole the Confed flag beneath it.

      Talk about clueless…

      1. apedad: I wonder whether your Northern Virginia story involves cluelessness, or instead one of two things (or both):

        1. The people flying the flags don’t care about what some people see as the rules of flag etiquette:

        2. They accept that the U.S. flag shouldn’t be flown on the same pole as a national flag, but they now view the Confederate flag as a symbol of an American subcommunity, subordinate to but a legitimate part of the U.S. As I understand it, flying such a subcommunity flag — whether of a state or of some other community, governmental or otherwise — below the U.S. flag is quite customary.

        One may of course disagree with their view of how the Confederate flag should be understood today; but that’s a separate matter.

        Eugene

        1. “1. The people flying the flags don’t care about what some people see as the rules of flag etiquette:”

          I think it is this one.

          There is hugely a big difference between those who literally wrap themselves in the flag, and those who understand flag etiquette, if you catch my drift.

          1. (Also? One pole is cheaper than two.)

          2. Well, maybe it’s not so much that they don’t “understand” flag etiquette, as that they don’t much care about it.

        2. Not looking at flag etiquette…

          It’s about these were opposing military forces.

          The confederate leadership were made up of rebel traitors to the US.

          Lee was a USMA (West Point) graduate and commissioned officer in the US Army.

          He swore an oath (even to GOD!!!) that we would protect the United States against all enemies.

          Can’t understand how a person can fly the US flag and the Confed flag together and my only answer is they are clueless.

          1. But Lee resigned his commission in the U.S. Army. Prior to offering his services to the Confederacy Or do you believe that all people who were ever in the U.S. military, even if discharged, resigned, or retired, have a duty to protect the United States against all enemies?

            Then again, several Confederate generals rejoined the U.S. Army after the Civil war, and commanded troops in the Spanish-American War. Strange how people who had actually lived through the Civil War had no problem with this (or not enough to oppose it) but you can’t seem to get over it 150 or so years later.

            I suspect that you really hate Conservatives, and conflate the people who fought 150 years ago with them.

            1. There’s no time limit on an oath. As someone who took the oath to support and defend our country against all enemies, foreign and domestic, even though I’m retired military, it’s still an oath I took.

              There are no exceptions.

              Everyone (except for Lee) was pardoned shortly thereafter so as long as they were in good standing, they could rejoin the military (and the S-A war was 30+ years after the Civil War so enough time had passed.)

              It is not I who conflate people today with the Civil War. It is the clueless idiots who still support the Confederacy–a military force that fought the UNITED STATED OF AMERICA and lost.

              1. “retired military”

                You are still technically part of the military. You even get a pension.

                Retired officers can be recalled to service, resigned officers cannot be, correct?

                Lee resigned. He was no longer bound by his oath.

                He was a traitor certainly but would have been one even if he had never served in the US Army. His moral culpability was exactly the same.

              2. “It is not I who conflate people today with the Civil War. It is the clueless idiots who still support the Confederacy–a military force that fought the UNITED STATED OF AMERICA and lost.”

                You do realize that you just conflated conservatives (“clueless idiots” in your mind) with the Confederacy, don’t you?

                1. Actually it’s you who tied clueless idiots to conservatives.

                  If the people who still support the Confederacy happen to be cons, then that’s not on me.

          2. Sorry, apedad, but you are committing the historical fallacy of interpreting Lee’s actions in the light of the current understanding of the constitutional/federal structure rather than the understanding held by people at the time. Lee did take an oath as part of his commission in the Army. And, yes, the oath did have language about protecting the US against all enemies.

            However, the common understanding in 1860 was that people were citizens of their State first and the federation second. When Virginia seceded from the Union, her withdrawal “claimed the allegiance and loyalty of her sons”. In other words, Virginia (or New York) were thought to have the right to abrogate their citizens’ oaths. This assessment is based upon the assumption that States have a right to secede. We fought a Civil War to say that they do not – but prior to the end of that war, the question was open. IF States have a right to secede, then any oath of office to the US becomes non-binding on a State’s citizens when that State secedes.

            By the lights of the day (again, 1860 not 1878), Lee’s decision to follow loyalty to his State rather than to the Federal government was honorable (even if the cause the State followed was not). He was a rebel but he was not a traitor.

          3. apedad: Symbols are complicated, and change over time. As I understand it, some of those who fly the Confederate flag have reconciled themselves to the Union victory. (I suspect that many loyal subjects of the Queen of England, for instance, might be just fine with the American flag, even though the Revolutionary leadership was made up of rebel traitors to the UK.) They now see the flag today as a symbol of their community pride, and see it as consistent with their own allegiance to the Union.

            Now you may still think that they shouldn’t use the symbol of treason, or especially of treason that was motivated by a desire to preserve slavery. That might be pretty sensible. But that just means that the other people disagree with you, not that they are “clueless.”

            1. ‘Just some well-meaning good ‘ol boys flying a symbol . . . a mere difference of opinion, one might say’

              The need to avoid public acknowledgement of the connection between the Confederate flag and racism — past and current — is one of the things that must make it rough to be a conservative academic these days.

    2. I don’t think the “International Usage” the Flag Code references there applies to private civil usage.

      Also, we’re Americans and the Flag Code doesn’t actually bind anything but the Government.

      We can fly a flag any goddamn way we want, thanks to the First Amendment.

      1. Not quite right. The Flag Code (including the “international usage” section) does apply to private civil use just as much as to government use. However, the Flag Code does not actually bind either of those two groups. In other words, if a functionary at the Post Office chooses to fly a flag upside down, he/she might be answerable to supervisors and/or customers just like for any other employment matter but at no risk of prosecution.

        And, yes, thanks to the First Amendment.

  12. Now I know why I felt so at-home moving from Charleston, SC, to a community where the Nordic panoply is more commonly flown (from individual staffs, tip o’th’ hat ^^^). The historical relations of the region influenced the the design of the flags, including the Cross and the use of the Red, White and Blue, or not.

    My Township’s Flag is of a longship in red, white and blue.

  13. The Night The Drove Old Oslo Down.

  14. Well done.

    I guess there’s no reason the Norway flag can’t be every bit as “offensive” as the confederate flag, since it’s all about the hysterical objector’s feelings now.

    Ha, from the link: “Editor’s note: Due to the number of comments on this story that violated our Terms of Service, the comment thread has been removed.”

    1. “I guess there’s no reason the Norway flag can’t be every bit as “offensive” as the confederate flag, since it’s all about the hysterical objector’s feelings now.”

      Well, the meaning of any symbol is only what people perceive it to mean, right? A swastika means something very different in the context of the Third Reich, or at a far right rally, than it does in traditional Hopi craft.

      Like the person, above, who complains about the “racism” of bananas. Eating a banana isn’t racist; hurling bananas at black or African soccer players, as happens in Europe, is.

      Words, symbols, the only meaning that they have is what we, in total, give to them.

      1. Yes, and no.

        “Someone’s feelings” are relevant only if the “perception” is one proper to the underlying signification (in the semiotic sense).

        It is exactly that “Swastika in Nazi Germany” and “Swastika in Hopi crafts” have utterly different significations that means “offense” at the latter, confusing it with the signification of the former, is nonsense*.

        “All about the feelings” in this context is really “someone assigning meaning that nobody else is”, making it a personal problem.

        (* That is, the offense exists, but since it is predicated on a confusion of significations not present anywhere but that person’s mind, it’s irrelevant to anyone else and has no bearing on the semiotic content of the sign in use.

        Anyone offended by the Norwegian flag in this case is making the same error, only worse, since unlike the swastika case it’s only a vaguely similar symbol in general outline.)

        1. “”All about the feelings” in this context is really “someone assigning meaning that nobody else is”, making it a personal problem.”

          Missing the point. M.L., as he is want to do, dismisses the “hysterical objector” as meaningless, regardless of the circumstance. But it is the weight of meaning assigned to something that, um, gives it meaning. Why do some people view certain activities involving the American flag disrespectful, while believing that having the American flag on, inter alia, their jean’s butt is totally patriotic? Why did the symbol of Jim Crow segregation (the Confederate Battle flag) become both a symbol of oppression and, to some, a symbol of … what, Southern pride and Lynyrd Skynyrd fans?

          Yeah, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and sometimes ceci n’est une pipe. The flag of Norway is just the flag of Norway in this case (go, Cross Country skiers!). Other times, the banana is a racist taunt. Life, it’s complex and stuff.

          1. I don’t dismiss the objector’s feelings as meaningless. But to give them the sole consideration is untenable, regardless of the circumstance. And of course this is all done because it is a politicized argument.

            Also of course, few on each side are not acting in good faith. Next up, I will explain how The Beatles’ “Imagine” is actually a symbol of global totalitarian communism, and anyone who associates with it is intentionally supporting a hateful murderous ideology. 🙂

            1. That song illustrates the concept that you shouldn’t attribute to conspiracy that which can be better explained by stupidity.

        2. Yeah I’m not sure why you’re talking about feelings, since this wasn’t a swastika and it wasn’t a banana thrown at an African player, and it wasn’t a confederate flag – it was a mistake. Any response other than blushes and embarrassment is just doubling down on the mistake. If it had been a confederate flag, they would have been right, since it’s a racist rag o’crap, but they weren’t. Nobody was offended by the Norwegian flag. They were offended by a foolish mistake. The only real discussion to be had would whether it was a reasonable mistake given the similar colour scheme or an unreasonable one given the lack of stars and the location and the Olympics and stuff. I’m sure that argument would be ABSOLUTELY edifying.

          1. “If it had been a confederate flag, they would have been right, since it’s a racist rag o’crap”

            Right to report this to the newspaper?

            So the paper can publicly shame some random, non-public figure.

            Its a bad road to start down on.

            1. I’m sorry you keep mistaking the confederate flag for something that is not a racist rag o’crap, Bob.

              1. Not what I said at all.

                Its a bad precedent to have mass media shame private random people for having unpopular opinions.

                1. My God, you’re right, we’d better be careful mass media doesn’t start doing this.

      2. Quite right, I think. The issue that arises, then, is that people have varied, disagreeing perceptions, even as to the same thing in the same context.

        Hence the big scare on the part of some people over a Norwegian flag or a confederate flag or monument, when others did not perceive (or, in the case of the speaker/creator, intend) any such offense.

        But instead of working to better understand each other’s intended meanings, tolerating pluralistic differences, and allowing freedom of expression, it becomes a politicized battle where . . . . well, you know the rest.

        1. Reading the original article, it seems that there could be confusion when the flag wasn’t at fully furled. The person who wrote in to the paper was genuinely mortified by the mistake she made.

          1. Ha, I bet. The plain mistake of fact makes this case funny and unique . . . yet maybe more similar than one might think?

            1. The article says that the mistake happens elsewhere; I like the quote from the Lewisboro Ledge (2012), when a woman was asked about her Norwegian flag:

              “It was embarrassing. Everyone in the county was asking me if I’m flying a rebel flag.”

  15. If the Confederate Flag is a symbol of hate that must be destroyed, why aren’t Christian crosses also symbols of hate? They are used by the Ku Klux Klan to inspire terror among minorities. And they have represented murder of non-Christians for over a thousand years (since 312 CE?).

    I say that we should ban all crosses. Obviously, it’s the greatest terror threat that humans have faced in the common era, so we must end the hate.

    1. “why aren’t Christian crosses also symbols of hate?”

      Step carefully on this. I have it on good authority that any number of progressives think they are, as covers for supposed racism. You surely didn’t hear it here first.

    2. Banning is not the sound course, in my judgment. People should be permitted to use Confederate flags, crosses, and other symbols.

      Recognizing the ugliness of racism, dogmatic intolerance, and sacred ignorance — and in particular the substandard nature of people who display Confederate flags outside museums that refrain from glorifying Confederate depravity — is the sole sound course, however, among decent people.

  16. From Sewer, Gas & ELectric by Matt Ruff:

    Joan met Archie Kerrigan in November of ’03, while researching a position paper on federal regulation of the genetic engineering industry. Kerrigan was an Arkansas-born conservative, a tongue-in-cheek, right-wing iconoclast whose favorite sport was teaching stupid pet tricks to the hounds of the Lefty God. He’d first
    gained notoriety after a correspondent to the Harvard Crimson accused him of “oppression symbolism” for flying a Confederate battle flag from his dorm window. Progressive students mobilized quickly to express their outrage and demand the flag’s removal, only to be caught flatfooted when, at the height of a candlelight vigil, a passing political science major pointed out that Kerrigan’s racist Confederate flag was actually a British Union Jack. A photographer for the National Review just happened to be on hand to capture the red-faced squirming that followed; Rolling Stone columnist P. J. O’Rourke joined in the heaping of ridicule a couple weeks later with a piece titled “Bean Town’s Culturally Illiterate Elite: Why Johnny Can’t Tell Grits from a Crumpet.” Suspecting?a tad late?that they’d been set up, the flag-bashers reexamined the Crimson letter that had sparked their protest in the first place. It was signed “A.K.”

  17. Please be gentle with the Barney Fifes. They have often depended on the kindness of Strangelands.

  18. No one show him the state flag of Georgia, which is an actual Confederate flag with the state symbol inside the stars.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.