14 June 2012
Banning Cultural Symbols – Unintended Consequences
**UPDATE: This just in . . . Judge Wilson has dismissed the SCV case against the City of Lexington. The judges decision basically says that the new law is non-discriminatory since *it bans everyone. The SCV admitted that in court, but argued that the motivation was discriminatory and a violation of the SCV’s 1st amendment rights. SCV lawyers are reviewing the decision in regards to possible appeal.
Here’s an interesting thought. The ban was enacted due to a petition of "offended" citizens. While I can understand that emotional reaction to the flag in certain settings, I don’t think its warranted when the flag is displayed in a historical context – which was the case: Lee-Jackson Day in the city in which both men are not only most connected, but where they are also laid to rest. (Not to mention the fact Lexington also pulls in considerable revenue from tourism connected to the legacy of the two men.)
Moreover, consider the thousands of license plates where the SCV logo (which includes the Battle flag), is prominently displayed; and on a government sponsored item. Why not the same issues and results with the license plates? One reason, and one reason only: revenue. States raise enormous amounts of money from specialty license plates and if they banned the SCV, they would have to ban them all; thus losing lots of money for the state coffers.
Bottom line, many politicians and bureaucrats are willing to ban symbols and restrict expression which may offend some, while claiming the moral high ground in doing so – as long as it doesn’t deprive them of revenue. Morality among politicians does have its limits you know.
Also, while we are constantly reminded by lefty bloggers and historians that the Confederate heritage crowd is too emotionally involved, and like to bring "morality" into these arguments, we now have bloggers calling this a victory for "public decency." Good Lord. Perhaps the SCV would have prevailed if they had just claimed the flags were "art." Funny, the same end of the political spectrum that has a problem with the Confederate flag will go to the ends of the earth to defend as free speech and expression any perversion – no matter how offensive – which claims to be art.
I’ve read Judge Wilson’s decision. Though I’m not an attorney, I am a trained paralegal and worked 12 years in Virginia’s court systems, so I have more than a layman’s background in these areas. You may be surprised to know that I believe the judge’s decision is well-reasoned and will be difficult to overturn. When I say it’s well-reasoned, I say so because he bases his arguments on precedent and previous decisions of other courts – which is exactly what he’s supposed to do – unless he is convinced of the legitimacy of some new twist or argument which is compelling enough to override those precedents. Obviously, he was not. However, it’s my own opinion that another court might. I think the other decisions cited are flawed in that they don’t recognize motivation as a factor in these types of bans. That argument is far too complicated for my blog, but I just wanted to pass on my own initial thoughts. I may have more to say at some point in the future.
*This is seen as a cause to celebrate and as a victory by the ideologues on the left. Everyone loses – yippee! What a mindset. And they claim not to be emotionally involved. I think they’re lying.
End of update.
Another Confederate flag debate is raging over at Civil War Memory. I’ve chimed in with my humble opinion. In the never-ending debate over the banning of the display of Confederate symbols, I am reminded of the Dress Act of 1746. In reading about the Dress Act, I came across this observation:
The tartan ban, enforced by means of the 1746 Dress Act, was a determined effort on the part of the British government to stifle rebellion, humiliate the Highlanders and crush the power of the Chiefs and put an end to Gaelic culture. Ironically, however, it also elevated tartan to almost cult status. As so often is the case, the act of banning something made it seem more rather than less important, and the Highlander devised many ingenious ways of evading it.
While the Confederate flag (and even monuments) issue is not a perfect repeat of history, there are definite similarities. The current efforts are, in a sense, an intent to "stifle" rebellion and suppress some aspects of Southern culture. Though Kevin Levin argued on his blog that the flag issue was really not about politics, we all know that is not completely true. Read these posts and you’ll understand what I mean: here, here, and here. A political body passed the Lexington ban – of course it involved politics.
Like the Scottish Tartan, the constant attempt to relegate the Confederate flag to museums where it can be "properly interpreted" (by detractors, of course), has actually caused the flag’s display to be much more widespread and constantly in the news. And, like the Scottish Highlanders, the descendants of Confederate soldiers are continually coming up with ingenious ways of evading the efforts to lessen the flag’s display, thus thwarting the "oppressors."
You would think the "smartest among us" and the "professional historians" would actually learn something from history, wouldn’t you?