State fairs are always a fun time. They give a sense of community, allowing people to transcend everyday politics and worries so they may come together as fellow statesmen and enjoy themselves. That is unless you live in Illinois.
According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the band Confederate Railroad has been “barred from performing at an Illinois state fair because of its use of the Confederate flag…”
“This administration’s guiding principle is that the state of Illinois will not use state resources to promote symbols of racism,” a spokeswoman for Governor Pritzker, Emily Bittner, said. “Symbols of hate cannot and will not represent the values of the Land of Lincoln.”
Obviously, the band’s fans aren’t happy about this recent development. Supporters such as Joe McKinley, who has contacted the band about performing at a family event before, said “It’s just their logo. It’s just their southern pride,” regarding the band’s use of the Confederate Flag.
Illinois State Rep. Terri Bryant (R) had some words for the Pritzker administration on the issue, referring to the cancellation of the band as a type of censorship:
“If you’re going to censor Confederate Railroad because it’s offensive to people, then censor the other entertainer with the depiction of a dead president that many people here love.”
Two things can be true at once: Firstly, the barring of Confederate Railroad is ridiculous, left-wing bellyaching. There has been no evidence shown the band attempts to stoke racial divides. No evidence they use their platform to promote disdainful beliefs.
Even if one can’t look past the band’s personal actions, only pointing to their use of the Confederate Flag to justify their banning, it should be reasonable for both sides of the debate to acknowledge a simple fact: intent matters.
If, assuming for a moment, the Stars and Bars can be nothing but an offensive symbol, Confederate Railroad’s use of said symbol would, at worse, fall under ignorance rather than malice, as the band has shown no indication of spurring racial animus.
If such is the case, banning the band from performing at this particular fair seems a disproportionate punishment for the crime of ignorance.
But -- and this may be unpopular -- Rep. Bryant and his ilk take away from their side of the issue when they claim that the banning is an example of censorship, considering that word very often comes with Orwellian connotations.
No one is being censored. Having a protected right to freedom of speech does not mean you are entitled to perform at any event you want. The government is not banning the band from performing at their own -- or other -- concerts or fairs. They are not threatening to arrest or fine Confederate Railroad for their use of the flag. They are not kicking the band out of the state.
What they are saying is that the band is no longer invited to perform at this specific event, and they have, as organizers of the fair, that right, even if they are going about their decision the wrong way.