A Crucible Moment



Getting expelled from high school for wearing a rainbow flag sounds harsh enough, but what if the rainbow isn’t even a rainbow? Consider the case of fifteen-year old Kayla Kenney, who celebrated her birthday with her family, after which her mother posted a photo on Facebook. Kayla is shown wearing a sweater with some colored stripes that Head of School Dr. Bruce Jacobson caught sight of, and before long Kayla had been expelled from Whitefield Academy, a Christian school in Smyrna, Georgia, for displaying a symbol of homosexuality. Kayla has denied that the design was a symbol of any kind, and a not very careful inspection reveals that it isn’t even close to a rainbow flag (um, four stripes?). The fact that school administrators thought they saw such a flag reminds one of the collective hallucination that caused people in 1690s Salem to imagine natural objects turning into symbols of witchcraft, or people seeing Jesus’ face on their toast. The habit of turning things into metaphors was a particular idée fixe of Susan Sontag, who’s on the cover of this issue and who understood well the hypnotic powers of metaphor that could cause a principal to look at a birthday shirt and see a symbol of “evil.”