01 February 2009

Free Speech For All

I was glad, but not surprised, to see that my recent poll (now closed) revealed that most of my readers still understand our Constitution's first amendment guaranteeing the right of free speech and assembly. The poll question was as follows:

*Are "Confederate Remembrance" events a privilege granted by the government or a right protected by the 1st amendment?
The final results were: A Right - 86. A Privilege - 13.

I posted the poll as a result of a comment in a post by fellow WBTS blogger, Robert Moore. Robert wrote:

"Confederate remembrance is truly a privilege made possible only through the courtesies extended by the nation that won the war."

As you can see by reading in the string of comments following Robert's post, he and I had a somewhat heated debate over that comment. We respectfully agreed to disagree and there's no need to rehash all those arguments again here but I wanted to ask a rhetorical question along the same lines. If one believes that "Confederate remembrance" (writing, speaking, and gathering to commemorate Confederate heroes) is a privilege granted by the Federal government, then it follows that the "privilege" may be taken away. Rights, however, may not. That's constitutional law 101.

So here's my rhetorical question:

For those who believe that Confederate remembrance is a privilege, wouldn't logic further dictate the same principle would hold true for Native-Americans, i.e. all Native-American "remembrance" is a privilege, since the various Indian nations were defeated by the United States government?

If yes, then the government could put a stop to all cultural celebrations and disallow any statues which honored their heroes or culture.

Would anyone like to argue what the result would be were that ever attempted? Thoughts, comments? Be civil please. I'd especially like to hear from any attorneys who might be reading this.


10 comments:

Kevin said...

Richard,

I thought the exchange between you and Robert was sort of interesting, your survey question doesn't do justice to the issue at all. Second, I hope you don't use the results as reflecting a vindication of your position in regard to your debate with Robert. After all, how many people who responded to the poll actually read through the entire thread?

Kevin at Civil War Memory

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Thanks Kevin. The survey was what it was intended to be - simple and to the point. Vindication of my position? I'm not sure what you mean. My position was simple as well, to wit: free speech is a well-established constitutional right. There's no caveat for "Confederate remembrance." A "privilege" granted by a government can be taken away. A right cannot, at least not in the context of our discussion anyway. No disrespect meant to Robert, but that's a ludicrous contention.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

BTW Kevin, I'd like for you to weigh in - right or privilege? Same on my rhetorical question.

Best,
RW

Anonymous said...

"BTW Kevin, I'd like for you to weigh in - right or privilege? Same on my rhetorical question."
================================

Isn't that the blog (CWMemory) that bans anyone with a contrary opinion?

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

I'm rather contrary and I haven't been banned - yet.

cenantua said...

Richard,

You missed the point entirely. As I stated in the thread of comments, I am well aware that, while not named specifically as a right, "Confederate remembrance" is protected by the 1st Amendment. As Kevin points out, anyone who reads through the entire thread will not only see the point I was making, but also see that your interpretation of the exchange is not an accurate representation of it. I'm dissapointed to see that you have chosen to rehash it as something that it was not and then mock it in the "privilege or right" remark in another post after this one.

Robert

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Robert:

How in the world can I have missed your point when I quoted your exact words? Here is what you stated:

"Confederate remembrance is truly a privilege made possible only through the courtesies extended by the nation that won the war."

I quoted you verbatim and believe I made it quite clear that I was responding specifically to your suggestion that Confederate remembrance IS a privilege and not a right. Those were your exact words. Your words suggest you believe that in the present tense, not just in regards to circumstances immediately following the WBTS. It is purely a free speech issue as far as I'm concerned.

I disagree, anyone who reads through the thread of comments will see that my response was narrowly focused. Furthermore, I agreed that, during occupation and reconstruction when Marshall law was in affect, curtailing of "Confederate remembrance" was to be reasonably expected. That's the reality of war. That was not the context of your original comment, at least not as I read it.

Furthermore, I make no apology for being very aggressive and vocal in defending free speech and the first amendment. I do, however, offer my apologies to you for what you take as "mocking" and will remove that comment in the other post to which you are referring.

Please clarify your position if I'm missing something and whether or not you think present day "Confederate remembrance" events/speech are/is a privilege or a right. There's a HUGE difference.

cenantua said...

Richard:

At no point in my post did I state that Confederate remembrance was/is NOT a right as protected under the First Amendment.

When I wrote "Confederate remembrance is truly a privilege made possible only through the courtesies extended by the nation that won the war," I was refering to the fact that it didn't necessarily have to be a right. Though it is not clearly stated, it is interpreted as a form of Free Speech under the Constitution and is therefore it is a RIGHT. However, those who partake in Confederate remembrance are pretty darn lucky that it remained a right... to the point that those who partake should do so as if it were a privilege... and that, exactly, is my point. Not only do I think this point is lost in some who participate, but I have been a witness to it.

In the wake of a war considered by the victor to be a "rebellion," I argue that the ability to celebrate or publicly remember was in jeapardy. However, because the Southern states were to be readmitted into the Union, a Union defined under one Constitution, this line of thought was on some rather shaky ground.

My sincere hope was that someone would know enough to engage in an exchange that would be based, not on modern interpretation, but based on the actual history of how those in power looked at it (I dare say, how they interpreted the Constitution as playing a role in the matter) after the war. Our interpretation has no relevance or bearing on what they thought or considered at that time. What we think may resemble what they thought, but what you or I think did not impact their discussion and final decisions on the matter.

This leads to another point... that there is a distinct difference in the way we read books/articles and the way we should read blog posts. We are frequently left to interpret what an author means in his/her words in a printed work, but because the author is present regularly in a blog (quite literally, "living text"), the author is quite capable of clarifying his/her point and I thought I did this in our exchange. Nonetheless, despite clarifying what I meant and what I did not mean, you continue to interpret my initial post and therefore do nothing more than agitate. All-in-all, your rehashing the argument is a moot point.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

"At no point in my post did I state that Confederate remembrance was/is NOT a right as protected under the First Amendment."

I'm sorry Robert, but it can't be both. Its either a privilege or its a right. You originally stated it "is" a privilege.

"I was refering to the fact that it didn't necessarily have to be a right."

I'm sorry, but yes it does, under the first amendment of the constitution it does indeed HAVE to be a right. Again, as I've said several times, there's no caveat for "Confederate remembrance" regardless of what Federal officials thought proper after the war.

"However, those who partake in Confederate remembrance are pretty darn lucky that it remained a right... to the point that those who partake should do so as if it were a privilege... and that, exactly, is my point."

I could not disagree more. It is a right as long as our courts uphold the first amendment and when I partake, it will be done as a right, not a privilege granted by any government. Besides, as I stated previously, the Bill of Rights did not "grant" rights, the document simply affirmed what the Founders viewed as pre-existing, God-given rights.

"modern interpretation" ?

You put it in the present tense by using the word "is." I was simply following your lead.

We shall agree to disagree Robert. I do appreciate your comments and input. Again, my apologies if I offended as nothing personal was intended, but I stand by what I've said.

No one has yet answered my rhetorical question.

13thBama said...

I refute the fact that the south always had the "privilege" of rememberance. Take a look at how long it took to get a southern memorial on Gettysburg. I would have to dig out the research on when it was finally allowed, but it was long after the Union had made their monuments.