The old, orange and blue South African flag. Picture: Gallo
The old, orange and blue South African flag. Picture: Gallo

On Monday‚ as it emerged that a few Black Monday protestors had waved old South African flags‚ I posted a fairly uncontroversial opinion on Facebook.

“An old South African flag is not just something you have lying around and decide to take out to express your bad mood from time to time‚” I wrote. “If you've still got one‚ 23 years later‚ it means it's precious to you‚ a carrier of potent cultural symbolism and treasured history‚ and I have a right to assume the absolute worst of your character and intellectual abilities.”

The overwhelming majority of responses were supportive. As I said‚ it is not a wildly radical position to suggest that endorsing a crime against humanity is‚ you know‚ wrong.

And yet‚ inevitably‚ there they were: the outraged and the offended‚ crawling out of the 1950s to tell me that I was being terribly unkind; that people have all sorts of reasons for waving racist flags in public and that I had no right to judge either their character or their intellect.

One commenter was more honest‚ explaining to me that black people and liberals need to stop overreacting because apartheid wasn’t nearly as bad as the Holocaust. I assume that if‚ God forbid‚ this person is ever robbed at gunpoint and beaten unconscious‚ he is going to practise what he preaches and shrug it off with a smile. Because hey‚ at least he wasn’t murdered‚ right?

At this point‚ however‚ I have to concede that anger and hurt are often the products of confusion. It is possible‚ I must admit‚ that I didn’t make myself clear enough in that Facebook post.

If that is the case‚ then let me try again‚ by addressing white South Africans who feel they have a right to wave the old flag in public as a symbol of their discontent.

Are you guys sitting comfortably? OK. Here goes.

Folks. If you understand that you are causing pain to your compatriots by displaying that flag‚ but you don’t care because you believe its historical value to you trumps their historical experience‚ then you are a person of bad character.

If you don’t understand‚ or believe black South Africans have no right to be aggrieved by that flag‚ then you are unforgivably ignorant‚ entirely un-teachable‚ and should probably refrain from saying anything in public‚ ever.

It really is just one of those two options. You can be as offended as you like‚ but the fact remains: if the old flag is anything more to you than a relic in an attic‚ you’re either a nasty piece of work or a halfwit.

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