A Tale of Two Flags

I’m told there was a shooting, a lot of shooting. This happened in the South of the United States. A lot of black men and women died as a result. I’m told it was motivated by this belief that dark skinned people are inferior. The assault was allegedly committed because if action wasn’t taken, black people could take over the world. The aggressor felt he had no choice and it was time to take it to the real world.

On December 20, 1860, South Carolina seceded from the Union and started the Confederate States of America. Other southern states followed and launched the American Civil War. More American causalities resulted from that war than all the wars the United States ever engaged in combined. And in the end, slavery was over and all the states that once seceded, came back.

I’m probably the only person who thinks the Civil War wasn’t necessary to achieve this. The Second Industrial Revolution that exploded in and around that period would have taken care of the problem as one tractor and other machines would have shown a much better option than housing, feeding and caring for slaves. But, hindsight is twenty/twenty. We’ll never know.

Anyhow, after the Civil War, some of the southern states that flew a new flag, kept it. Sure they put the United States flag above it, but in one form or another, the Confederate Flag was either flown in whole or some of its design sewn into the current state one. Alabama, Arkansas, Florida and Georgia all have part of the Confederate Flag within their current state flags. And Mississippi has the Confederate Flag in its entirety, sewn into its current flag. South Carolina, the first to secede way back when, has a state flag with nothing confederate about it. However, South Carolina also flies the Confederate Flag whole right on capital grounds. Up until recently.

On June 17,2015, motivated by hate and false conspiracy theories and a whole bunch of other bunk, twenty-one-year old Dylan Roof entered the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. He sat with the people there, all black, who were holding a Bible study group. He stayed for about an hour, engaging in the discussion of scripture. Then, from survivor accounts, Roof stood up, pulled a pistol, started talking about how black people were raping or something and started shooting. In total, he killed nine people then fled. He’s since been arrested and will surely go on trial for this crime, rightly so.

Later, pictures surfaced showing Roof holding guns, burning the United States Flag and yet, holding the Confederate Flag rather proudly. Combined with his words and actions on June 17, it’s an open and shut case why he did it. And this has resulted in some calls to consider removing the Confederate Flag from the South Carolina Capital, if not everywhere else.

Okay, so, let’s sum up. The Confederate Flag was first used by states that seceded from the Union and the primary reason for secession was in defense of their desire to continue to enslave black people. The enslavement was necessary, so they claimed, because it was part of their economic model. And this was true. Yet they couldn’t see it was good economics for everyone but the slave. Or didn’t care. Years after the war, over one-hundred-years after the war, the flag to many of, at least, my peers, took on the meaning of “rebel”. The racist elements were somewhat ignored and it took on a new life, some states keeping it as part of history too. And yes, some people who flew it, drew it or used it did so like Dylan Roof. Because they believed in the same crap.

The actions of Dylan Roof seem to have reminded everyone what that flag was originally designed for, the racist elements have resurfaced and a debate about removing the Confederate Flag has begun. The governor of South Carolina called for the removal of the one flying over the capital. Other states with it in or around their flags are discussing it. People within and outside of those states are drawing up sides. Even retailers are removing it. Amazon, Wal-Mart, Sears and E-bay have all stopped selling it. Apple is removing games on Itunes that display the flag. And the United States National Park Service has stopped selling them. It’s hard to keep up how fast it’s disappearing. Is this a good thing?

I’ve always wanted to go to Egypt. I’ve always wanted to visit Rome. I’ve always wanted to see the Vatican and Mecca. And closer to home, I’d love to tour the ruins of the Aztecs. My only regret in life has been not to have done more traveling in my youth, prior to starting a family. But it is what it is. I’m not above playing catch up in retirement.

Surely if I get to Egypt, which is my first choice for exotic adventure since I was nineteen-years-old, I’d see statues of Thutmose III on display. I’d see the bust of Djoser and inscriptions about Userkare, Amenemhat I and Piye. I’d see as much as possible. I’d see several depictions of Pharaohs holding the crook and flail as well as the remains of pyramids built for egos. All of this would be on display, encouraged to see and take home replica souvenirs. And yet, consider that Thutmose III was a conqueror. Djoser started the ego pyramid thingy. Userkare and Amenemhat I appear to have earned their time on the throne through usurpation. And Piye ruled Nubia before deciding he wanted Egypt too and took it militarily.

If I get to Rome, I’ll see the remains of that once great city too. And I’ll be encouraged to take home souvenirs of emperors long dead, some of which ruled with iron fists and little mercy. The Vatican and Mecca have their own soiled history of conquests and the Aztecs used to rip out the hearts of living people and offer the bloody pumps to the sun, committing this act thousands of times per year. Don’t forget your souvenirs.

The good news is that every place I’d love to visit no longer has ruling, conquering Pharaohs or emperors, squashing people under them who have less power. None have human sacrifice. None call for holy crusades or conversions by the sword, aggressions against people seen to be less worthy of life if they do not. It’s all history, and treated rightly so.

This is what I think about the Confederate Flag. Take it down from capital buildings. Remove any remains sewn into current flags too. It’s history. And it’s a sore spot we never want to go back to or present as “active”. But by all means, let it fly over Confederate historical landmarks and monuments. And let the monuments stand too. It’s history. Don’t destroy history. I feel like Indiana Jones about all this, “That belongs in a museum.” I say this addressing state governments. Feel free as a private person with your private property to fly whatever you want.

Surely each state will have to decide for itself. I’d like them to make the right decision. It’s history, put it with the other history. And feel free to sell souvenirs.

And a few days after the take down the Confederate Flag controversy, another flag was being pushed up the pole. One with pretty colors. The Supreme Court voted five to four in favor of legalizing gay and lesbian marriage across all fifty states. And the crowd went wild.

Two camps sprang up: Those in favor (most of the country) and those not. The “nots” have two divisions within it, crossing lines often: Some object on religious grounds. Others object on the fact that the Supreme Court overstepped it’s role, granted itself too much power. I’m happy to say that personally, I only know one person using the religion card. The other dissenters fall into the other camp which means we can talk about it. And although I can respect those who want to maintain integrity in how laws are made, I’m okay in this case with the way gay and lesbian marriage was fashioned.

Justice Scalia argued against the equality in marriage because it wasn’t the Supreme Court’s job but the day before, had no problem telling Congress Obamacare was garbage. He’s consistent when he wants to be. It appears Justice Scalia is willing to change job roles when it fits him.

There’s this hero of mine, Thomas Jefferson. And yet, a fallible politician. Twice he ignored the Constitution but the outcome is to our benefit. These twice violations were the Louisiana Purchase and sending the newly formed navy to combat the Barbary Pirates from North Africa. He was asked on what Constitutional grounds he made the Louisiana Purchase and kind of said it was for the good of future generations whether they knew it or not. And after years of the United States paying tributes and ransoms to the Barbary Pirates, when he took his turn as president, he ceased payments and launched the navy to stop the aggression, not bothering to notify Congress until the fleet was too far away to be called back.

And finally, on January 1, 1863, Abraham Lincoln through executive order, not bothering to seek approval from Congress, released the Emancipation Proclamation that freed the slaves of states that seceded from the Union. That, too, turned out to be the right choice. Even if some states still dig that Confederate Flag.

As long as we require government, decisions will be messy, boundaries will be overstepped. I risk extreme criticism with this next sentence. I’m okay with it if it always falls on the side of more freedom. Yes, admittedly this is a slippery slope. But let’s also be realists. How often does it happen? And how often are the results so tragic that a war is going to break out? I’ll say it once more, I’m okay with it if it always falls on the side of more freedom. And because of this, the Supreme Court made the right decision favoring gay and lesbian marriage in all fifty states.

The final thing to note is that fellow Libertarians have been complaining that letting gays and lesbians marry isn’t the point. The point is that government should not be defining social contracts between consenting adults. I agree. But government is involved in social contracts, giving out benefits and licensing for married people. So as long as this is happening, government must recognize same sex marriages too. If you want to change all this and get government out of marriages, file a petition. Get the ball moving. Or just join the Libertarian Party where all freedoms all the time are being pursued. We even got souvenirs.

Should marriage be redefined or is there a better solution?

civil-union-ringsTo counter my friend and co-creator of Freedom Cocktail (and to show there is no ‘groupthink’ here!), I say, “no” to the former but “yes” to the latter (read his post here).  I think it is a dangerous position to redefine a religious and sociological practice that has been around since before the concept of government.

This is not to say I believe same-sex couples should not have a legal solution that would provide the same legal protections and recognition as a heterosexual union.  I am all for survivor benefits.  I am all for shared taxation and insurance benefits.  I totally believe that same-sex couples should have a right to a division of assets via the court system when they divorce from their union.  There should be all of the same legal protections given to that union as a union between a man and woman.

I just don’t want to see words and traditions redefined.

50 years ago, suggesting two same-sex partners would be allowed to join in a legally recognized civil union would be met with derision, yet we are here.  This provides the basis for my next thought.  Since, just a few decades ago, the supposition of same-sex unions would have been thought of as a ridiculous leap in logic, how long would it take for something that sounds outrageous today, to become the new norm?

three-marry-in-civil-unionWhat if, years from now, an argument could be made that love between an older man and a young, minor male is something too strong to be regulated by an unenlightened populace?  Or, for that matter, what about an older woman and minor male?  A man and multiple women?  A woman and her cat?  Who are we to define “love”?  Can’t all of these be thought of as a “right” and therefore a marriage?

How do you keep “marriage” from becoming, “anything joining two (or more) things together who/that express love for one another”?

But, that’s the strawman, isn’t it?

This issue is not about love or marriage and should not be confused with the emotions associated with either of those two concepts.  The government — trust me — should not be in the love business.  What we should be doing is leaving religion to the church and laws to the government.  By all means, let’s seek the same legal and financial rules in our society for any committed couple who wishes to pledge their lives together (however long that may be) so long as it meets with prescribed notions of monogamy and legal age.  And they pay their licensing fee to the state.

But, let us not take the route of redefining concepts that have been around since time-out-of-mind.  When you do that once, you open up that oft-quoted box of doom whose lid is not easily replaced.  civilunion_canstock6275067

Should Same-Sex Marriage Be Legal?

Yes.

And I don’t even have a law degree.

It’s time to remember we are a Republic

As a complement to the piece I wrote last week regarding Chick-fil-A, I wanted to delve into an area that wasn’t specifically mentioned prior.  This area deals with the difference between the actions a private citizen is free, and protected by the Constitution, to undertake versus the actions of our political leaders, who, as still presumed by our Constitution, are part of our representative Republic.

It’s important to note that we do not live in a Democracy — not a true Democracy.  If we did, we would have to embrace the tenants of mob rule.  If we were a Democracy, then the majority would get its way every time.  There are no minority rights.  If a town consists of 100 people and 51 decide it’s time for a hanging, well, too bad for someone.  The other 49 could cry out until their throats went raw and it wouldn’t matter.  Democracy is two wolves and a sheep deciding what’s for dinner.

In a Republic, the majority rules, but never at the expense of the rights of the minority, which are protected within our Constitution and the Bill of Rights.  No matter how much you may dislike the opinion of someone else, they have the same right to speak their opinion as you have to voice opposition to it, so long as neither person’s rights are infringed.

Our particular form of government goes one step further by allowing its citizens to elect representatives to help manage the day-to-day operations of our nation.  Hence, we live in a representative Republic.

But these representatives have slowly been forgetting their role is to represent the majority of its citizens, with respect the rights of the minority.  In this way, their job as an elected official is to reflect the desires of his or her constituency, so long as those desires do not step on the rights of others.

This is the hallmark of the freedoms and liberties we have in the United States of America.  Think how powerful this ideology is when compared to socialist, marxist, and communist nations.  We actually believe that any individual is free to live however they choose so long as they do not cause harm to another citizen’s right to life, liberty, and property.  We do not submit to the notion that a select few should be allowed to think for everyone else, let alone have the power to enact legislation that infringes on anyone’s rights as defined by our Constitution.

However, as mentioned above, some of our elected leaders have forgotten this principle, choosing to embrace the support of a vocal, sometimes militant, minority regardless of how it infringes on the rights of other citizens.  And though I’m focused on the recent irrational strife between a business in the private sector and several elected leaders, this is not the first time we’ve seen such a clash.  We as citizens of this country need to understand why these incidents are alarming, especially to those who revere the Constitution and hold the ideals of our Founding Fathers as the example to aspire to, not dusty thoughts from which to run away.

Every individual citizen has the right to turn the TV on or off as they see fit.  They can tune into whichever radio station suits their fancy and change the station if something comes on they dislike.  Every American can choose to pay $15 for a pair of jeans or $200.  It’s within the scope of individual freedom that anyone in our country can elect to eat at one fast-food restaurant but not another.

My earlier post dealt rather sarcastically into how some people, who have a different set of core beliefs, have gone far beyond making a personal decision to not spend their money at Chick-fil-A.  In fact, there is a militant minority who are so incensed they feel compelled to label this company as hate-filled and to foster a crusade against them based solely on the same words uttered by our own President.  In fact, up until it became politically expedient to “evolve” his views, President Obama was in lock-step with the same beliefs stated recently by Dan Cathy, even using the same words.

Whether you agree with the belief that the term “marriage” means a man and a woman or you believe it should be expanded to mean any two people in love regardless of gender, neither one of those beliefs contains a hateful element.  To twist it that way not only denigrates the conversation, but also leaves those on the periphery with feelings that range from disgust to apathy.

Is that really the goal of the militant few?  To attack the personal beliefs of another person through hyperbole and zealotry in hopes of irritating everyone else?  Whether you are on one side of the debate or the other, there is a common thread joining everyone together — a sense of agitation.  Those who are in favor of a traditional definition of marriage feel like they are under attack, regardless of whether or not they have stepped foot inside a Chick-fil-A.  Those who favor a more liberal definition of marriage feel like they have to be on the attack to gain acceptance for their view.  In either case, at its best, it’s an irritating situation and, at its worst, elicits anger and hatred.  People not even connected one way or the other are feeling pressure to pick a side — as if this a sporting event where there will be one winner and one loser.

Right now, we are all losers.

It’s not enough for the zealots (and rage-fueled zealotry on either side of the political spectrum always leads to poor policy) to craft a firestorm over a religious difference of opinion, it’s moved toward an orchestrated campaign, including fake tweets, social media spamming of bitter political cartoons and user-created anti-Chick-fil-A posters (which are just as hate-filled as the subject they purport to reflect).  Now we have elected politicians in San Francisco, Chicago, Boston and Philadelphia making monarchy-like edicts that they will not allow another building permit for this business so long as they are in charge.  If you are a militant activist, this may fill you with pride, but the old saying applies, “Careful what you wish for, you just might get it.”

Today, your crusade may be to ruin a private business simply because you disagree with their views.  Do we really want to engage in this kind of mob rule?  Do we want to have our elected officials feel they can infringe on the rights of others simply because it gains them favor from a vocal subset of the electorate?

Take the particular subject off the table but leave the construct.  Let’s play a version of Mad-Libs where the story is locked in place with appropriate blanks for nouns, verbs and adjectives.  What would you be saying if those same leaders made the following statement:

The values of the gun control lobby are not in line with those of our city.  We are not going to allow them to build their anti-gun propaganda facility in our community.  We stand with the owners of assault weapons and will continue to support ownership of the most powerful guns available.

Suddenly, it may not sound so appealing to get all excited about government believing they can ignore the rights of some in order to cater to the views of others.  Shouldn’t this worry everyone in our country, irrespective of your views on the definition of marriage?  This way of thinking is not unlike what happened to Jewish owned businesses in Germany in the mid 1930’s.  If you weren’t Jewish, seeing someone else’s business shut down based on a differing religious view may not have bothered you at all.  In fact, you may have cheered about it.  But, look what happened when leadership become emboldened after being allowed to infringe on the rights of a sub-set of the population — a fascist regime came to power with a dictator at its helm.

This is something our Founding Fathers feared above anything else — that a form of monarchy would take root in our own country.  The crafting of our Constitution was a painstaking process for precisely this reason.  Regardless of personal philosophy, the one common outcome each of the framers wanted was to ensure individuals in our country would be able to live a life of independence, freedom and liberty, free from the tyranny of a central government.

Any citizen in our country is free to express themselves and to choose to support or not support any private business.  A gray area begins to form when individuals feel it is necessary to craft a campaign based on exaggeration, anger and spin in order to inflame others.  But there is no mistaking that elected officials are completely wrong to take a position that allows them to infringe on the rights of others.

It doesn’t matter how angry those officials may get over someone else’s personal views, we have the freedom in this country to think differently and spend our money as we want, so long as it does not take away someone else’s rights.  It’s a simple concept, but one that is so hard to keep in mind when someone has really upset you.  The degree to which you truly believe in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights does not get tested when you are in agreement with someone.  The true test comes from when someone is diametrically opposed to your views and you are still willing to fight for them as much as if you had agreed.  Heck, even the ladies on The View understand that.

We should all feel great concern when any politician feels it’s in his or her interest to ignore the Constitution.  That document was specifically designed to tell government what it cannot do.  The rights called out in that document do not come from government — they exist within each of us and come from a much grander place than a man-made institution.  The moment we feel it is okay to ignore its precepts because of an emotional tide is the moment we cease to be a free nation.  To seek the ruin of a business (and the thousands of lives connected to it) for no other reason than over a religious difference is tantamount to endorsing anarchy.  Not a single person’s rights, as defined by the Constitution, have been abused by the words of Dan Cathy (or Louis Farrakhan for that matter).

And by the way, no where in our Constitution or the Bill of Rights does it state you have the right to not be offended.

Personally, I believe that words have meaning and it is not up to the whim of others to change those definitions.  Marriage, throughout the earliest of times, has been described as the union of a man and a woman.  On the flip side, I embrace freedom and individualism and believe there should be legal protections for same-sex unions to give those couples the exact same legal rights that married unions have — shared insurance benefits, survivorship benefits, rights to shared assets, etc.  This makes legal sense and should be enacted and can make for a topic on another day.

Suffice it to say, I want as much freedom in this country as possible.  Am I a hate monger because my definition is different from yours?  Do I deserve to have an orchestrated campaign against me, my family and my business for having those beliefs?  I want to see the same legal benefits for any committed couple, I just do not want to redefine a word and the religious connotations that I have had for my entire life.

But, more importantly, I do not want an elected official to feel as though he or she is the ultimate arbiter — judge, jury and executioner — of the personal beliefs of individuals over which they feel they have dominion.  Regardless of your personal beliefs, you, too, should fear where that leads.