A civil chat about flags and freedom
“Tell you whut, Betty Mae,” Billy Fred said to his wife as he hoisted the Confederate flag in his front yard, “if they don’t let us fly this baby, next thing you know, they’ll be takin’ away our Braves pennants and be makin’ us fly U.N. One World Govmint flags.”
“I know, Billy,” she said. “Did you see that danged Islam flag on the TV about that awful shooting in South Carolina?”
Neighbor Christopher happened along as they talked. Billy and Betty exchanged eye rolls — Christopher was pure libtard. Just last week, he was crowing about the Supreme Court upholding Obamacare for the second time. He just doesn’t grasp that providing health care for Americans will ruin the country. Now, they were just hoping he didn’t start on gay marriage.
“Hey, neighbors. Where was this Islam flag you saw, Betty?”
“Right below the ’Merican flag over the South Carolina Capitol,” Betty Mae replied. “They’re takin’ over. You get rid of the honorable Confederate battle flag and next thing you know, we’ve got that Sharon’s Law thing.”
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“Sharia,” Christopher corrected in his obnoxious, know-it-all, condescending liberal way. “And I think you are talking about the South Carolina flag. It shows a palmetto tree and a crescent moon. A star and really similar crescent are symbols of Islam.”
“Whatever,” Billy said. “That sort of thing just makes it that much harder to tell the good guys with good flags from the bad guys with bad flags.
“You know, Chrissy Boy, I’m worried about this flag thing. Allasudden, even the so-called conservatives have turned on the Confederate flag just because some loon who shot a buncha people posed for some pitchers with it.
“What’s next? Are they gonna tell me how many flags I can put on my pole without rehoisting? Are they gonna tell me how long my flagpole can be?”
Christopher considered walking on. His husband, Geoffrey, had just pulled in their driveway. But this was interesting.
“Well, Billy Fred, my friend, I think you’re missing some points here. The Confederate flag really is the American swastika. It was the symbol of a country that sought to establish itself on slavery and has been used since then as a symbol of opposition to the civil rights movement and to generally assert the superiority of whites.”
Billy Fred whispered to Betty Mae, “Can you believe this prick?” But they had to live next to him, so tried their best to tolerate him.
“In fact,” Christopher continued, “I’ve been carrying this with me.”
He pulled a piece of paper out of his pocket. Now Billy and Betty thought about running inside.
“This is from the so-called Cornerstone Speech in 1861 by Alexander Stephens, the Confederate vice president: ‘Our new government … foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition.’
“No matter what you say about this flag, Billy, its roots are repugnant. What it stands for is inhumane.”
This got on Billy’s next-to-last nerve.
“I ain’t inhumane. I do want dirtbags to know what kind of person is inside this house if they are thinkin’ about tryin’ to steal my stuff.
“Besides, I got a First Amendment right to free speech.”
“You absolutely do,” Christopher said. “I wish you wouldn’t fly it, but I do defend your right to say offensive things, so this counts.
“It’s the public flags that states are considering taking down. No one is talking about banning individuals’ flags or their right to look stupid by wearing this symbol of hatred on their clothing or, say, a tattoo on their forehead.”
Betty Mae jumped in. “Well, they pressured Wal-Mart to stop sellin’ Confederate stuff, and Wal-Mart’s a good Southern company. Ain’t nobody tellin’ me I gotta get my tramp stamp taken off.”
“Amen,” Billy agreed.
“It’s a business decision,” Christopher said. “Part of the idea behind free speech is that the marketplace of ideas will regulate offensive speech. Majority opinion will marginalize outrageous ideas.
“Of course free speech has limits. You can’t defame someone or create a panic by, say, shouting ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theater. You can’t incite violence, suborn perjury or foment treason. The state has an interest in regulating and even criminalizing speech that poses a clear danger — even of a behavior that is protected in the Bill of Rights.”
“Have you been watchin’ that Rachel Maddog again?” Billy asked. “It’s a damned flag. It’s not like it’s a gun. Flags don’t kill people, fergawdsakes.”
“Well,” Christopher said, “flags are easy, but we can’t talk about guns, so you win.”
Randy Essex is editor of the Post Independent.
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