Freedom of Speech, Just Watch What You Say

I borrowed that phrase from a song on Ice-T’s 1989 LP.  It’s a short way of saying that while speech is free the consequences are not so much. We learn this at an early age. If your parents or a teacher says or does something you don’t like, even as a child no one can bridle your tongue but you. You can read your mom, dad, or Mrs. Jenkins their rights from Genesis to Revelations if you want to. I can tell you if I did that as a youngen’ I would have paid a rather painful price. Tell you something else too, the constitution wouldn’t have saved my black ass either.

And so it is in life we learn the balances and nuances of free speech. Daily we decide what we find worth saying and what is not. This doesn’t just apply for situations regarding authority. It applies to everyday life between friends, colleagues, and lovers. Wisdom teaches us that all things that can be said shouldn’t be said. Then there are times when conscious forces to say what is unpopular to the masses. Take Colin Kaepernick’s for instance. His free speech protected under the constitution does not protect him from being blackballed from the NFL.

This leads me to the controversy surrounding Missouri State Senator, Maria Chappelle Nadal.  Recently she decided to express her desire that President Trump be assassinated. Predictably she has come under fire and find herself in the cross hairs of the governor. He wants her senate seat.

I no longer reside in Missouri so I am not privy to the daily heartbeat of the area. From reading articles it seems that she is taking quite the political beating. I have gotten some feedback on social media. My African-Americans friends who have commented are unanimous in believing that she should resign. I totally understand where they are coming from. Further I resonate with WHY they believe it.

What Senator Chappelle-Nadal did was irresponsible, dangerous and childish. Someone in her position surely should know better than to post something like that on any form of social media. However, I am not sure whether I believe she should resign or be ousted. There used to be a time when common sense told us what was a fireable offence and what was perhaps cause for censure. I could go for the low hanging fruit of what was said and done to our 44th president. South Carolina Congressman Joe Wilson who screamed at President Obama calling him a liar during a joint session with congress. Jan Brewer put a threatening finger in the face of President Obama. There was a T-Mobile manager who did the same to me a few weeks ago. I almost gave him a 2 piece. The police was called. Montana candidate Greg Gianforte actually assaulted a reporter shortly before he was elected to congress.

But even if we were do discount these examples, we need go no higher than the person of interest himself, president #45. He started his campaign of slander years ago questioning the citizenship and therefore legitimacy of president #44. During his official campaign he told a crowd, “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.”

There are so many examples of malfeasance since his inauguration in January I don’t need to list them all. They have been well documented. His latest exploits have been to defend and encourage white supremacist’s to continue their barbaric behavior. American citizens have been assaulted, beaten, injured and killed. #45 has been the ringleader. Even David Duke acknowledged that he takes his ques from #45. It can be strongly argued that the blood that has been shed falls on #45’s hands.

And let’s not forget his is currently being investigated for illegal dealings with the Russian government. By all accounts there appears to be overwhelming evidence that he is an enemy of the state; a traitor to the country he is supposed to lead.

That leaves me in a quandary. Two things #45 have in common with Wilson, Brewer and Gianforte.

  1. They are Republican, while Chappelle-Nadal is a Democrat
  2. They have not been asked to leave their respective offices.

The second part is what’s most relevant here. Best believe members of the GOP are NOT giving up they’re seats of government. They are determined to keep each and every advantage through local, state, and federal politics.  Yet I am supposed to believe that Chappelle-Nadal should resign from her seat because of what she ‘hopes?’ I’m supposed to accept that it’s a righteous act to remove her from the committees she serves on? I’m not saying I know the answer quite honestly. What I am saying is that there needs to be a clearer moral compass to judge these things on. That’s unrealistic. Therefore, perhaps Democrats should stick together and be just as determined not to lose any of their seats as their GOP counterparts are. Sometimes in order to succeed, those who play the game must understand how that the game is being played, then play accordingly.

 

Advertisements

Of Symbolism, Ritualism, Cowardice and Hard Truths

Now I know the birthday of a nation
Is a time when a country celebrates
But as your hand touches your heart
Remember we all played a part 
In America to help that banner wave

  • Stevie Wonder, Black Man 1976

fc8a3eb0-400c-44d9-9378-d95b7a2e94acCross-PB-Small-500x500-500x500

What thoughts do you have as you view these symbols?  For some these symbols either represent or remind them of their faith in god and country.  For others these represent institutions of hatred and oppression.  For me, they represent all of these; faith, god, country, hatred and oppression.  They also represent neither.  The meanings of symbols and the meanings thereof are strictly up to the person interpreting them.  As people, we interpret symbols through the lenses of how we are raised, our learned experiences or how we have evolved.  By nature I am sentimental but I hardly hold on to what I deem are empty traditions.  I am an American.  But I didn’t have the choice of being an American.  I was born here.  I see from a distance some of the advantages I have from people in some other countries.  But my experiences and knowledge are limited, unlike, for example a first generation immigrant.  I can’t say America is the best country in the world.  Because ‘best’ is subjective depending on a person’s needs.  ‘Home’ is home for most people in the world.  Most people have conflicted feelings about their homes.

I served in the military, but I didn’t have a particular affection for the flag.  I grew close to a few of the people I served with.  I was a Christian, but I didn’t love the cross or the bible as a symbol.  I loved what I believed they stood for according to my faith.  I admit that I’ve had my superstitions.  Back in the day I would never put a glass or anything else on top of my bible.  There was something in me that felt it wasn’t right.  I’ve learned in time this was my hangup.  Experience has taught me a few things about symbols.

The flag, whether decorated with stars and stripes or crossbones and skull in an inanimate object.  The bible is a book.  It’s people who bring value and significance to things.  Not the other way around.  What the American flag and the Holy Bible represent to each person they encounter will be determined by the representatives who carry and present them.

I cannot speak for other nations, but Americans are really into symbols and rituals. However, far too many have little interest in an authentic manifestation of what they say the symbols stand for.  Take Colin Kaepernick and his decision to sit for the Star Spangled Banner. He expressed a grievance that has long been expressed by African-Americans as well as many other minorities in this country.  He desires that America as a whole live up to the ideas that she claim for all of it’s citizens. But Americans, are using the flag (the symbol) as a shield to cover over the subject matter Kaepernick described when asked why he sat.  Clearly, his critics don’t want to recognize Kaepernick’s grievances or even entertain a serious discussion about them.

I think ESPN’s Stan Verrett spoke for most Americans who happen to be woke, Black Americans in particular.

“I’ve always stood for the anthem because I believe in the promise of America, what the flag is supposed to symbolize even though America often falls short of what it’s supposed to symbolize. I mean, my dad served in the Army, dealt with discrimination in the Army, came back from his service in World War II and was not afforded the same rights as a U.S. citizen after his service, so don’t talk to me about sacrifice and the military. My mom was the valedictorian of her high school, couldn’t go to college in Louisiana and other mainstream universities because they were segregated. They didn’t want to hear about her grades. You can’t go because you’re black. “There’s still (discriminatory) problems in housing, hiring, the justice system. These are real problems. People aren’t making this up and they’re trying to find ways to speak out about it. You’re not always going to agree with the method. But let’s pay as much attention to the substance as we do to the symbol.”

KaepBurn.0.0burning+cross

*Is burning this jersey (a recent ritual against scorned black athletes) any different that burning this cross?

Unfortunately, many of the loudest detractors of critical thought, nuance and self examination are fixated on the symbolism.  In the case of ‘patriotism’ they love the worship of the flag and the ritual of standing for the anthem.  They love the idea of what the veteran does to protect their rights to be self absorbed while enjoying a false sense of exceptionalism.  They aren’t willing to give two damns or one f#@! for veteran returning to the United States traumatized with PTSD.  They don’t invest in the welfare of military spouses and families left here when soldiers are deployed, wounded or killed in action.  They aren’t even the least bit put off about how the NFL charged the United States Military millions of dollars putting on tributes in stadiums during football games.

But they sure are mad as hell at a man who peacefully sits down for 90 seconds of the anthem.  They burn his jersey in effigy.  They tell him to leave the country.  They use his income as an excuse to condemn him to silence; as if money is an elixir to racism.  The ignore poor and middle class people who share the same griefs that Kaepernick is talking about.  So the question has to be asked: Is patriotism really the issue here? Or is there something else more sinister at play?

Images and rituals are useful when they serve as a reminder or an inspiration; when they celebrate ideas of hope, service, strength, and compassion, or a solemn recognition of memorial.  However, whats most important is that these images, symbols and rituals remain what they are, reminders. And that we the people with the power to make the meaning of our symbols a reality do so.  Without substance, we (and by ‘we’ I mean they or you if it applies) are liars, rattlesnakes pretending to be eagles!  This fact is easily verifiable when one acts as if not standing for the anthem is treason while ignoring the reasons a man chooses not to stand.

Finally I will echo the words of San Francisco Chronicle Columnist, Ann Killion,  …the truth is, standing for the national anthem before a sporting event is an equally empty gesture for many people. Though many are reverent during the anthem and think of their freedom and those who have died for our rights, just as many are buying a beer, daydreaming or looking at their phones. Raising their butts off the seat doesn’t make them better Americans than Kaepernick.

She continued,  …To those who say he “should” be grateful, and that he has a good life, take a look at the racist comments posted on his Instagram account. They’ve been there for years, long before this controversy. He has plenty of reason to be concerned about what’s happening in our country.

CrPBt6fVUAAEFoY

I say, the fact that many are still holding on to their patriotic bumper sticker phrases, despite the many veterans who have come to Kaepernick’s defense, (#VeteransForKaepernick) your stance merely reveals your nationalistic narcissism!  You can’t hide in plain sight.  We see you naked and inept.  When former Attorney General Eric Holder said, “Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial, we have always been and we — I believe continue to be in too many ways essentially a nation of cowards, he was talking about you, oh “patriotic” one.