Should a tattoo of the Confederate flag disqualify you from joining the armed forces? According to Arkansas teenager Anthony Bauswell, that’s exactly what it means. Bauswell, 18, went to the Marine recruiting center in his hometown to enlist, but the recruiting officer told him that the tattoo, which displays the flag along with the words “Southern Pride,” was a dealbreaker.
“DQ. Just automatically, DQ,” Bauswell said the recruiter told him upon seeing the ink. “I felt pretty low. My own government wasn’t going to let me serve my country because of the ink on my skin.”
According to the Marine Corp tattoo policy, art that is “sexist, racist, eccentric or offensive in nature” is not permitted. Bauswell did not specifically elaborate on why the recruiter told him that his tattoo was an automatic disqualification, and the Marine Corps recruitment leadership did not respond to interview requests from local and national press investigators.
“I definitely don’t want it to be seen as racism, which is 99% of the reason I got ‘southern pride’ on it,” Bauswell said in an interview with a local TV station.
Obviously, this shows us that we’re not going to leave the Confederate controversy in 2015; the Democrats are getting too much political headway out of this to stop now. However, it is surprising that the Marines would reject an applicant out of hand just for having a tattoo like Bauswell’s. You have to wonder if they would have been so quick to push him out the door if we were in war-time.
Of course, they keep tattoo regulations and other rules purposefully vague just to give them that kind of leeway. If the military is in a period of downsizing – which it has been from almost the moment President Obama took office – they can use these regulations to reject enlistees without expending further resources. If the military desperately needs good recruits, they can easily ignore the regulations or at least give the applicant the benefit of the doubt.
In this case, though, there should be no doubt. The Confederate flag is in no way a symbol of racism. Why would we ever give racists the power to determine what our symbols and heritage stand for? For more than 150 years, proud Southerners have wrapped themselves in the colors of the Confederacy to show their appreciation and respect for their ancestors and the constitutional liberties they fought for. The fact that half of our military bases and ships are named after Confederate heroes should be enough to clearly demonstrate that not everyone views these symbols as racist. They are a valid and vital part of our history. We should get back to treating them that way.