Those that believe in a hell often imagine it in myriad different ways.
Spend any time driving in traffic, shopping around the holidays or at the Department of Motor Vehicles and one becomes convinced of Sartre’s famous quip that “hell is other people.”
Along those lines, the question then arises, are there specific pockets of hell for the particularly nasty?
If so, those sentenced to such locales will be tormented by former homeowners’ association presidents and the passionately ignorant, not that the two are mutually exclusive.
Candidates for my own version of hell reared their heads recently in Hilton Head, SC, a resort island along the coast noted for a heavy population of northern transplants, a strict adherence to conformity and the general busybody nature of many of its residents.
One of the gated communities in the area is called Hilton Head Plantation. It has a section called The Rookery where, for nearly a decade, one homeowner has flown a variety of historic flags during certain holidays, including the most recent Presidents’ Day.
In a move absolutely no one could have foreseen given the hyper-sensitive nature of many in the US, several complaints were lodged after the most recent flying of the flags during Presidents’ Day, on Feb. 20, according to the Hilton Head Island Packet.
“Peter Kristian, general manager of the gated community, said his office received several complaints recently from residents upset about the flags,” the paper reported.
“Some of them had slogans that you could take to be political,” Kristian said.
“Unfortunately in the times we live in, you have to be careful about this,” he said. “Once you open the door to one person’s expressions, you open the door to all expressions and that can be dangerous.”
Yes, expression can be dangerous, especially on an island that is essentially a retirement community for the state of Ohio.
Kristian would not identify which flag or flags was deemed offensive. However, he could have been referring to the Gadsden Flag, also known as the “Don’t Tread on Me” flag, a favorite of Tea Party advocates, known for being conservative and often Republican.
The Gadsden flag was designed by South Carolinian Christopher Gadsden in 1775 at the opening of the American Revolution and was used as an early flag by Continental Marines, the marine force of the American Colonies.
Kristian, in a real display of intestinal fortitude, stated that there is one flag that residents are allowed to put out on plantation property without asking permission.
“We did say they could display as many American flags as they would like,” he said. “We do live in the United States, and I hope that is the one thing we are all OK with.”
In other words, “I hope that is the one thing we are all OK with, but if not, let us know and we will take it down because, well, everyone has the right not to be offended.”
“The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”
(Top: Far Side cartoon about hell unrelated in any fashion to story, but good for a much-needed laugh.)