Tuesday, August 4, 2020

But it's my right!

When in Chicago, Col. Ellsworth led a
famed group of Zouave soldiers.
       Americans are justly proud of our liberties.  Alas, over time, that pride has swelled to such an enormous size, it blocks our vision, and causes confusion between what can be done and what should be done.
     For instance. 
     My column Monday juxtaposed an Evanston woman confronting a group displaying a Confederate flag—on a towel, adding that low comedy touch—at the beach there, with Col. Elmer Ellsworth, the first Union officer to die in the Civil War after taking a stand against what he had called the "Secession Flag."
    Reaction, as you can imagine, was heavy and all over the place. Mostly positive thoughts from readers, I should point out. But also some who seemed more keen to highlight the right to display banners of treason and hate—as if I were unfamiliar with the Constitution—while ignoring the aggressiveness of the act.
     A prime example—and surprising, since it came from a regular reader—was this:
     Today’s column misses an important point, i.e. the Confederate flag displayers' First Amendment right to free speech. Like you and so many others, especially as an Evanston resident, I found the flag display was disgustingly racist. Still to be devil’s advocate, how is this any different than when Nazis marched years ago in Skokie and We’re defended by the ACLU?  Imagine the frustration if everyone at the beach just ignored the yahoos and their racist banner.  Just sayin’...
    I replied this way:
     Your email puzzles me. Of course I didn't "miss" that the oafs displaying their Confederate towel are within their Constitutional rights. What of it? That point seems a red herring. You are waving [the] 1st amendment when it comes to traitorous bigots advertising their creed. Yet urging silence upon decent patriotic Americans whom, last time I checked, enjoy the same 1st amendment rights. Are you certain you've thought this opinion through?  Thanks for writing.
    A number of people stressed this aspect.
    I agree with you about what the flag represents but it’s also there [sic] right to hang it and that’s the bottom line ?
     I replied:
     No one argues that. The losers displaying the flag have the right. Just as the patriotic Americans have the right—I believe the obligation—to pause and pour contempt upon them. Thanks for writing.
     Maybe the unspoken part is this: bigots are broken, frightened people. Airing their prejudices, as if they were a reason to be proud, is the closest they come to strength. Prejudice is a kind of philosophy for morons, and pushing back can seem like setting New York theater critics loose to pick apart the acting in a kindergarten play. 
     Thus silence is not only easier, it can seem kind. The problem is that the haters aren't satisfied. They take everything they can get and a little more. Today's beach towel becomes tomorrow's flag which becomes next week's new law. Having lost the Civil War in 1865, the losers inched back, until it almost seemed like they won. They're inching still. We see the result in the White House and all around. Hate is on the rise. Time to stamp it back down where it belongs, back into the sewer of shame from whence it came and must inevitably return.


  1. Not the main point, I realize, but the Nazis never did march in Skokie, as it turned out. Coincidentally, I happened to rewatch The Blues Brothers last night. “I hate Illinois Nazis.”

    1. So did a whole lot of Chicagoans.

      When Collin's Nazis were finally banned by the courts from marching in Skokie, he went to Chicago's Loop. I believe the date was Saturday, June 14, 1978. So we had our riot downtown, instead.

      I remember assisting an out-of-town reporter from Los Angeles, who was hopelessly lost and freaked out by all the flying debris and the chaos that ensues during urban rioting. She was from Rolling Stone. Or maybe the L.A. Times. Me? I was a combat veteran by then. Chicago in '68, and San Francisco, and other places.

      There were plenty of mounted Chicago coppers, who provided plenty of "stuff" to throw at those Illinois Nazi dirtbags. We had us a time! It was great fun! The shit certainly hit the fan! Mostly their homemade shields. They really, really needed them that day.

  2. It just occurred to me that had the United States after its victory over the secessionists deprived everyone who took up arms against the U.S. along with their progeny of first class citizenship, the right to vote and the right to hold government office, perpetuating the political situation of Reconstruction, we would have an interesting situation today with rebel Southerners attempting to regain their citizenship and voting rights with those holding political power in the South strenuously resisting those attempts. Certainly, without racial implications, that 2nd class citizenship wouldn't have lasted 160 years. Or would it?


  3. "Prejudice is a kind of philosophy for morons,..."

    Thanks Neil, excellent bit.

  4. I'm not speaking to the motivations of the specific individuals who wrote to you about this, but my experience is that most people who defend the display of the Confederate flag on "free speech" grounds are 1) really objecting to criticism of it and 2) have little or no problem with, say, Colin Kaepernick being blackballed from the NFL for kneeling during the national anthem. IOW, they have no problem with some people suffering consequences for exercising their right to free speech, but somehow think racists should get a pass.

    1. Then there are people who think everyone gets to exercise their rights whether you agree with them or not. Larry Flint comes to mind.
      It's a shitty world and never going to be perfect. But I like it better than a place where the government gets to decide who gets to say what. I prefer when we the people get to tell the government to take down offensive flags or monuments or change the names of streets , parks, military bases etc.
      Occasionally they finally listen. And I think it's a shame the teacher in Evanston had to take it upon herself to confront these cretins and let them know how she feels about their flag. I wish we all understood it's offensive and hurtful. Our courts don't see that as grounds to make it illegal.
      If seeing things this way makes me a bigot somehow. I don't know what to say. I'm not the one displaying the flag.

  5. Everyone has the right to hang a flag on their own property. The towel flag was placed on a city owned fence and that's the difference.

  6. The flag is simply a chip on their shoulder daring you to knock if off so they can spew their venom at you. However they express it, whether it be a loser’s flag, not wearing a mask, displaying a Trump sticker, the message is the same. “I’m a bigot and proud of it.”
    They are sore losers, “morons”, and only about themselves (in the guise of being good Americans).


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