To Arm Bands, Brothers!

Arm Band

Help for Heroes is a British charity established to provide support for wounded veterans and their families. Like many charities, Help for Heroes has its own line of tee-shirts, arm bands, and other adornments that allow people to show their support and draw attention to a worthy cause. Help for Heroes is not really the cause of this kerfuffle, as far as I can tell; I just thought it would be helpful to explain who they are and what they do.

Charlie Tew, a ten-year-old schoolboy from Essex county in England, was written up in March of this year for refusing to remove a Help for Heroes arm band. According to Charlie, he wears the band in memory of Drummer Lee Rigby, a British Army soldier who was brutally murdered by two Muslim extremists in London. Charlie also wants to honor his own family members who have served, including his uncle and grandfather.

Why would Charlie be denied the right to wear an arm band promoting this noble charity, you might ask? You’ll get different answers. Charlie’s teacher, who started the report against Charlie, worried that the arm band might “cause offence”. I cannot find any record of the teacher saying whom she believed would be offended. The headmistress at Charlie’s school, Tracy Thornton, upheld the disciplinary report but for a different reason. According to Thornton, jewelry of any kind – including arm bands – is forbidden at that particular school.

If that’s true, then Charlie was clearly breaking a rule when he wore the arm band to school, and willingly submitted himself to whatever punishment attended his odious crime. No matter why Charlie was originally put on report, you’ll notice that there is only a tenuous connection between Charlie’s disciplinary problem and the community of Muslims.

Enter the anti-PC brigade, those notorious mountains-from-molehills fabrication experts. Terry Sutton, the president of a separate charity, said this about the incident:

It’s hard to see how the band would cause offence, except, I suppose, to the radical Muslim community. I don’t think that will be a problem in Colchester and in its surrounding area.

Sutton was careful to emphasize that Charlie’s case might offend radical Muslims, but this meme makes no such distinction. It’s amazing how quickly this story changed. It started life as a virtual non-event at a school in southeastern England, but now it is an outrage!

I don’t think conservative meme makers truly understand the meaning of the word outrage. There is nothing here to be outraged about. You might disagree with the school’s apparently strict no-jewelry policy, but that’s hardly worth raging about: it was never explicitly stated to have any connection with Islam. The teacher could have been more judicious in her explanation about why Charlie was not allowed to wear the Help for Heroes arm band, but is that an outrage? If it is, then your priorities are sorely misplaced.

I don’t need to tell you that there are things that truly justify an outrage. Injustice, tyranny, oppression: these are the world’s true evils, and the ones that should excite our anger. A school’s dress code, while over-reaching and over-cautious, is not. Please don’t try to make this simple incident into something it’s not.


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