Today, via Twitter, from Jason Kander (D):
Jason Kander @JasonKander
Patriotism isn’t about making everyone stand and salute the flag.
Patriotism is about making this a country where everyone wants to.
10:51 AM – 24 Sep 2017
This was all settled in 1943:
If you don’t like something that someone else says or does as a First Amendment expression of dissent, fine. Use the First Amendment to the best of your ability to disagree.
However, no official, high or petty (in Donald Trump’s case – petty), nor the government has a say in approving or disapproving the content of your First Amendment expression, including your choice to participate in or not participate in “patriotic” doctrine.
The Pledge of Allegiance was written by Francis Bellamy, a socialist minister, in the late 19th century for a children’s magazine with the intent that it was to be used by children in ceremonies celebrating the Columbian Exposition. The original text: “I pledge allegiance to my flag and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” Subsequent additions were made by others in the 1920s during the red scare (so immigrant children would know which flag they were saluting?) and during the Eisenhower Administration (because of fears of godless communism).
The U.S. Flag Code people keep citing as a point of law? It has the same force as Congressional resolutions commemorating motherhood, apple pie, and National Groundhog Day. By the way, that same flag code states that the image of the flag not be used as clothing or on disposable paper products (like napkins and plates) or on advertising. Good luck with that one, huh.
The Constitution and U.S. Supreme Court have long ago decided the primacy of the First Amendment.
So, why have the national anthem sung or performed at sporting events? As if there’s originalist intent expressed in the Constitution? Join in or not, it’s up to you. No one else.
So, today, if you so choose, exercise the First Amendment and take a knee to stick it to that ignorant petty tyrant occupying the White House.
When St. Louis’ new mayor, Lyda Krewson, indicated that she will fulfill former Mayor Slay’s promise to remove the statue honoring Confederate soldiers that stands in Forest Park, opposition quickly materialized. Why? According to letters published in the local papers and radio discussions, there are numerous reasons:
Lots of folks think that if Confederate monuments are removed, history will somehow, magically, be erased. Forget about history books, libraries, museums and the thriving scholarly discipline, there are people who think that we only learn history from statues.
But the presence or absence of monuments doesn’t really affect history. After the fall of Baghdad, Iraqis pulled down Saddam Hussein’s statue, but the world still knows all about who he was and what he did. Iraqis weren’t attempting to erase their history, they were making a statement about their values. Removing the Confederate monument in Forest Park constitutes a similar statement that we value respect for others, inclusivity and honesty.
Honesty because most monuments dedicated to Confederate soldiers and luminaries represent a rather special type of history, what we euphemistically call revisionist history. It seeks to paint dark actions in rosy colors. People talk about fake news a lot nowadays, but we’ve been putting fake history in our public places for at least a hundred years.
The inescapable fact is that, no matter how would-be apologists want to slice it, the civil war was fought to preserve the right of light-skinned Europeans to own the bodies and the labor of dark-skinned Africans, who, as a group, were forcibly brought to this country for that purpose. A National Park Service brochure puts it succinctly when it declares that all the other reasons that folks like to trot out – states rights, economic interests, southern “traditions” – were “inextricably bound to the institution of slavery.” Confederate leaders were absolutely clear that they were seceding in order to preserve the right to own African slaves.
In the light of the Confederacy’s ugly goal, consider the plaque affixed to the statue in Forest Park:
To the Memory of the Soldiers and Sailors of the Southern Confederacy.
Who fought to uphold the right declared by the pen of Jefferson and achieved by the sword of Washington. With sublime self sacrifice they battled to preserve the independence of the states which was won from Great Britain, and to perpetuate the constitutional government which was established by the fathers.
Actuated by the purest patriotism they performed deeds of prowess such as thrilled the heart of mankind with admiration. Full in the front of war they stood and displayed a courage so superb that they gave a new and brighter luster to the annals of valor. History contains no chronicle more illustrious than the story of their achievements; and although, worn out by ceaseless conflict and overwhelmed by numbers, they were finally forced to yield, their glory, on brightest pages penned by poets and by sages shall go sounding down the ages.
Makes you want to puke, doesn’t it? Why would anyone want to perpetuate such a metaphorical slap in the face of the African-American citizens who make up the majority of the people living in St. Louis?
The monuments honor the valiant soldiers, not their cause.
The Southern cause was evil. But that’s not the whole story; those who espoused secession were guilty of treason against the United States of America. That they weren’t tried and imprisoned at the end of the war was due to the mercy of the victors. Only very disturbed societies would erect statues to honor the “sublime self sacrifice” of their own traitors.
A variant of the argument states that many Confederate soldiers didn’t own slaves, but fought strictly out of regional or tribal loyalty. Conservatives are fond of telling us that people need to take responsibility for their choices, so why not apply that logic to Confederate soldiers who made the bad choice to take up arms against their country in a war to defend slavery? There may have been stormtroopers in the Nazi army who held no animus against Jews and Gypsies and who fought valiantly, but few Germans would want -or dare – to put up statues to honor them. What Nazi Germany stood for was just too shameful.
Down the slippery path
Many apologists for the Confederate monuments want to present their removal as the first step that will lead us down a slippery path. If we remove Confederate monuments, they wail, will we have to take down monuments to men like Washington and Jefferson or change the names of streets, buildings and cities named to honor them because they too owned slaves?
This argument is absurd. We don’t honor Washington and Jefferson because they stood up for slavery. They were fallible human beings who may have participated in some or even many of the evils of their times, but they also transcended their times in other ways that we consider important to recognize. The only reason, though, that there is a statue to Confederate soldiers in Forest Park is that the men it honors stood against their country to defend human bondage.
Removing Confederate monuments violates Free Speech protections
A group of New Orleans citizens filed suit to stop the removal of four of their Confederate monuments, and among other claims, initially tried to assert that “removal of the monuments violates the plaintiffs’ First Amendment right to free expression, ‘which they exercise by maintaining and preserving the historic character and nature of the city of New Orleans, including their monuments’.” The group ultimately decided not to tie their request for an injunction to free speech issues, which the judge, who ultimately ruled against them, declared to be a wise decision since ” “the removal of monuments is a form of government speech and is exempt from First Amendment scrutiny.”
Why would government speech be exempt from such scrutiny? Could it have anything to do with the fact that the government serves as a speech proxy for all its citizens? Would a good government privilege dishonest and offensive speech by enshrining it permanently in a public venue? Doesn’t good government correct errors in past, public speech acts – in this case by removing the intrinsically offensive statue in Forest Park.
Taking down Confederate monuments reflects a double standard
Some local apologists for the Forest Park monument point to Congressman Lacy Clay’s decision to display in a congressional hallway a student artwork that some found offensive because it portrayed policemen as pigs. If Confederate monuments offend African-Americans, they argue, portrayals of bestial police are just as offensive to police officers, their families and supporters. Why privilege one group over the other? Isn’t that censorship at the very least, and a violation of equal protection rights at worst? The claim to equal protection rights, by the way, was also made by the groups that brought suit in New Orleans and it’s worth noting that the judge didn’t agree that those rights had been violated.
In the case of Rep. Clay’s painting, the analogy is false because the two cases are not parallel. The Confederate monuments are, by the nature of their placement, meant to be public art. Even though it was temporarily displayed in a public place, the painting that Rep. Clay chose to display belongs to the private art sphere. It was not purchased by or donated to the government permanently, and was part of a group display reflecting diverse content. It did not make a public, but rather a private statement on the part of the artist alone, a statement that may or may not be offensive but is in no way, unlike the statue in Forest Park, intrinsically official public speech. The level of offense we can tolerate in private artistic expression is an entirely other conversation.
So what’s really going on?
I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t have cared if the probably long-dead United Daughters of the Confederacy of Saint Louis, the ladies who donated the statue, had installed it in a private space. Nor do I have a problem if it is moved to another type of venue. However, I don’t want those ladies speaking from their graves, through my government, which is to say, in my name, when it comes to whom I honor in public spaces that belong to me as well as to them. Particularly when, as Emory historian, Carol Adams, has observed:
… the various reasons given for defending Confederate monuments and symbols share a common underlying expectation — that even in an increasingly diverse democracy, power and influence should remain unchanged.
“Beneath all of the talk is a longing for an America that is not only predominantly white but where the resources of a very, very rich nation are funneled almost exclusively toward whites,” said Anderson, author of the 2016 book “White Rage.” “These are who people believe [sic] that they are actually oppressed and disadvantaged whenever anyone else’s voice is heard, their needs addressed and their political will prevails.”
Not every whiner is up in arms to defend white privilege; some are just intellectually lazy, or reluctant to see the world they have learned to rely on change in even minor ways – perhaps, especially in minor ways. Hell, maybe some people just like the way the statue looks. Nevertheless, when a small readjustment of a public space generates this much noise, there’s almost always something larger and psychologically significant lurking somewhere in the background.
I was kid when in the early 1960s the Free Speech Movement (FSM) erupted in demonstrations on the campus of the University of California, Berkeley. FSM leaders such as Mario Savio and Bettina Aptheker became my heroes. Their goal was to secure the rights of students to engage in unhampered political speech on campus. The result of their efforts insured that right to students of both the right and the left.
Another of my heroes – or heroic group, if you prefer – is the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). I spell the name out in full because I want to emphasize that the group stands for “civil liberties” period, not civil liberties for the left or the right.
I’ve sympathized with many of the ACLU’s crusades that fall on the spectrum of causes involving leftist goals. Easy to do. But what I’ve really admired is that the commitment of the ACLU has been to principle, not political identity. It’s what led the organization to stand up for the rights of a group of neo-Nazis to parade down the streets of Skokie Illinois in 1978, a city where numerous Holocaust survivors lived. Not easy to stomach, but the right thing to do if you value the freedom to speak freely.
I tell you this because I want you to know where I come from when I write about the recent free speech controversy at Truman State University and, by extension, similar occurrences at Universities around the country. US News summarized the Truman State situation:
Some students at Truman State University in northeast Missouri are circulating a petition seeking to halt a speech by an author who runs the website “Jihad Watch.” Concerns arose at the public university in Kirksville when a Republican student group arranged to bring Robert Spencer to campus Thursday night, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (http://bit.ly/2osMqZG ) reported. The Southern Poverty Law Center identifies Spencer as an anti-Muslim “propagandist,” and the school’s Muslim Student Association has responded by recruiting another speaker to appear beforehand in the same lecture hall. Truman State described allowing the event to proceed as a free speech issue, although leaders stressed the university isn’t sponsoring Spencer’s speech. “Cordial discourse on even the most contentious of topics is a fundamental tenet of a liberal arts education and a hallmark of a free society,” the university said in emails to student, faculty and staff this week. “This often includes viewpoints many people strongly oppose.”
We should be clear about the fact that Robert Spencer espouses reprehensible beliefs. But the petition drive that seeks to silence him is, to my mind, almost equally reprehensible, no matter how much its sponsors may believe in their righteous cause. They can protest his presence and I hope they do – protest is speech, after all – but making one’s own views heard through protest should not involve silencing the other guy.
Nor is repression useful to the cause of diversity. Denying Spencer the opportunity to put his views out, as repulsive as they may be, deprives us of the opportunity to expose his errors – errors that thrive and take on added power when they are not fully and openly examined. It is especially important to bring this type of ugliness into the open and show how devoid of substance such hate-mongers are now that we have a President who gives comfort to similar bigoted, white nationalist factions.
Many students who support the petition claim to make a distinction between “free” speech and “hate” speech directed at any specific individual or group. However the distinction is false. Free speech is an activity and is inclusive of even hate speech, which is a category of speech – they are not analogous entities, one of which we can endorse while prohibiting the other. (Clearly libelous speech is another matter altogether – one with which the legal system has been designed to handle.)
The only way to deal with “hate speech” is to expose its falsity with – cliche or not – more speech. Efforts to prohibit hate speech imply that those who find it disturbing are not capable of counter agument. When we further argue that we aim to spare targeted individuals or groups pain by silencing hateful speech, we need to realize aren’t helping them, but rather condescending to them by underestimating their strength and ability to defend themselves in the – forgive me for another cliche – court of ideas.
Fortunately, the Muslim Student Association at Truman seems to understand the issues and has responded by securing the inclusion of a counter-speaker to appear at the same venue prior to Spencer’s address – to the horror, needless to say of the folks who recruited Spencer. Conservative Club members who sponsored the event seem to believe that adding a dissenting voice will sully the “intellectual diversity” they believe Spencer brings to their campus. Of course, the addition of the Muslim Students’ speaker actually ensures that the event celebrates not only intellectual diversity, but introduces the element of critical argument that insures perspective in evaluating that diversity.
Tomorrow I hope to read that the event at Truman this evening (Thursday, April 13) came off without anything more untoward than a relatively noisy protest – I won’t be disturbed if I learn that Spencer got an earful of the contempt he deserves – but I will be very saddened if he leaves Missouri armed with more ammunition that he can use to tar all progressives as self-righteous, authoritarian enemies of all speech but their own.
As an antidote to post-election despair, coupled with disgust at the endless exhortations to be civil and strive for unity with an opposition that elected an ignorant, narcissistic grifter to lead the country, I wrote a letter to the editor (LTE) of the St. Louis Dispatch that was published on November 16. It was subsequently republished on the blog, Occasional Planet. The letter itself is not the subject of this post, however, but rather the chilling nature of the response it generated.
A few days ago, I received a phone message from a representative of the Post-Dispatch inquiring about whether or not I had received any “blowback” from the LTE since a gentleman in the same suburb in which I live had been receiving lots of unwarranted and unpleasant attention based on the mistaken perception that he had authored the letter. The mistake is easily explained. My first name “Willy” is a shortened version of a feminine name, and the gentleman in question is named “William,” shares my last name, and lives in the same suburb. Evidently some rabid Trumpie with more anger than brains had tried to look me up by name and city, the only identifiers printed in the paper, and jumped to the conclusion that the first likely name he found was the anti-Trump offender whom he/she needed to silence.
In a subsequent conversation with the Post-Dispatch representative, I learned that the harassment was repeated over time and had reached the level of stalking. The Trumpie thug had informed his “lefty” victim that he knew the type of car he drives and would be watching him. This type of implied threat, according to my informant, had left the poor man understandably nearly distraught.
I have never spoken to this man and cannot think of anything to do to help alleviate the distress he is experiencing because of my opinions – which I will, however, continue to express. In the future, though, I will use my full first name if I submit any more letters to the paper in order to avoid implicating the many innocent Williams in the area. Of course I know that small potatoes are the ones that grow in the future when the problem is here and now.
It’s also true that I don’t want to invite the attentions of this or any other unhinged rightwing crackpot; we’ve already experienced random if minor vandalism on our property in past years and, thanks to the NRA, people have far too much leeway in Missouri to shoot whenever emotion moves them. I also hope that the victim of these implicit efforts to violently repress free speech reports them to the police. If nothing more, we need to establish an official record of threats that are delivered in Trump’s name.
Ironically, the letter that started it all addressed my belief that civility is not likely to be effective in dealing with a Trump-led government, and that unity with folks espousing odious goals is not desirable. And then, what do you know? A Trump supporter showed me just how much value Trumpies place on civil discourse. In case you’re interested, here is the text of the letter (see if you can find the outstanding grammatical error)
I have read several letters in this space urging those who voted for Hillary Cointon – winner of the popular vote – to be gracious in defeat and unify behind President-elect Donald Trump. As well-meant as such exhortations are, they ignore the fact that, based on Trump’s rhetoric and the team of advisors he has assembled, many Americans are frightened for our future and the future of our country. There is too much at stake to sit back and pretend it’s business as usual.
Trump actively encouraged a nativist coalition that includes overt racists. He acquiesced in essentially treasonous Russian meddling in an American election. He has promised to curtail press freedom, and impose the socio-religious preferences of a rightwing Christian minority on the entire country. His inner circle includes advocates of police state tactics and torture.
Trump has given the thumbs up to Paul Ryan’s plans to gut Medicare under the guise of replacing Obamacare – the loss of which will itself will cost millions of us our healthcare. Efforts to decimate Social Security are on the horizon. Environmental protection is now a dead letter.
Trump has pledged to nominate Supreme Court Justices who will enable all these depredations while supporting “business friendly” laws that sustain the creation of a corporate oligarchy.
If you think that Trump’s cadres care about civility, you are fooling yourself. This is not the time for exchanging polite nothings; it’s time to get ready for the fight of our lives.
Interestingly, another contributor to the Post-Dispatch’s letters section experienced a similarly uncivil response – while the semi-illegible letter she received is not as frightening as threats of implied bodily harm and evidence of stalking, it is scary enough that it was placed in her home’s mailbox, indicating that a writer who feels that Trump’s election entitles her/him to express his/her inner ugliness knows where she lives.
It’s fitting that the moral of this story seems to confirm the message of my LTE, that “if you think Trump’s cadres care about civility you are fooling yourself.” It is clear that the only thing they care about is submission on the part of their opponents, which leads to the second lesson to be learned: watch out and take care – there are plenty of potential recruits for an American brownshirt-stlyle militia just raring to get going.
*2nd sentence of 4th paragraph slightly edited (11/25/16, 9:33 pm)
Donald Trump (r) clutches his pearls and expresses his hurt fee-fees over dissent:
Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump
The Theater must always be a safe and special place.The cast of Hamilton was very rude last night to a very good man, Mike Pence. Apologize!
7:56 AM – 19 Nov 2016
Fuck you and the fascists you rode in on.
The best comment so far:
Jensen Karp @JensenClan88
This is the first time in history theater kids have been called bullies.
11:42 AM – 19 Nov 2016
The latest expression of white tribalism prompted by the protests in Ferguson is the disavowal of the St. Louis Rams football team by a local bar after some of the players signaled their support of the Ferguson activists by appearing on the field with their arms in the symbolic “hand up” position adopted by protestors. According to the report in the Huffington Post, the bar owners felt it incumbent upon themselves to signal their tribal allegiances by vowing on social media to switch their loyalties from the hometown team to the Kansas City Chiefs, while urging “customers to ‘stand up to thugs who destroy our community’.” Yeah, they used the word “thugs”!
When they experienced pushback for equating athletes exercise of free speech with thugery, the representatives of the bar suddenly decided that free speech was important after all – for themselves, at least, if not for the Rams players, responding with this opus:
Just to clarify our point of view at Time Out.
We SUPPORT FREEDOM OF SPEECH
We SUPPORT PEACEFULL DEMONSTRATION
We are NOT TAKING SIDES ON THE FERGUSON TRAGEDY
We DISAGREE WITH BRINGING THE PROTEST TO A NATIONWIDE PROFESSIONAL SPORTING EVENT.
We welcome all opinions because we believe in the first amendment, just PLEASE respect each other!
Just to clarify our point of view at Time Out. We SUPPORT FREEDOM OF SPEECH We SUPPORT PEACEFULL DEMONSTRATION We are NOT TAKING SIDES ON THE FERGUSON TRAGEDY We DISAGREE WITH BRINGING THE PROTEST TO A NATIONWIDE PROFESSIONAL SPORTING EVENT. We welcome all opinions because we believe in the first amendment, just PLEASE respect each other!
Yeah, sure. they’re not taking sides. And to make sure you know it, they used lots of capital letters. And, of course, pigs fly. A commercial, publicly accessible bar can take a stand, but athletes can’t because more people see football games than patronize the Time Out. Have you ever noticed that folks in this particular tribe (the one that camps on the right side of the river), always seem to think that freedom of speech is sooooo important, except when it doesn’t support their point of view?
Nor is it just the athletic arena that is supposed to be free of real life. Remember when some St. Louis symphony goers got all huffy because they were subjected to a short, respectfully orchestrated protest at a performance that asked them to spare a few minutes from their comfortable and cultured complacency in order to witness a moving reminder that life isn’t nearly so nice for young men like Michael Brown?
This free speech for me, but not you attitude is not new; it’s status quo in conservative circles where every day Fox news clones are all atwitter over some liberal’s exercise of free speech that, in turn, causes logic-challenged wingers to go ballistic. In the political sphere, I think it was George W. Bush who made a habit of restricting “free speech” to reservations far away from media attention, effectively censoring the expression of opposition sentiment. Such “free speech zones” have since them become routine.
This carefully monitored, almost private exercise of free speech is evidently what the folks at the Time Out Sports Bar & Grill expect to be the norm when it involves a point of view they don’t like. If a few individuals had stood up on national TV at the Rams game and made a show of their unconditional support for anyone who wears a police badge, I bet we wouldn’t have heard a peep from them. Just like the folks who try to censor the opposition by segregating them in free speech zones also insist on extending freedom of speech to a rich man or corporations’ pocket-book. But hey, rich men are always right and corporations, unlike Rams’ players and other thugs, are people. We’ve all learned over the past few election cycles that dollar bills create their own free speech megaphone when they speak.
Free speech for me, but not for thee?
The American President (1995)
….America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, ’cause it’s gonna put up a fight. It’s gonna say “You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours….
The First Amendment and free speech don’t appear to be as absolute with some Americans as other single digit amendments.
At the White House petition site:
We petition the Obama Administration to:
Legally recognize Westboro Baptist Church as a hate group.
This group has been recognized as a hate group by organizations, such as The Southern Poverty Law Center, and has repeatedly displayed the actions typical of hate groups.
Their actions have been directed at many groups, including homosexuals, military, Jewish people and even other Christians. They pose a threat to the welfare and treatment of others and will not improve without some form of imposed regulation.
Created: Dec 14, 2012
Issues: Civil Rights and Liberties, Human Rights, Veterans and Military Families
Signatures needed by January 13, 2013 to reach goal of 25,000 0
Total signatures on this petition 316,998
We petition the Obama Administration to:
Investigate the IRS Tax-Exempt Status of the Westboro Baptist Church
The Westboro Baptist Church is better-known for homophobic displays, suing people and picketing funerals than for providing Christian care to a community. Due to their harassment and politicking, their IRS tax-exempt status should be immediately investigated.
Created: Dec 16, 2012
Issues: Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement, Human Rights, Veterans and Military Families
Signatures needed by January 15, 2013 to reach goal of 25,000 0
Total signatures on this petition 77,641
We petition the Obama Administration to:
Revoke the tax exempt status of the Westboro Baptist Church & re-classify Westboro Baptist Church as a hate group.
Westboro Baptist Church is legally recognized as a religious organization and therefore receives a tax exempt status under our laws. The Phelps family and their supporters use these tax exempt funds to finance a country-wide campaign against any person or group they feel promotes values that do not meet with their own. Most prominently they are anti-gay.
The members of this hate group make a practice of targeting funerals to make their case, routinely inflicting further pain and anguish onto the mourning families of deceased soldiers and, even worse, the victims of tragic crimes. They hold signs thanking God and celebrating the deaths of these people. They wave these signs in the faces of the families.
By granting their tax exemption WE ARE FUNDING THEIR HATE. This must change.
Created: Dec 16, 2012
Issues: Budget and Taxes, Human Rights, Veterans and Military Families
ignatures needed by January 15, 2013 to reach goal of 25,000 0
Total signatures on this petition 72,056
We petition the Obama Administration to:
Remove the Westboro Baptist Church’s 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status, and make it retroactive.
The Westboro Baptist Church operates as a tax-exempt church. While it speaks volumes that many Americans value their right to free speech, this does not mean that we have to pay for their vitriol.
The WBC is not and should never have been considered a legitimate church for tax-exemption purposes, and this could be declared so either directly or with legislation affirming any or all of the following:
1) The WBC does not engage in any charity comparable in scope to their public image. They are only known for hate.
2) The WBC is not inclusive of its surrounding community, restricting membership. It is regarded by some as a tax shelter for its family’s law operations.
3) The WBC uses invective speech under its name, actively denigrating classes of people – soldiers, homosexuals, and others
Created: Dec 16, 2012
Issues: Budget and Taxes, Civil Rights and Liberties
Signatures needed by January 15, 2013 to reach goal of 25,000 0
Total signatures on this petition 53,950
We petition the Obama Administration to:
Define the Westboro Baptist Church as a hate group due to promoting animosity against differing cultural demographics.
The Westboro Baptist Church has surpassed the point of free speech and has crossed into the realm of harassing citizens. They vocally promote hate against every demographic that they are not a part of. Their own website URL is made of obscenities that directly carve out a specific demographic: “www.godhatesfags.com”. They even picket military funerals – when our soldiers and their families are at their lowest. The hatred is clear and they fit the definition given by the SPLC with no deviation. The only possible reason to exclude them would be the extent of the effect that they have had on society, but the legal “hate group” designation will prevent further damage and harassment before it has to happen.
Created: Dec 14, 2012
Issues: Civil Rights and Liberties, Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement, Human Rights
Signatures needed by January 13, 2013 to reach goal of 25,000 0
Total signatures on this petition 39,345
Actually, the constitutional way to counter free speech is with more free speech. This tactic has been successfully applied to the Westboro Baptist Church pickets in the past.
A hate group, the First Amendment, and a funeral in a small town (November 23, 2010)
“…Maybe the good thing is that good people showed up today to speak out…”
Proposition 8 rally in Kansas City (November 15, 2008)
Proposition 8 rally in Kansas City – more photos (November 16, 2008)
“God hates fags”–according to the Westboro Baptist Church (November 9, 2009)
Where to start? (November 23, 2010)
A hate group, the First Amendment, and a funeral in a small town – part 2 (November 29, 2010)
Roy Blunt is evidently so besotted with GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney that he feels bound to echo Romney’s disgusting response to the tragedy at the Libyan embassy. Or maybe it’s just that since Jim DeMint and Bobby Jindal have put themselves out there for the Mittster, Roy thinks it’s safe to venture out to beat the bushes for Mitt too. According to a report at the St. Louis NPR Website:
Blunt echoed many of Romney’s complaints. “Apologizing for America is not the way you’re going to advance your cause, particularly in the Middle East,” he said. Blunt also criticized the President for taking too long to bolster security at embassies. “Seems late to me,” Blunt said. “But better late than never, I suppose.”
Of course nobody is apologizing for America. That’s just one more GOP fiction trotted out to whet the appetites of their Obama-hating base. Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post fact-checker demolished that allegation, and, in spite of the allergic reaction to facts and fact-checkers evinced by the Romney campaign and, now, Roy Blunt, some of us still care about reality.
As a matter of fact, if folks like Blunt weren’t so determined to milk votes out of every bigot able to spell his own name, they might have been a little more careful over the past few years about statements that help to legitimate the rage of anti-Muslim nativists, who, like belligerent drunks in a bar, seem determined to provoke violent Islamic fundamentalists – with nary a thought about our soldiers and diplomatic personnel serving in Islamic countries. As for the free speech issues Romney et al. seem to be hinting at, I think Andrew Sullivan put it very succinctly:
I’m a free speech absolutist – but I’m not an anti-religion absolutist. I think a little respect for religions we don’t share is something most Americans would think is precisely an American value. I can see why there should have been a defense of the free speech of Terry Jones in that tweet in principle – and there is: “the universal right of free speech.” Does Romney think the administration should have defended the film itself? Does Romney?
Does Roy Blunt? The real pièce de résistance though, is Blunt’s ham-handed effort to defend Mitt Romney’s lunatic attack on the President:
When asked if he was disappointed that this tragedy has become a political issue, Senator Blunt responded. “Of course they (the presidential candidates) responded to it. If they hadn’t responded to it, they’d both be roundly criticized for having nothing to say about it.”
Evidently Blunt can’t distinguish between responding to a tragedy, which is what President Obama calmly, competently did, and attempting to make political hay out of a disaster – and potentially endangering even more Americans in diplomatic posts.
All this time, I’ve been reading about Mitt Romney’s reluctance to pick up on the Michele Bachmann anti-Islam crusade as an example of his political cowardice. Bachmann’s efforts to instigate a Muslim witch-hunt were so egregiously hateful that even a small number of GOPers – those who still have a remnant of conscience – were willing to risk the ire of their mean-minded base and call her out. I assumed Mitt’s reluctance to discuss the issue reflected the dilemma of a man who, like John McCain, knows better, but who can’t afford to alienate his only real supporters – the folks who hate Obama and Muslims enough to vote for Romney just because he isn’t either.
Seems, though, that I was wrong – either that or Mitt’s cowardice just hasn’t paid off as regards the aforementioned base. None other than St. Louis fringewing luminary, Dana Loesch, wants us to read Mitt’s silence on the topic of Bachmann as a simple failure to take up the cudgels for free speech, which she presents as a potentially useful political gambit (via DailyKos):
If I were — which I’m not, I’m not advising him, he couldn’t afford me — it just seems so easy to do. Like, if they’re asking him, “What is your thought on the Chick-fil-A story, what do you think about Michelle Bachmann and the Muslim Brotherhood?” he could say, “I don’t have a problem with free speech, do you?”
And that report that Congresswoman Bachmann — the inquiry that they presented towards Congress — that raised a lot of questions. And who’s against free speech?
Who, indeed, is against free speech? Not I certainly. Michele Bachmann has every right to speak freely – but that does not make the content of her speech
right correct, nor does it mean that others should let her get away with inciting hateful action without speaking out. I, for example, also have the right to speak freely and point out that Bachmann’s a hateful moron, which in no way contravenes Bachmann’s free speech rights. So if Loesch is saying that folks should feel free to speak their minds, I agree – and I’ll go a bit further even and say that it would be great if Mitt Romney would do so and, just once, be up front with us about what he really thinks – and not continually try to game the political angles, even in the way suggested by Loesch.
After all, you can only go so far in politics and avoid all specifics. However, it’s also reasonably clear that you can’t go too far at all if you’re given to defending obvious bigotry. Nobody asked Mitt if Bachmann had a right to say what she did, just whether or not he agreed with the content, her call to take action against Muslims in government. Which fact just might explain why Mitt has hesitated to take advice of the sort Loesch is handing out.
And, just for fun, what’s that business about Mitt Romney (multi-billionaire beneficiary of political donors who fit the same description) not being able to afford Loesch? She’s trying to say she’s too principled to work for his prevaricating likes, or is it the case that the poor baby has delusions of grandeur? It’s hard to say, of course, since her advice seems to consist of just about the same drivel he’d get from any random Tea Party celebrant.
*Last sentence edited for grammar.