Good news! The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles is once again considering a specialty license plate that bears the image of the Confederate flag! Not everyone sees this as a great idea, however. Take Representative Lon Burman (D-Fort Worth), for example. He opposes the proposal, explaining that he finds it to be deeply troubling. Although I can totally understand Burman’s reaction, by only focusing on the downside of the proposed plates, he is missing the obvious upside.
Unlike Burman, I’m in favor of the hate plates—my only complaint is that the idea doesn’t go nearly far enough. The way I see it, anyone who wants a Confederate flag license plate should have one—provided that it is part of a package deal that also includes an Elmer Fudd-style Rebel flag hat. And a person’s right to affix the Hate Plate to his vehicle would be expressly conditioned upon him also wearing his Hate Hat at all times when he’s in public.
Think about visual cues for a moment in a larger context. How many times have you passed up a seat on an airplane because the passenger in the next seat was holding a baby? You know from past experience that sitting next to the passenger and his or her little bundle of joy could make the flight uncomfortable for both of you. You’ll be worried about the baby having crying jags and air sickness, and she’ll be worried about those things plus bothering you. And even if everyone lucks out and the baby sleeps for the entire flight, when two people (even when one's an adorable little baby) share a seat that isn't even big enough for one person to begin with, an encroachment into already limited personal space is as certain as picking up a virus from the SkyMall catalog in the seatback pocket in front of you. So, thanks to the visual clue the baby provides, you do everyone a favor and leave the seat next to them as a buffer and keep on walking until you find another open seat.
But figuring out how to avoid an encroachment on your intelligence and sense of decency is a lot harder.
The Hate Hat wouldn’t solve all of our idiot identification issues, but it would at least take the guess work out of figuring out who is a racist. Simply keep your eyes peeled for anybody sporting a Rebel flag print, Elmer Fudd cap and pick your seat accordingly. No more getting trapped on a long flight sitting elbow-to-elbow with someone who is wistful about the demise of the Ol’ South. Wascally Wacist!
Some stupid people are accidentally thoughtful enough to make it easy to identify them. Like the guy who has a bumper sticker on his car that says, “Amateur Gynecologist. Honk for a free exam!” Thanks to his voluntary waiver of his HIPAA protections, you know he is a stage four idiot (a condition for which there is no cure) before he even gets out of his car. When he’s not behind the wheel, though, unless he just got back from his spring break trip to Daytona Beach and is wearing his new tee shirt that says, “Drunk? Free Breathalyzer! Blow here!” with an arrow pointing in a (surprise!) southerly direction—you might not know how chronic his condition is until he opens his mouth. And at that point it’s too late because you’re already talking to him.
But figuring out whether someone is racist can be even trickier since many bigots are just barely un-dumb enough to keep their offensive opinions to themselves. Personally, I would much rather know if I’m dealing with a racist up front; and allowing them to label themselves with the Hate Plate/Hate Hat combo would go a long way toward making it easier to navigate around them. It tells us more, and with more accuracy, than even the triple crown combo of an NRA bumper sticker, a NASCAR tee-shirt and super-Christian tattoo. You get fewer false-positives when you don't have to read between the stripes and stars—and that's good for everyone. Remember the “I’m with stupid” tee shirts with the arrow pointing sideways that were popular among the “pull-my-finger” crowd in the eighties? Think of the Hate Plate/Hate Hat combo as an “I am stupid” statement—still funny, but with the added bonus of being honest and helpful, too.
So, no offense to Burman and the eighteen other state representatives who sent a letter to the TxDMV opposing the proposal, but for reasons of convenience and truth-in-labeling, I am firmly in the pro-Hate Plate camp. Although I tend to side with the Democrats on most other issues, when it comes to the Confederate flag license plates, I’m definitely with stupid.