Takei’s Facebook blast against Confederate flag causes online firestorm

Government Topics
June 1, 2013
By: John Guzzardo
Who said Star Trek actors don’t know how to stir the political pot?
A post on the Facebook page of Star Trek: The Original Series alum George Takei (aka “Sulu”) has raised an online firestorm. The image, posted Saturday, Jun 1 at approximately 2:45 EST, features a man holding his head in his hand as though suffering from some form of migraine, with the following caption:

“Just when you think life is going okay, your neighbor hangs a confederate flag outside.”

Within a half hour of the post, over 12,000 users liked it, and over 2,000 comments were made, ranging from statements of support and disgust over the flag itself, to varying degrees of oppositional comments protesting everything from President Obama to the association of the flag with hate speech. Here is a sampling of some of the comments:

“The Civil War was never about slavery. It was about taxes and federal control. Lincoln had no intention of freeing slaves until the Civil War became unpopular.” – Felicia Wilson

“The rebel flag reminds blacks of slavery….plain and simple…you folks can defend it any way you want, but it supets a large group of people and reminds them of a not too distant past…spin away…” – Raymond Seabolt II

“[The] Conferederate Flag is a sign of the south. It’s a piece of home and a sign of pride in your heritage. It’s not different than an American flying the stars and stripes in Japan.” – Micheal Bertrovich

“Confederate flag and Nazi swastika…same them. Proud of your heritage?”

This is just the latest chapter in the story of a flag with a highly charged political past. Originally authorized for use by the Confederacy exclusively for its Confederate military units, the battle flag was adopted by many governments in the American South as a symbol of rebellion against federally-imposed Reconstruction. It would later be adopted by hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan and others as part of their symbolism, and quickly became associated with such things as Jim Crow, white supremacy, and violence reprisals against African Americans during the Civil Rights era. The flag would later gain immense popularity in pop culture when it was used in the 1980s TV series “The Dukes of Hazzard,” set in fictional Hazzard County, Georgia. The flag itself was featured atop the "General Lee," the 1969 Dodge Charger driven by the main characters, Bo and Luke Duke.

In the mid-1990s, a movement began to remove the flag, or even remnants of it, from state and county flags and emblems across the southern United States. It has also been a source of economic controversy. One of the most explosive battles was fought in Georgia, where the state flag featured the battle emblem for decades. Until Georgia changed its flag, minority business groups frequently boycotted the state by refusing to hold conferences and conventions in the state. Confederate heritage groups and conservative traditionalists fought the change, claiming the flag was not hate speech, but instead a connection to the Old South.

In a compromise move, the state government agreed to a referendum on a new flag design, abandoning the battle flag, replacing it with the lesser-known and more political-acceptable “Stars and Bars,” which was the actual official flag of the government of the Confederacy. The move satisfied Confederate heritage activists, though other traditionalists saw it as a sign of the government caving to the interest of political correctness and liberal activists.

The new state flag was approved by the legislature in 2003, and voters chose to keep it in a 2004 referendum.

In 2008, a Confederate heritage group fought for, and won approval to fly a giant Confederate Battle Flag from a pole at the intersection of Interstates 4 and 75 outside Tampa. As a result, several Civil Rights groups called for a tourism boycott of the Tampa-St. Petersburg area. Coming into Florida, a large confederate battle flag is flown along Interstate 75 in the northern tier of the state. Concerns over economic boycotts have led other southern states and cities to modify their state flags and seals to remove obvious references to the flag.

George Takei himself is no stranger to controversy. The actor came out as openly gay years ago and has championed gay rights and gay marriage. His “Oh Myyyy” catchphrase has become immensely popular within the gay community, and he himself has seen a resurgence in his own career as of late, as a pitchman for LG and, more recently, in guest cameos on the two CBS series, “Hawaii Five-O” and “The Big Bang Theory.”

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