In the wake of the bloody church massacre in South Carolina, this nation – with the electronic aid of a frantic national media – is entering into an asinine debate: the end of Confederate flag displays. The mindless media is busy taking quotes from people who haven’t thought the issue through or don’t see the racism of it’s own such action represents. Breast beaters and vote chasers. Or both. Mindless because banning the Confederate flag from flying in the so-called Confederate states is not likely.
Commonly accepted use of the words “Confederate states” says it all. Yes, the North won the war. At least on the battlefield. But, to millions of Americans in the South, their former flag is still the most powerful visible reminder of their true history. Offensive to most of us? You bet! But, to many of them, it’s history and tradition. Racist representation? To some, I’m sure. But not to many. Not as is to the rest of us.
Then there’s this. Can you say “First Amendment?”
Freedom of speech is not “freedom of good, likeable speech.” Freedom of speech is all speech no matter how distasteful – no matter how wrong – no matter how hateful. Whether our founding fathers intended it to be that way, I don’t know. But for 239 years, the nation’s courts have pretty much interpreted the issue to include nearly every utterance. It exists to protect the speech you don’t like – not the speech you do.
Yes, the U.S. Supreme Court recently let stand a lower court order to remove the C-flag from license plates in Texas. Keep an eye on that because I doubt those plates will disappear. Just the Texas way of ignoring laws Texans don’t like. Germany outlawed use/display of the Nazi flag many moons ago. But, surf the I-net for a few minutes and you’ll find Nazi flags all over the Fatherland. The rest of the world, too.
There’ll be thousands of hours of time and millions of dollars wasted in various legislatures and Congress as bills are introduced to sweep the Confederate flag into history’s trash can. You can already hear the chest-pounding. Some may become law. For a time. Then will come the challenges in many courtrooms. Taking passion out of the issue, it doesn’t seem reasonable to expect banning the C-flag will be achieved. And, even if it does become the “law of the land,” it’s equally reasonable to expect thousands and thousands of southerners – and racists – will ignore it.
We have a lot of that going on within our borders now. People ignoring law, regulations, rules, human rights, tradition. Even common courtesy. All of us do it. Some by speeding. Some by throwing trash out the window. Shooting off illegal fireworks. Smoking in non-smoking areas. Sneaking liquor into sports activities. Not shoveling snow off our sidewalks after a storm. Drinking underage. Ignoring curfews. And on and on and on. We do it without thinking because we do it so often it’s a matter of course.
Someone once told me a law can be enforced only so long as a majority of people abide by it. One example: a stretch of highway posted at 60 mph. But authorities have found most people drive 70-75. Sooner or later, the speed limit is usually raised. Oregon’s legislators play with that constantly on I-5 and I-84 because state cops have found drivers routinely drive 10-15 mph faster than law allows. We’ll get it raised one of these days. By continuing to break existing law.
There are many instances when most of us who call ourselves “law abiding” actually violate law, ordinances, rules – thinking or not. Sometimes laws are changed to accommodate what has become fact. Sometimes laws stay on the books but enforcement stops. Look at public lands welfare queen Clive Bundy in Nevada. He owes the BLM over a million dollars in unpaid grazing fees but now the feds are talking about writing the whole thing off – much less not enforcing existing contract law.
With police officers being killed at record rates, murders of school children by the dozens, massacred church worshipers in a Bible class, thousands of illegal and unchecked gun sales, hundreds of unpunished Wall Street crooks damned near wrecking this nation’s economy still enjoying their freedom, illegal protests in our streets, racists ignoring our first Black president’s good works while spreading unbridled trash at will in social/public media, a Congress ignoring laws requiring voting decisions on declaration of war for more than a decade, a government operating on a federal budget that hasn’t been changed, updated or even thoroughly reviewed for years. Wanna keep going? With the exception of the poor and most minorities, too many of us break laws with impunity.
In their efforts to become our next president, Rick Perry calls the Charleston murders “an accident,” Rick Santorum blames those killings on the current president, Ted Cruz is on the campaign trail cracking jokes about guns and gun control, Mike Huckabee refers to a case of well-publicized incest as just “kids experimenting” and they’ll “outgrow it.” Anyone there you want to install as a new president of a nation already having problems of civic order?
If all the money and all the time and all the talent sure to be wasted on futile efforts to outlaw display of the Confederate flag could be directed to some more useful civic purpose, we might get a handle on some of the other, vastly more important issues going unchecked in our nation. I’m sure even ol’ Bobby E. Lee would agree.