Friday, July 25, 2014

The 'White Flag' Kerfuffle - An Opportunity to Return to COMMON SENSE

A bleached US flag flies over the Brooklyn Bridge.

Consider the white flags that were  flying over the Brooklyn Bridge and Americans' reactions.

While certain media outlets, as we've come to expect, have wallowed in hysteria and fear, like the New York Daily News bawling: "This time it's a flag, next time it will be a bomb" - most of the reactions to the bleached white American flags hung over the Brooklyn Bridge have  been more tempered.  Theorizing, of course,  is rampant as it would be expected to be after any strange occurrence, particularly involving a high profile location in a major U.S. city - that was previously attacked on 9/11.

But this is exactly why now is the time for reason and common sense to prevail, and not to allow reactionaries to dominate discussion. First, it's obvious it was no "terror" attack and anyone claiming so needs committing to a mental institution. From what it was not, theories then veer to what it was or meant. There are at least ten such theories now, including that "aliens set it up" - which again merits the loony bin for any who say so.

I already provided my own theory in the previous post but now the NYPD seems to be focused on "skateboarders, young men between 19 and 21". This would make the incident more in line with a random juvenile prank and no message would likely have been involved at all.  This would also eliminate the  "theory" that a bunch of disaffected "leftists" did it.  No, if the Left did it, they'd be sending a serious message as I pointed out a blog post earlier. In other words, the bleached flags would have plausibly telegraphed our nation's surrender to corporate governance and domination.

The Righties, for that matter, could also have done it and some theories put it on disaffected Tea Baggers, upset over Obama's latest moves - or non-moves (Despite the fact that a recent poll shows 65 percent of Americans absolutely want NO impeachment proceedings, as some in the GOP have been belching about)

Now, time for more common sense. Was there any flag "defacement" or desecration involved?  After all, these guys - whoever they were - bleached two American flags and then put them up.

Of course not, because the First Amendment regards all such manifestations as protected symbolic speech. So calling for these guys to be "hung" over the bridge on the basis of a flag prank is simply more hysteria.

Let's first admit logically that bleaching a flag and hanging it up is less offensive speech than actual flag burning. But in the case Texas v. Johnson (1989) flag burning was upheld as symbolic free speech which could not be curtailed under the 1st amendment.

In 1990 another conservative congress tried to pass a law to outlaw burning the flag but again it went down.  This was in the case United States v. Eichman, 496 U.S. 310 (1990).  While the Johnson decision only affected a Texas state law this decision was broader. . In the wake of the earlier decision, the federal government  had enacted a law that also prohibited flag burning. In order to try to get around constitutional challenges, that federal law prohibited all types of flag desecration, with the exception of burning and burying a worn-out flag, regardless of whether the action upset others.

The Supreme Court held that this law did not cure the constitutional defect and the same 7-3 majority from Johnson held that the law still impermissibly discriminated upon viewpoint and struck it down.

Common sense here also tells us that the SYMBOL of a nation cannot have more import or viability than the principles it is supposed to protect.  Nor have soldiers "fought and died for the flag".  No, you do not fight and die for a piece of fabric, you fight and die for the PRINCIPLES the flag stands for - all listed under the Bill of Rights (including free speech)
One hopes as this story progresses and the culprits are finally found and brought forward to face the consequences of their youthful indiscretion, the rest of our citizens keep their cool and don't allow their judgment to be derailed by emotions.
Now, as we approach 9/11 once more, common sense is perhaps the most crucial commodity needed, that is all too often in short supply. In terms of the treatment of American flags, let me paraphrase one justice's common sense take: "So long as you are burning YOUR own flag and not someone else's you are exercising your form of speech as protest."   Changing burning to "bleaching" and you have a parallel to the Brooklyn Bridge case.

Advice we'd all best follow before shooting from the hip!

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