11 November 2011

Where Does Flag Banning Stop?

When the offended industry started targeting the Confederate flag back in the 1990's, I stated then that the same logic could and would be used against the American flag. I was right. 

On Cinco De Mayo, 2010, students at Live Oak High School were told to remove shirts, hats and other clothing bearing the American flag for fear that the articles would incite violence on campus . . . A federal court ruled that Live Oak has the right to restrict a student’s free speech when it is likely to cause a substantial disruption. Story here.

Why would wearing the flag of one's country cause "a substantial disruption?" I'd love to see some of you academics (Yes, I know you read this blog) who support relegating the Confederate flag to museums respond to that question. Of course, you won't respond because your logic (sic) is inconsistent. You don't have an answer for this without exposing either your inconsistency or your real agenda.

Of course, many of us know what's really going on.

And, in a related issue, there are a number bloggers discussing the recent Texas license flag flap, yet most of them are ignoring the broader (and more important) issue:  government censorship of free speech. What makes the Texas decision even sillier is the fact this board is willing to waste taxpayer money in a legal fight that they, by all indications and precedent, have zero chance of winning. States throughout the Nation have, for some time, used vanity and specialty plates to add dollars to their respective coffers. Nothing wrong with that - until the government begins to pick and choose what it thinks may be "offensive" in a medium that the courts have consistently ruled is a free speech issue.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans will get their plates. And why shouldn't they? The SCV is a federally recognized 501(c) 3 organization. The symbol they propose for the license plate is a legally protected trademark and logo. They have just as much right to request and receive a specialty plate with their logo as the Lions Club and, again, that is what the courts have consistently ruled. The SCV has won every one of these legal fights. That makes for a very strong case, despite what you may be reading on other blogs. As the SCV's attorney, Arthur Strickland, said after the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in the SCV's favor over the Virginia license plate in 2004: "When Virginia got into the business of deciding to make billboards out of license plates, they subjected themselves to the constraints of the First Amendment." So, go ahead Texas, burn the taxpayer's money on the altar of political correctness.

The constitution guarantees freedom of speech. It does not guarantee freedom from being offended. And, as I noted earlier, once you step on that slippery slope, there's no stopping the natural progression to other "symbols" that might "offend" someone and cause "substantial disruption." While the courts have been willing to restrict this type of speech in government schools, they've been much more reluctant to do so with mediums designed to be instruments to express views, sentiments, and loyalties. I seriously doubt that Texas license plates will become the lone exception.


Brock Townsend said...

zero chance of winning

Precisely, as I mentioned yesterday, it's just a waste of taxpayer's money as Texas will lose as did NC previous. Probably pushed through by the neo-con Perry who has no hope of going further anyway.

Joshua Horn said...

Thanks for the post, the first part was my thoughts exactly.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Thanks Josh.

Michael Lynch said...

I'd imagine the reason they thought it would cause a disruption on Cinco de Mayo is because they were afraid Hispanic students might take it as an anti-Mexico thing. Sort of like deliberately wearing a Palestinian flag pin on Yom Kippur. I can see the point, but I personally disagree with the school's call.

My personal opinion is that if one student decided to instigate trouble because of a shirt worn by another student, then the school should worry about dealing with the former's misbehavior rather than imposing a restriction on the latter. So my inclination is to let 'em wear the flag if they want.

On the other hand, I'd also say that if a student wore a flag shirt on a particular day solely in order to rub it in the faces of students of a particular ethnicity or background, then it's not really an issue of patriotism. It's an issue of being a jerk.

I think people should be able to wear flag shirts of any sort, although I've never really been in the habit of doing so. I do have a shirt with an American flag on it, but it's a souvenir my dad brought me from Gettysburg, and the flag in question is a regimental color, more of an artifact than anything else. Likewise, I also have a t-shirt with an image of the Confederate battle flag, but the flag is being carried by Col. William Rogers, who seized a CBF before being killed at Corinth. That shirt, too, is a souvenir from a battlefield. If I felt like displaying a flag for its own sake, I'd probably just get a flag, rather than wearing a shirt or buying a tag for my car. Neither a t-shirt nor a license plate strikes me as a particularly appropriate location for an important symbol, but if devotees of those symbols are cool with it, then I guess they might as well have at it.


Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Thanks Michael. It is still hard for me to believe we're seeing a day where wearing the flag of one's Nation is seen as disruptive in one of the Nation's schools.

Flags have traditionally been displayed in numerous mediums and ways as forms of patriotic expression. I don't seen any problem at all on Tshirts, license plates, key chains, etc. I think most of the criticisms (present company excluded) of those forms of expression are for reasons beyond any concern over respect for the flag.