Constitution

The Ministry of Objectionable Materials

prohibited

Doesn’t it seem as if life in the United States is getting more and more surreal every day? It almost appears that we are watching scenes from a movie unfold before our eyes. Movie scenes we thought we would never see in our country. The events on the East coast over the last couple weeks just make it more and more clear we are headed for a change and I don’t think it is a good one.

As most of my readers know (at least I hope so), I am a history guy. I think it can be very useful to study it and think it is more important than ever to teach it (something our schools and society doesn’t think is important any longer, but that’s another discussion). No, I am not in the classroom any longer, but there are times like the last couple of weeks that make me wish I was still there.

History is being made. Every day. Good. Bad. Ugly.

At the moment, I believe we are headed into the bad…into a scene from a movie I never thought I would see in real life. I used to show it in class because it provides a good example of how a government can become oppressive, but also how the people of a country can allow it to get that way – mostly because they DEMAND it to become that way.

I used the movie V for Vendetta in my classroom as I wrapped up my unit on the Constitution with my seniors. It is an awesome teaching movie as it uses lots of references and allegories that are historically based as well as great examples of what a government shouldn’t be (and how our Constitution should keep it from getting that way). Plus, it’s just kind of a cool but that isn’t really for discussion here.

What is important is one of the things it references in passing, a government organization called “The Ministry of Objectionable Materials.”  The female lead character asks the main character where he got all of the works of art, film, music, etc. (because she obviously knew they were all banned materials) and he responds by saying he stole it back from the government (see clip).

Apparently we are demanding this of our government now. Any by this, I mean that we are asking out government to protect us (or better yet, others) from things we find objectionable. We are doing it because we have many in society who can’t handle our own history. We would rather run and hide from our history than learn from it or, perhaps we’d rather run to hide history because we’ve still not learned from it.

lenin-statueThis is offensive,” said Tony Barger. “This should be taken down. This is an actual Russian relic and should not be here on American soil.”

History is beautiful. History is ugly. History demonstrates many successes, but it also exposes many failings too. That is why it is important not to hide it away. As Americans we should certainly want to learn from the “historical black eyes”, we ourselves have put into our own history. We certainly shouldn’t want to tear down or hide our history. As Americans we should celebrate the successes we’ve had, and I honestly believe we have had more success than failure.

Tearing down our past and hiding it away isn’t going to make our history any better, but it just might make it worse. Public memory fades fast, probably faster than any of us would really like. If we don’t have reminders of the past before us, we will forget it. Does that mean we should keep monuments commemorating our “historical black eyes”? Yes, even if they offend. They are important reminders to times that were not so good and they also represent mile markers in our road to success.

There will be some who use those monuments as a rallying point to their agenda or beliefs, but they typically represent a minority point of view and while it may be disgusting they are within their rights to believe, and assemble, as they wish (the Supreme Court says so and the ACLU helped, surprisingly). As a society we need to work to change their views, but we can’t do it the way it is being done right now. The more attention you give it, the worse it will get. Think of it along the lines of a bug bite – if you leave it alone (not ignore it) it will go away faster but the more you scratch it, the longer it sticks around (sometimes opening it up so it can fester into something more/worse).

Obviously, we can’t ignore it. Nothing just goes away on its own. Hostatues-removed-at-ut-austin-20174518-700x467wever, if not given attention on a grand scale, it will diminish. Fire, as destructive as it can be, if left alone eventually burns itself out. The president of the University of Texas wrote a letter to students just before classes resumed for the fall. He made some good points, but I can’t help but think he only provided fuel for a fire that wasn’t burning (at least not brightly). Instead, by giving a voice to the small fire that may have burned there on campus, he most likely made things worse.

Where should the Ministry of Objectionable Material stop? Where does the line get drawn? Who gets to decide where the line is drawn? When do we stop getting our feelings hurt? When do we stop getting offended by nearly everything around us?

For some more food for thought, check below.

Truman and Free Speech

Image result for harry truman

“There is no more fundamental axiom of American freedom than the familiar statement: In a free country, we punish men for the crimes they commit, but never for the opinions they have. And the reason this is so fundamental to freedom is not, as many suppose, that it protects the few unorthodox from suppression by the majority. To permit freedom of expression is primarily for the benefit of the majority because it protects criticism, and criticism leads to progress…But we would betray our finest traditions if we attempted…to curb the simple expression of opinion. This we should never do, no matter how distasteful the opinion may be to the vast majority of our people…We need not fear the expression of ideas—we do need to fear their suppression.”

– President Harry S. Truman

Context: fighting communism in the United States and around the world.

The emphasis above is mine. One of the most important freedoms we have is under attack and I’m afraid it will only get worse. The attacks are coming fast and furious and from every side. I doubt there will be a turn from this trend, only a charging straight into an unknown and dark future.

“We punish men for the crimes they commit, but never for the opinions they have”

We have sunk so low these days that we are punishing people for their opinions. I don’t mean we are legally punishing them, though I suspect we aren’t far off from this. (On second thought, maybe we are – see the baker, the florist, the photographer, the wedding venue, etc. being prosecuted because of their beliefs and opinions.)

We are now punishing people in the public arena via social media, sometimes even to the point of violence off-line. There is no crime in holding an opinion and expressing it, yet many people apparently believe it is these days. The trend to punish people for their opinions has gone to name calling, bullying, harassing, taunting, threatening, unfriending, embarrassing, humiliating, and in some cases even following through with physical violence simply because someone disagrees with another person’s opinion or disagrees with their extreme viewpoint.

Take this student photo article as an example. No harm done, to anyone, by her posting a photo she is proud of. It is easy to imagine that anyone would post a picture they have when they got it while interacting with someone famous. So, when did it become acceptable to treat someone so poorly because you disagree with them?

We teach our kids in school not to bully, harass, threaten, or otherwise make someone uncomfortable (Really? Because that’s reality…). Yet, there is no reasonable expectation among the adult world that this will carry forth into daily life. We aren’t practicing what we preach. It brings to mind that whole “Do what I say, not what I do” adage.

Now, it appears at least as adults, we celebrate people who go out of their way to bully, harass, or even attack others who have opinions that don’t line up with mainstream opinion. We are teaching our kids that it is ok to fight detestable and offensive opinions with violence and intimidation and bullying and harassment, etc. as long as we believe it to be repugnant.

The whole point of the United States and it’s foundation was to protect free speech, even the kind we find repugnant. Our Founders, who were persecuted for their beliefs and opinions, are celebrated because they fought against a society that believed their ideas were repugnant. (Back to the whole historical argument – were our Founders patriots or terrorists? It depends on your point of view.) Our Constitution is meant to protect all ideas and opinions, even the ones we don’t like, because we are supposed to have a “marketplace of ideas”. Take the ones you like and leave the ones you don’t. There is nothing in the Constitution about convincing others they are wrong by bullying and harassing them into changing their idea.

Truman understood that “To permit freedom of expression is primarily for the benefit of the majority because it protects criticism, and criticism leads to progress…”  He understood that if there is a problem in society it needed to be discussed and worked on until it was fixed. If there is a belief that our country is going in the wrong direction, then there needs to be open dialogue about it not suppression and violence.

If we become a society that suppresses ideas we don’t like or find repugnant, how do we move forward? Censorship at every corner and in every facet of life? I know everyone hates the cliche “slippery slope,” but we are seeing some prime examples these days. Where does the suppression of ideas or thoughts, or opinions end? What one person finds objectionable, another finds acceptable. Who gets to decide in a open and free society?

 

 

 

Companies take a stand on what you think

thought_police_poster

If a company can fire you over what you think or an opinion you hold, then wouldn’t they be able to NOT hire you as well?

Recent news of the Colin Kaepernick NOT being hired by teams (especially since there have been injuries to starting QBs) in the NFL because of his actions last season as a San Francisco 49ers  run along the same lines as those employees who are fired because they voiced their opinion, or even as a company decides to refuse your business because of what you believe. These are the same things, aren’t they? Well, that is not the case if you are the PC Police.

There are some who are decrying the fact that Kaepernick hasn’t been signed by a new team because of his actions taken during football games. He is being blackballed they claim. They say the owners want to send a message to football players (or if you really want sinister, the black players) because they don’t want people taking a stand and rocking the boat because it is bad for their brand, the NFL. Celebrities (if you want to call them that, I guess) are jumping on board to support poor Colin and demonstrate against the NFL.

There have been other recent instances where someone’s opinion or belief has caused them to face a backlash for standing up and expressing their opinion. You have a guy at Google who wrote about diversity at Google and he was fired by Google because of his opinion, which happens to create bad press for the company. Google says he violated their “Code of Conduct,” which he may have done. Then, there’s group of people who made reservations at Airbnb locations in Virginia who had their reservations cancelled because the company believes (or presumed) the people may be connected to the controversial “Unite the Right” rally. The Airbnb justifies the cancellations because they don’t support the reservation holders’ opinions or beliefs and it violates their “Community Commitment” terms of service.

Now, the two examples listed immediately above were probably met with cheers by most people because it would seem that justice was being done. I mean, who wouldn’t want a sexist guy at work fired because he creates a hostile work environment, not to mention it soils the image of the organization. Why would an organization want to allow people with offensive opinions or beliefs to be served by their organization or service? If they allowed this to happen they would, after all, be seen as aiding or approving of those offensive opinions and that would just be bad PR, right?

If the PC police have no problem allowing Google to fire a guy over his opinion and they have no problem with Airbnb canceling the reservations of customers with offensive opinions, then why do they question the right of the NFL owners to not hire a guy that they disagree with and would hurt their public image or their bottom line?

To me, these are in the same vein. Google took care of the problem after it occurred. Airbnb is trying to take care of the problem before it occurs. The NFL is trying to take care of the problem both after it occurred and before it occurs again. Why then the outrage?

Another example:

CNN can personality,

 

What do you think? Leave a comment below and let’s talk!

 

 

 

 

Don’t Be So Bossy!

This isn’t just a woman problem, so why make it that?

What? Don’t be so bossy! Once again, our Hollywood “elite” have a message for the American public that is both ridiculous and pompous. If you haven’t seen an article on this yet, you can check one out below.

Jennifer Garner, Beyoncé, Jane Lynch, and More Urge Ban on ‘Bossy’ | Yahoo Celebrity – Yahoo Celebrity.

The whole premise of this movement just stinks of false feminism. I say false feminism because it is being painted as a “female” issue. That the word, when used towards women, is being sexist. What an utter obfuscation of reality!

The fact is that the word “bossy” can, and is, used in context to both men and women is some how lost here. Yes, there is a negative connotation to the word, but the connotation isn’t just solely reserved for women. As I see it, if the word is being used in context and appropriately, there is no problem. When people get power (or in this case celebrity) they feel abused when their demands aren’t met or their expectations are too high. Then, when someone points out that they are being unreasonable and “bossy,” well then we have just violated their sense of entitlement and their sense of dignity (apparently). Indignation then follows as the “elite” are called on the carpet for their misbehavior and the only way for them to justify their indignation is to make an issue of a non-issue and paint it as something it is not – a sexiest word.

We all have been there and done that. We make issues of non-issues in our daily lives. So I am not going to make that an issue.

What burns me red here is that we all have had the opportunity for power in leadership roles. We then become “bossy” and demand more or expect more than we should. Power goes to our heads and we get bossy. It is in our human (sinful, if you must) nature to take more than we deserve or need. So, when I or you become bossy and begin to wield power over people that is unjustified we need to realize that we are going to be called bossy. Is that a negative thing? YES! Should we be offended by it? Maybe, but likely no. If someone calls us bossy, it should cause us to pause and reflect,”Why am I being called bossy? Could they be right?” Ultimately, being called bossy should cause us to change because there IS a reason (in most cases) it was warranted.

This isn’t about empowering women. To some degree, I think this new initiative degrades them by making it about a word. Most people are better than that and I don’t think banning a word is going to make the difference. Next they may try to ban the word “woman” because it makes them feel inferior because it delineates them as a sex…where will the insanity of the word Nazis end?

The fact that female celebrities are leading this push gives it even less credence since I am sure that at one time or another they were bossy, let alone another word that starts with a “B” and rhymes with itchy. All have likely demanded things that made them come across as bossy. Rich people get that way because they feel entitled.

Rather than spending money on a campaign that has, really, very little relevance, how about contribute that money to ACTUAL needs?

Ladies, your social activism in trying to ban “bossy” comes across as just that – bossy.

Flashing – A Debate on Freedom of Speech

There’s a speed trap back there, dude. You better slow down and heed my flashing headlights before you get to it.

That’s what I think as I so thoughtfully flash my headlights at 4:30 in the afternoon on my way home from work. I drive the route twice a day, so I pretty much know all the places law enforcement likes to sit in waiting, like a spider waiting for a big fat insect to fly into it’s web. Of course, they change things up a bit and they aren’t always in the same places at the same times. I can’t blame them because that is what they are supposed to do, catch people speeding (although I honestly think there are probably more productive things law enforcement could be doing other than sitting around waiting for violators – that is a debate for another day).

Now, I know. I shouldn’t speed. No one should ever speed. I try not to but it happens sometimes. So, before we get side tracked by the whole “You wouldn’t need to flash your lights if they (or you) weren’t speeding in the first place” argument let me just say that if you have never sped (either on purpose or inadvertently) then you may throw the first stone. Otherwise, bite your tongue.

The questions is, “Can I flash my headlights to warn other drivers of a speed trap?” Recently there has been a minor debate about this question and I have even had driver’s ed students ask about this during classroom instruction. For the most part, my answer has always been that in Washington state it is illegal, per RCW (Revised Code for Washington) 46.37.230. However, this has always bothered me because I believe that flashing my headlights is a form of communication (speech, if you will), which is obviously much more effective than me rolling down my window and yelling at passing cars.

Background

This RCW seems to be open to a bit of interpretation however. It is typically the one cited in “flashing light” tickets, but there is nothing in the language specifically that says “flashing,” only that a vehicle must lower their headlights from high to low for oncoming vehicles within 500 feet and when approaching from the rear of a vehicle within 300 feet. This article from the Seattle Times (2008) where, according to Trooper Pratt, “they are for illumination, not communication.” The article continues, “It’s illegal to flash your high beams or activate them within 500 feet of an approaching vehicle, and 300 feet if you’re coming up behind another vehicle.”

First, Troopers Pratt and Merrill (the latter was also interviewed for the article) must be misinformed. The RCW didn’t say anything about flashing headlights and yet they say that the fine for “inappropriate flashing of high beams” has increased from $101 to $112. So, if our law enforcement officers don’t know the law, then how are we supposed to be clear on what is allowed and what isn’t? Second, there are parts of our state that have signs that say, “Daylight headlights section,” or something to that effect (signs probably vary). If it is during the day, there is plenty of light and the headlights are clearly not for illumination so they must be for communication to other drivers so they take notice of the vehicles on the roadway.

Your Rights – The First Amendment

There have been several cases in recent years that have started to shed some light (no pun intended) on laws such as the one in Washington. First, let me highlight the one in Florida. In this instance, the court eventually ruled that indeed the First Amendment had been violated and that flashing your headlights is a legitimate form of communication. Florida soon changed it’s laws to reflect the protection of this civil right. In Missouri recently, once again, a court decided that flashing of one’s headlights was not illegal and is protected free speech. There have been cases in Utah and Tennessee that follow along the same lines.

Jonathan Turley, a criminal attorney and a professor at George Washington University Law School, said courts across the country are dealing with the same issue. In virtually every case except those still being decided, the person cited has prevailed, Turley said.

“This has sweeping implications for the First Amendment,” Turley said. “What this citizen is doing is warning other citizens about the violation of law. People regularly warn others about the possibility of arrest. There’s no difference between a verbal warning and a mechanical warning. Both are forms of speech.” (Missouri article)

The ultimate point is that if you are given a ticket that involves flashing your headlights, your First Amendment rights likely have been violated. Whether you are in my state or another, law enforcement doesn’t have a clear handle on what is permissible and what isn’t and in most cases they are just miffed because you seemingly were interfering with what they considered a need for enforcement. Could you be causing a danger in flashing your lights? I suppose you could be, but that is a purely subjective call, one law enforcement seems to have expanded beyond reasonable application.

If you are wondering where your state falls on this issue, Wikipedia has a pretty good list of not only states where it may or may not be illegal but even some countries that address the issue as well. As far as I can tell from my research, there are no pending cases for this issue currently in Washington state. So, if you get a ticket for it, you could be the one to challenge it and change the law for all in Washington state. In the Missouri case, the ACLU took on the case which likely didn’t cost the individual much money, if any at all.

I think the key here is that no matter the intent, whether to warn someone out of their criminal intent or out of legitimate concerns for public safety, it has the same effect – it causes people to slow down, even if only briefly. That, in and of itself, may be all that is needed to prevent an accident or a ticket – that clearly isn’t be a negative thing.

So, I say, “LET THE FLASHING BEGIN!” Fight for your First Amendment freedoms.

I Told You So! Another Shining Example of Constitutional Trampling

Here is yet another instance of a celebrity getting in trouble for something he says and believes. The thought and religion police are at it again. This infringes upon both his right to free speech AND the free exercise of his religion. I blogged about this not that long ago, “A Liberal Double Standard.” The First Amendment is taking a beating these days. Sadly, we let bullies who disagree with someone’s opinion crucify First Amendment all the time. He expressed what he believes and thinks. There is no crime in that.

Some relevant articles to peruse as you contemplate where you stand on free speech and religion:

Sarah Palin, Louisiana Governor Weigh In On ‘Duck Dynasty’ Star Controversy

‘Duck Dynasty’: Can show be saved after Phil Robertson controversy?
http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/tv/showtracker/la-et-st-duck-dynasty-phil-robertson-20131218,0,7653498.story#ixzz2nwiHi9ZX

Finally, check out what this blogger has to say. I think he says it quite well in his defense of the First Amendment.

When will Americans say they have had enough of the PC crew? When will YOU say you have had enough?