It is too bad Hamilton restaurateur Cameron Bailey selected the Confederate Flag (officially known as the Second Confederate Navy jack) to promote his business in downtown Hamilton. Too bad, because Baileys views on political correctness are worth a second look. But whatever the historical and military origins of the flag might have been; it is today almost universally viewed as racist, or at the very minimum a symbol of the redneck stereotype of toothless goons tearing around in a pickup truck with a gun rack in the back window. So Bailey will not win the argument that the flag is simply a way of celebrating the southern-ness of his cuisine. If he wanted to evoke the old south he might have considered reviving images from the Lil Abner comic stripafter all we can never get too much of the bewitching Daisy Mae, although the risk there would be accusations of sexism. Bailey, and his father-in-law, who contacted the Bay Observer recently, stoutly deny that he is racist; (and we withhold judgment until we see how this thing unfolds). But if Bailey does in fact harbour racist views, at least he is an equal opportunity racist, given the signage on his Upper James Street establishment that attracted attention last year for shunning the food choices that are largely associated with the Muslim community.
If, on the other hand, Baileys real target, however outrageously expressed, is political correctness (or politically correctness, as an incensed caller repeatedly termed it on a recent Matt Holmes talk show episode),he is on more solid ground, (minus the offensive symbol, of course). It is interesting that we have so-called hate Laws designed to protect vulnerable minorities, but that does not mean it is illegal to hate. Hatred in itself is alive and well in Hamilton as evidenced by the vitriol that is regularly directed on blogs and Twitter towards such targets as LRT deniers, Casino supporters, Bob Bratina, property developers (except those who develop lofts) motorists, and Dialogue Partners. Bailey says he will not knuckle under to a loud and vocal minority. He goes too far in suggesting he will delay the hiring of a minimum wage counter staffer for a week in order to recoup the cost of fixing his sign which was defaced this week by vandals. But it goes without question that there is an excess of mock and exaggerated outrage being flung around in this community, a lot of it anonymous; and it has a corrosive effect of public discourse. It is encouraging to see the Hamilton Spectator has started to flag concerns about this phenomenon in recent weeks., because the phenomenon arguably got its start when they opened their website to comments, long before anybody else was doing it.