Rallying is part of the American tradition, and, unfortunately, so is racism. On Saturday proud Ku Klux Klan members, armed militia, Trump supporters, and conservative Americans waving Confederate flags took to Gettysburg National Military Park for the 154th anniversary of the Civil War battle.
Of course, Second Amendment rights were being enthusiastically exercised, and one man got hit with a taste of the amendment's dark side when he carelessly rested his flag pole on his gun, effectively shooting himself in the leg.
Ben Hornberger, a Trump supporter, was one of the few hundred protesters who had joined the rally in response to a rumor going around right-wing circles. According to gossip, the anti-fascist group Antifa was planning to burn Confederate flags and desecrate Confederate graves, a claim the group rebuked in numerous statements. Still, the rally proceeded under the misconception that they'd be battling for their racist ideals and became yet another symbol of all that is wrong in the United States.
Hornberger came to the demonstration armed, tucking a revolver into a leg holster because nothing says peaceful protest like a loaded gun. According to witnesses, when the 23-year-old rested the bottom of his flag pole against the holster, the pistol went off, and a bullet ripped through his leg.
Luckily, police were nearby and able to fashion a tourniquet for Hornberger's leg that may very well have saved him from bleeding to death. He is expected to fully recover.
The accidental shooting is an embarrassing twist to an event where "responsible" gun ownership is a cornerstone. Yet what's even more mortifying to decent Americans everywhere is the video footage of protesters saluting the Confederate flag, a tragic symbol of human slavery and violent treason.
The Sons of Confederate Veterans pledge allegiance to the Confederacy in Gettysburg pic.twitter.com/Pf2tCsw4XV— Andy Campbell (@AndyBCampbell) July 1, 2017
The Confederacy may have died, but its legacy lives on, and with an administration that enables bigotry, the far-right is no longer a fringe movement. It's gained a terrifying foothold in the White House, but all the more reason to cling to the beautiful irony underlying this senseless rally: Gettysburg was the battle that altered the course of the Civil War, effectively marking the Confederacy's demise.
Hornberger and his friends couldn't have chosen a more fitting place than that former battlefield to make fools of themselves.