Cinco de Mayo, The Flag, and Freedom of Speech

    Redcoats Leaving1776 — Independence Declared.

    Constitutional Convention1787 — Constitutional Convention begins revision of the Articles of Confederation.

    Constitution Ratified1790 — Last of the original 13 states ratifies the Constitution.

    We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common deference, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessing of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. …

    Bill of Rights Ratified1791 — Bill of Rights (the first ten amendments to the Constitution) is ratified.

    Amendment I : Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, …

    1968: Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969)
    Ku Klux Klaner Clarence Brandenburg was convicted and jailed after calling for “revengeance” [sic] against Jews and African Americans in a Hamilton County, Ohio, speech. The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously interpreted the First Amendment as meaning government cannot punish speech unless it meets two criteria: first, if it is “directed at inciting or producing imminent lawless action,” and second, if it is “likely to incite or produce such action.”

    1977: National Socialist Party of America v. Skokie [Illinois] (1977)
    Neo-Nazis intended to march through a neighborhood of predominantly Jewish Holocaust survivors. Suit was brought. An injunction issued. In the end, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the injunction was wrong, the Neo-Nazis were sanctioned — under the First Amendment — to march. The Illinois Supreme Court ruled the swastika was afforded First Amendment protection as a symbolic form of free speech, the swastika itself not constituting “fighting words.”

    1983-1988: Larry Flynt, Hustler Magazine, and Rev. Jerry Falwell

    In October 1983 Larry Flynt’s Hustler Magazine “ad parody” of a Campari ad (“interviewees” describing “their first time” sipping Campari) showed the Reverend Jerry Falwell describing his “first time” as being with his mother in an outhouse.

    Farwell sued for libel, invasion of privacy, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

    1984 Lower court found in Farwell’s favor.
    1986 Fourth Circuit Court found in Falwell’s favor.
    1988 United States Supreme Court voted unanimously in favor of Larry Flynt and Hustler Magazine stating, “[T]he fact that society may find speech offensive is not a sufficient reason for suppressing it.”

    2010, May 5: Five California high school students were sent home after they refused to remove or turn their American flag t-shirts/bandannas inside-out in deference to students celebrating Cinco de Mayo (an observation of Mexican heritage and pride).

    American Flag T-shirt Banned2014, February 27: California Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, in Dariano v. Morgan Hill United School District, the school’s action.

    A few First Amendment and Right of Free Speech thoughts to consider:

    ~”If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all,” Noam Chomsky.

    ~If the First Amendment prevents majorities from silencing views with which they do not agree — even views the majority finds offensive to their very core — so individuals are protected in their expression of unpopular opinions, should not the opposite apply?

    ~Everybody knows American isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, ’cause it’s gonna put up a fight. It’s gonna say, “You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating, at the top of his lungs, that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours. You want to claim this land as the land of the free, then the symbol of your country can’t just be a flag; the symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest.” Show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then you can stand up and sing about the land of the free. … We’re a society that has assigned low priority to education and has looked the other way while our public schools have been decimated. We have serious problems to solve, and we need serious men [and women!] to solve them. ~ President Andrew Shepard in the movie An American President. Script by Aaron Sorkin.

    Would love to hear/read your thoughts on the Ninth Circuit Court’s ruling, as well as any you want to share about what the First Amendment Freedom of Speech means to you.

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    Dana Bailey - March 5, 2014 - 10:06 am

    I am a Patriot, I accept that many people want to come to America for a New Life and a Chance at a good one. With that Comes Respect and responsibility to the land you came to. The Flag here is Stars and stripes, if you want to celebrate your past homeland then you must also acknowledge the flag of where you are and wear it proudly. Otherwise in my opinion you do not belong here, if you are more proud of your other flag you should return there. No one, EVER in This Country EVER should have to remove the US Flag EVER for any reason. It is our Symbol of freedom, MANY OF OUR SON’s and FATHER DIED for it. This is a prime example of how slowly over time the Immigration of many peoples ( selfish, wanting handouts and freedoms they did not pay for)are going to change the US because they whine and cry when they do not get thier way. Very sad Very upsetting to me

    Rebel Sowell - March 5, 2014 - 3:26 pm

    I think those students need to take their case to the Supreme Court, but I’m not sure if even then justice would be served, not when the U.S. is being conquered from within. If I were a parent of those teens I’d yank my child out of that school. It’s ludicrous. Being a government-funded U.S. school, the administration should ban such celebrations if they’re afraid of violence breaking out. And if the celebrants of Cinco de Mayo are so against the U.S. flag why are they here? If they love their country, then shouldn’t they go home and fight for it? Not destroy the country that provides them shelter from a corrupt government. Assimilate or leave, that’s my opinion.

    Tana Bevan - March 6, 2014 - 10:23 am

    Rebel, It’ll be interesting to see if this case makes it up to the US Supreme Court. As for schools, have you ever thought about the fact that at 18 one is to be considered and adult, with the responsibilities it entails, and yet high school, doesn’t prepare a person for that? (Yet another reason homeschooling is popular?) It takes effort and THOUGHT to work on the cause of an ailment, rather than a symptom. If you want a healthy organism (be it a person, entity, or organization), it’s the cause that needs to be healed. That’s what a leader is supposed to do. Be the leader the head of a school, a country, an organization or household.

    Tana Bevan - March 6, 2014 - 10:39 am

    Dana — When moving to a country different from your birthplace, it is imperative you to learn its language and customs. (“When in Rome, do as the Romans.”) Even if you are ALWAYS more comfortable with your mother tongue and customs, you must RESPECT your host country’s (adopted country’s) holidays and customs. You are a guest. You have been invited. At an absolute MINIMUM, you should be able to carry on simple conversations, do your marketing, your banking, read at an elementary school level. The sad thing about a ruling such as this is, not only does not do any of the above, it creates hostility and animosity.

    Sheila Bergquist - March 6, 2014 - 9:54 pm

    I can’t believe where our country has gone and how out of control things are these days. It’s truly scary.
    I agree with you a hundred percent…when moving to a new country you must learn its language and customs. I am tired of pandering to all the foreigners who come here and expect special treatment. What happened to America? I find the whole thing very sad. Interesting post Tana!

    Tana Bevan - March 6, 2014 - 11:07 pm

    Hi Sheila. It will be interesting to see the result (fallout/backlash?) of this ruling. Will May 5 become a “show your pride in the U.S. of A” day? Will students and/or their parents protest by boycotting school that day? Or will something good come of it?

    Looking for that something good (or at least the potential for good), perhaps it could serve as a catalyst and wake up call. Perhaps this ruling could inspire discussion about what Free Speech means. What symbols mean. What it means to “acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating, at the top of his lungs, that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.” Without that, I believe this ruling will sow the seeds of hatred, animosity, and intolerance, even in places where none existed before.

    Sheila Bergquist - March 7, 2014 - 10:42 pm

    We can only hope for the best…something needs to happen to wake people up!

    Tana Bevan - March 9, 2014 - 6:05 pm

    In my humble opinion, open dialog, conducted with respect on all sides, is a good way to start.

    Sheila Bergquist - March 9, 2014 - 9:46 pm

    You are so right, but that’s sometimes hard to get! Imagine if we could achieve that with all problems, how much better life would be.

    Tana Bevan - March 10, 2014 - 1:40 pm

    Actually Sheila, now that I think about it, I think a combination of tolerance and respect — from all sides — is required. Toss in a bit of listening (perhaps even a smidgeon of empathy and/or compassion), and you’ve got the start of a great dialog, which might even lead to conversation, which then, who knows, could even possibly bring about constructive change … for the better. And isn’t that what the First Amendment is advocating?