Banning Speech Empowers Hate, Colltalers
Terrorism, which in America is led now by a re-enabled white supremacy movement, seems to propose a challenge to the constitutional idea of free speech. But despite its complexities, it shouldn’t. The distinction between crime and freedom of expression is already in our DNA.
It’s actually been all by settled even before the Constitution, in what’s known as the Boston Massacre trials, by no other but a founding father, John Adams. Just as he defended in court a group British soldiers, the ACLU is fulfilling its role, by defending everyone’s right to congregate.
The issue has become a contentious one again, since the treasured, and nearly centenarian, civil liberties institution represented the organizer of the Nazi rally in Charlotesville. The violent gathering caused widespread injuries, and the death by car of rights activist Heather Heyer.
The ACLU, however, is not above criticism. It’s announced changes in the way it chooses to defend people and causes. But the obvious overriding issue is not which groups should be allowed to expose their vitriol. It’s whether they plan to break the law, which those ralliers did. Worst yet is that the police did nothing to prevent the violence. And that bringing loaded guns to a public gathering is not considered a crime.
There shouldn’t be much doubt about the distinction, then. Freedom of expression is a constitutional issue, not an ideological one, whereas crime is a crime, obviously, as law enforcement is accountable for omission. But the open and carry law, well, that’s just a horrendous law.
Guns, of course, were not central to what happened in Virginia – and in Barcelona, for that matter -, even as it seems an issue insulated from any challenges as the president himself. The right of anyone to express their opinion against the status quo is, and it should be, defended.
Six years before the Declaration of Independence, it was probably very easy to lose sight of what Americans want for a nation, and many had actually taken up arms to create one of their own. That ideal could, in theory, justify any act of injustice, committed in its name, right?
Not to John Adams, though, arguably the most important member of that extraordinary generation of leaders. For unlike most, he didn’t die a wealthy man, paid all his debts, did not owe slaves, and despite following a religion, was adamantly in favor of its separation from state.
In March 5, 1770, a British Captain, six of his soldiers, and four civilians, fired from Boston’s Custom House, into a crowd of some 400 protesters, killing six residents. They were to be trialled, and many expected, hanged, for the act. But Adams
successfully gained their acquittal. He defended them out of believing on everyone’s right to have legal representation, and won their case based strictly on the facts.
It was a case that got him no sympathizers, but whose enduring example of the rule of the law remains one of the cornerstones of our nation. Yes, its interpretation has changed with the times, as it’s supposed to. But its principle is not something that Americans can afford to lose.
Today, the ACLU and other groups – Planned Parenthood comes to mind -, occupy a constitutional vacuum that the Legislative has all but signed off on. All three government branches have been operating in faulty mode, but Congress has arguably the most accountability issues.
And it’s not just about Republicans; where’s the Democratic Party in all of that? Even as members of the GOP start to show discomfort on their association with white supremacists, and Trump’s utterly despicable stand on the issue, Democrats seem completely out of the picture.
In fact, past the half-year mark of this administration, and the party hasn’t even consistently owned the opposition, the way it faced itself for most of the 2000s. As it goes, there won’t be surprises on the 2018 midterm elections: they will lose again and so will the American people.
The national conversation has been about possible treason by a sitting president, freedom of expression, civil rights, nuclear threats, terrorism, and could also include vote disenfranchising, impeachment, the supreme, and what have we heard lately from their leadership in Congress?
The party’s restrained attitude towards white nationalism is at least not credible, given its er pragmatic approach to segregation throughout the 20th century. And let’s not get into corporate money ties, personal wealth, and conservative views of some of its most prominent members.
Democrats should be screaming murder about Trump’s possible collusion with Russia and support to white supremacists, now that the GOP is split at the core. Remember Benghazi? Four years and millions of dollars, for nothing? Well, it wasn’t: it derailed Hillary Clinton’s candidacy, just as the Swift Boat lie sunk war hero John Kerry’s. That split, by the way, is not moral: most are just unsure if and when to jump ship.
The ACLU, flawed as it may be, is almost all we got to prevent us from turning our principled beliefs into acts more fit to an unruly mob. And toppling statues, being from Saddam Hussein or Robert Lee, makes for dramatic TV and little else. Ask the Iraqi people. In a democracy, what’s the point of putting people in pedestals? Why give mediocre politicians the power to use public land for their personal take on history?
In these unlawful times, when serious violations come out daily from the highest office of the land, we need caution while exercising our duty stamping out hate and intolerance, lest we risk being hateful and intolerant ourselves. Groups that preach, Death to this or death to that, are despicable by definition. But we need to know exactly who they are and not in the way Jeff Sessions’ Justice Department is doing it.
We won’t sneak up and spy on them, compile lists, demand their addresses, like the department is doing of people who protested against the president. And all done for show, so after picking a scapegoat, we can all go home and dream we live in a fair and balanced democracy.
We won’t be silent and won’t silent them, but even as it’s way beyond an us-vs-them issue, we’re still in the majority. The ideal of America belongs to those who want diversity, who want difference, and to whom race, sex, and beliefs mean nothing when it comes to share this land.
All are welcome, even as it may be time for white supremacists to spend time in the racially and foreign-infused overcrowded prison system, whose profits have been instrumental to support their very own causes. Time for this minority to learn what being a minority actually means.
In other flawed news, we cheer Gail Borden, whose first commercial process for condensing milk was issued 101 years ago last Saturday. For all bad health and brutal wars sugar has caused for centuries, we take a sec to be partial, and politically inept, praising the little cans that sweetened many a hard childhood. We couldn’t have done without them. Or maybe we could. The eclipse starts around 10 am PST. Enjoy it. WC