Hillsborough County Commissioner Stacy White is at the tail of two flags. (More)

Squirrels know all about tail flagging. We use it to warn predators that we know they’re there, to tell the world we’re frustrated, and even to argue:

I love finding an excuse to post that video. As it shows, we also use Chitter to argue. Humans saw that and turned it into Twitter. But I digress.

“This issue has been a charged issue”

A year ago this week, a white supremacist walked into Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, sat for an hour, then drew a gun and murdered nine people.

In response, a year ago next month, Florida’s Hillsborough County Commission agreed to debate whether to take down the Confederate flag that had flown in the county building for over a century. And commissioner Stacy White didn’t want that debate to happen:

White, a Republican, said the commission shouldn’t make such a controversial decision in the charged atmosphere that has gripped the nation since nine black church members were murdered in Charleston, S.C. on June 17, Instead, White proposed the county hold a referendum on the issue in November 2016.

“This issue has been a charged issue, but it’s so charged now it’s at an ignition point,” White said. “People are going to be apprehensive to address the board or even afraid to give their thoughts regardless of what side they are on. There may be some commissioners who will not want to vote their convictions on this for fear of being chastised.”

White also said removing the flag would set a dangerous precedent of trying to erase or rewrite history because of “political expediency.” The Confederate banner did fly over Florida when it was a Confederate state, he said. That’s why it is appropriate, White said, to include the flag alongside flags of the United States, Spain, France and Great Britain – nations that now or in the past held sovereignty over Florida.

“This in my mind is not just a Confederate flag issue, it’s an historical issue,” White said. “People are talking about the Confederate flag today, but what will they be talking about tomorrow? Where does it stop?”

It’s worth noting that people who want to keep the status quo always say it’s not the right time to debate change. We shouldn’t discuss guns or political acts of homophobia in the wake of the Orlando Massacre, they insist, because that “politicizes a tragedy.” Unlike, say, howling about Islam by people who won’t acknowledge that the victims were LGBTs. That wasn’t a case of cherry-picking Republicans who refused to acknowledge that the gunman targeted LGBTs. It reflected an official Republican Party decision … and three days later House Republicans again blocked an amendment to protect LGBTs from workplace discrimination.

“Grief policemen”

University of Mississippi history Ph.D student Bryan Kessler debunked the “politicizing a tragedy” meme brilliantly:

What these grief policemen are doing is a whitewashing of the victims distinct from, although the result is not necessarily different than, those who want to impose a narrative about “radical Islam”.

Instead of dealing forthrightly with how the Orlando shooting was a hate crime that had a broader effect on the lives of the LGBT community as a whole, the “depoliticizers” demand that we talk about the shooting under a charade of detached mourning.

Such deference to decorum benefits those politicians and pundits, mainly conservatives, who want to seem mournful without having to acknowledge how their decades of strong pro-gun policies enabled this attack. It also allows social conservatives, who’ve spent their lifetimes warning of God’s judgement and fostered a culture of hate as a response to gay marriage and transgender equality, to pray for Orlando without having to deal with who the victims were.

Bustle’s Morgan Brinlee echoed that refrain:

Tragedies like the shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando are inherently political. They became political the moment the shooter picked up his gun. Although authorities in Orlando are still investigating what motivated the shooting, it seems worth noting the gunman chose a popular gay nightclub during LGBT Pride Month. Because the shooter likely cared about the sexual orientation of his victims, so must we. To ignore that the 50 people shot dead in Pulse were potentially targeted and killed because they were in a gay nightclub means ignoring some of the vital issues at play here.

I can’t think of a single person who’d want to be accused of using acts of senseless violence or the deaths of innocent people to push their political agenda, but tragedy and crises naturally beget conversations on how to improve the system to prevent future incidents. We mustn’t stick our heads in the sand no matter how uncomfortable the conversation becomes. By seeking an apolitical response we lose opportunities to drive change, to let progress rise like a phoenix from the ashes of tragedy.

She quotes this especially apropos tweet:

Writing at the New York Times, Gabriel Arana hammered the same theme:

But it is only the most privileged among us who have the luxury of divorcing politics from everyday life. Those of us in the LGBT community know better. Politics is how we won the right to be free from discrimination in government jobs, to have sex without fear of criminal prosecution, to serve in the military, to get married and adopt children. In about 28 states, we are still fighting to outlaw discrimination in employment. And transgender Americans are still fighting for the right to pee in peace.

To think that a mass shooting at a gay nightclub filled with Latinos and committed by a Muslim-American sympathetic to religious extremists is beyond the scope of politics is absurd on its face – you couldn’t dream up a scenario more rife with political implications. But it is especially absurd to those of us in the LGBT community, whose very existence has been politicized for decades.

“A heart of hatred”

That same privilege is why Commissioner White wanted to let everyone forget about the Charleston Massacre before voting on whether to remove the Confederate flag from a government building:

It was not readily clear the debate would end with a unanimous vote. Commissioner Stacy White passionately opposed the Confederate flag’s removal, insisting it was “hysteria” and “political correctness” gone awry.

“Every Confederate symbol on this planet can be eliminated and it won’t do a thing to stop a heart of hatred,” White said.

He speaks as if “a heart of hatred” simply exists ex nihilo, having no basis in celebrations of a rebellion that was explicitly begun to preserve white supremacy through slavery. And just in case you thought that ended a year ago, a group South Carolina celebrated secession again this year – on the anniversary of the Charleston Massacre.

White would have us believe that such celebrations of white supremacy had nothing to do the gunman’s “heart of hatred.” In the conservative worldview, only radical Muslim clerics – or Black Lives Matter protests – motivate people to kill.

“Nearly unbearable”

So it’s hardly surprising that this week Commissioner White yet again dialed up his umbrage meter over a flag:

A pride flag waving outside the Hillsborough County center was meant to be a sign of respect and remembrance for the victims of the shooting at an LGBT nightclub in Orlando.

But just a day after it was raised, Commissioner Stacy White said it may be offending Christian employees and questioned whether it should be taken down.

In an email sent to the county human relations director Peggy Rowe on Thursday, White said he received an anonymous complaint from a county employee that the presence of the flag was “nearly unbearable” for her to pass on her way to work and created a “hostile work environment.”

Calling the rainbow flag a “divisive, politically-charged symbol,” White asked Rowe if it could become an HR problem for the county. If it does, then White said he wanted a special meeting of the county commission to consider removing it.

Apparently the Confederate flag wasn’t a “divisive, politically-charged symbol,” and there was no worry that flag might create a “hostile work environment.”

Or maybe White just doesn’t care about a “hostile work environment” unless it’s hostile to people he likes. He publicly opposed expanding the county’s human rights ordinance to protect LGBTs from workplace discrimination:

I don’t think that anyone should be mistreated or have action taken against them at work for non-work-related factors. How would an ordinance on an issue that is intensely private be enforced? The question of one’s sexual preference is one that simply shouldn’t be asked. I would vote against the ordinance.

Yes, because “don’t ask, don’t tell” worked so well in the military:

The policy remained in effect until 2011, although the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and other organizations monitoring its implementation repeatedly pointed out its failures. Discharges actually increased under the policy, and harassment of gay and lesbian personnel appeared to intensify in many locales.

The failure of the policy was dramatized in 1999 by the murder of Pfc. Barry Winchell at the hands of Pvt. Calvin Glover, a member of his unit. Glover beat Winchell to death with a baseball bat while he slept. Prosecutors argued that Glover murdered Winchell because he was a homosexual. Glover was sentenced to life in prison. Subsequent inquiries by civilian groups revealed an ongoing pattern of policy violations and antigay harassment that had been ignored by higher-level officers. However, a report by the Army Inspector General exonerated all officers of blame in Winchell’s murder and found no climate of homophobia at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, the base where Winchell was bludgeoned to death.

In White’s view, LGBTs would face no discrimination if they’d just keep their family lives “intensely private,” like he does:

Yeah. No hypocrisy there.

He’s at the tail of two flags. Or maybe he’s just under the tail….


Photo Credit: Getty Images


Good day and good nuts