INTO THE NEXT STAGE: Confounded by the Confederate Flag



Last week I started watching KTLA channel 5’s broadcast of 1984’s sci-fi pic “The Terminator.” It’s still a tension-filled, violent thrill ride of a movie and it more than any other movie can be credited (blamed?) for why Arnold Schwarzenegger became a huge movie star and, eventually, the governor of California.

I had a couple of observations through the lens of 2015 about it, though. First was the killer robot’s methodology of using a telephone book and pay phone to track down and kill all the Sarah Connors in Los Angeles. In today’s world of ubiquitous cellphones and few pay phones, that tactic is now ludicrous.

Furthermore, in scenes that took place in the police station, actors Lance Henriksen and Paul Winfield smoke cigarettes in the office. That just doesn’t happen nowadays. In both instances, one would need to explain to young people that both scenes are things that just aren’t done nowadays.

Coincidentally, three decades since that movie, there is yet another “Terminator” sequel coming to theaters July 1, with Schwarzenegger trying to recapture past glories. And, on the topic of recapturing past glories, it’s time to address the Confederate flag issue.

In the aftermath of yet another outrageous, heinous mass slaying caused by an unhinged, misanthropic, socially stunted young American male with access to firearms, a side issue has arisen: The appropriateness of the public display on government buildings of the so-called Confederate battle flag.

The alleged perpetrator, whose name I must refuse to put into print lest it give him additional recognition, has been shown in photos from his social media posts posing with the Confederate flag.

He is white and the nine victims were black. Authorities have subsequently found that he wrote racist and white supremacist rants online; his act was clearly both racist and terrorist.

confederate flagFurthermore, his association with the Confederate flag, which is still held in high esteem by many white Southerners, has put that symbol in, pardon the expression, in the cross hairs.

My knee-jerk reaction to the people who are inclined to defend it as a symbol of Southern pride, heritage and the memory of the people who died fighting for it and what it stood for is: You guys lost. Put it away.

That, of course, won’t do. We’re talking about deeply held emotions here, not unlike the feelings about Japanese leaders paying public tribute at Yasukuni Shrine. But futile as it is to confront emotion with reason, I’m going to try.

The Confederate battle flag is a symbol loaded with baggage. As for heritage, pride and history, though, we need to face the facts. While the following may be an oversimplification, this flag symbolizes a secessionist movement that was caused by agricultural Southern states wanting to keep people of African ancestry enslaved, while industrial Northern states fought to keep the Union intact and end this inhumane institution.

Some Southerners and sympathizers might argue that racists and white supremacists have co-opted this symbol and that they should be able to keep using it, especially if they themselves aren’t of that ilk.

I personally don’t buy it. But let’s look at a couple of other symbols that have fallen into disrepute: the Imperial Japan’s rising sun flag (called in Japanese, if my source is correct, kyokujitsu-ki,) and the swastika (or svastika in Sanskrit, manji in Japanese).

nazi flagThese symbols still exist but have fallen out of favor. The rising sun flag — the one used by Japan’s army and navy before and during WWII — symbolizes Japanese aggression from the perspective of many Chinese and Koreans.

The swastika, despite its Hindu and Buddhist origins, was appropriated by Adolph Hitler and his Nazi party as a symbol of Aryan supremacy and hatred toward anyone who wasn’t part of that group. (I’ve heard people say that since the Nazis tipped it at an angle and reversed its direction, it’s different. It’s not — it’s still the same.)

There have been instances in years past of Asian immigrants who practiced Buddhism and put the swastika outside their places of worship, only to raise the ire of Jews and U.S. vets who fought the German Nazis and what the appropriated symbol stood for. To their credit, once enlightened to its other meanings here, they took it down.

As for the rising sun flag, it’s been replaced by the Hi no Maru flag — a centered red sun on a white field. Japanese tourists traveling to S. Korea and China for sporting events have been advised not to wave the rising sun flag because of its history.

rising sun flagSo, regarding the Confederate flag, should it be banned? No. Unfortunately, it should still be allowed under our nation’s tradition of freedom of expression. (It also serves as a good warning to avoid the people who insist on using it.)

But there is no place for it over government buildings. Actions to remove it from public, taxpayer-supported display are the right thing to do. Things change. We don’t have many public pay phones with phone books now. We don’t smoke in offices. The Confederate flag needs to go, too. Unfortunately, however, we’re still stuck with Arnold Schwarzenegger as the Terminator.

Foodie Shares Dept.: Now, for something a bit lighter. Do you have a smartphone, one that can use “apps”? The reason I ask is because I’ve wanted to write about an app that I thought many readers of this paper might find interesting — and possibly lucrative.

First, if you don’t know what an “app” is, it’s an abbreviation for “application,” which was the word Apple Macintosh users used instead of software or programs. With the arrival of the Apple iPhone a few years back, “apps” was appropriated for use with software or programs for smartphones.

In recent years, smartphones, in conjunction with apps, have given rise to what’s known as the “sharing economy.” Uber and Airbnb are probably the best-known examples of the sharing economy, in which people offering a time-sensitive service (a ride in the case of Uber or a room or apartment to rent in the case of AirBnB) get connected with people who need that service, via the app and the smartphone.

Needless to say, this technological evolution has enabled people with something to offer a relatively easy, seamless way to make a buck, hence the term “sharing economy.” For the company that created the digital infrastructure (and takes a cut) that made this type of networking possible, it’s a fascinating development in capitalism.

A friend of mine who is a publicist told me about a client she represents, a Santa Monica-based company that created the app called Foodie Shares. It’s been described as Uber for food.

Foodie Shares’ website describes it thusly:

“People use the Foodie Shares app to discover and order gourmet dishes made by local chefs. Foodie Shares handles payment processing and offers delivery of freshly prepared dishes within about an hour. Our users can also choose to follow their favorite chefs and be notified when they post new dishes.”

Since my publicist friend is also Japanese American, I thought I’d write about Foodie Shares here because there is a lot of culinary talent in this community. Anyone who’s attended some sort of community potluck can attest to that.

So, if you’re hungry, you can use Foodie Shares to get a gourmet meal. Better than that, if you have cooking chops, a kitchen, motivation and a smartphone, you can use Foodie Shares to make some extra money.

If any of this sounds interesting, visit and become a member, or download the app for your iPhone via iTunes. (You also have to be based in Los Angeles County.) If you do it, write me back here and share your experiences — I’d like to know how well Foodie Shares works for you.

Until next time, keep your eyes and ears open.

George Toshio Johnston has written this column since 1992 and can be reached at [email protected] The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect policies of this newspaper or any organization or business. Copyright © 2015 by George T. Johnston. All rights reserved.



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