From: Dixie Col@aol.com
Dear Mr. Gabordi:
I have been closely following the recent media coverage regarding the symbolic hanging of a Confederate battleflag at The Brogan Museum in Tallahassee, and as a descendant of three Confederate soldiers–two of whom were mortally wounded in 1864–I must agree with those who feel that such a display does not constitute art. A display such as this is meant as an affront to those of us with Confederate ancestors, and is intended as a divisive political statement based upon bigotry and insensitivity toward those of us who honor the sacrifices of our Confederate ancestors.
Even though it is said that "art is in the eye of the beholder", there is nothing artistic about Mr. Sims’ display. His meaning is as obvious as a slap in the face to Southerners of all races who had ancestors who served the Confederacy. The Confederacy is part of Florida’s history, regardless of whether it is considered offensive or praiseworthy by the individual, and history does not change because of the efforts of those who attempt to alter it to meet their personal agendas. The fact that this display is being placed in our State Capital–Tallahassee, the only Southern capital not captured and/or destroyed by the Yankees during the War Between The States–just adds additional insult to injury.
Mr. Sims, and apparently you, also needs to be made officially aware that the desecration of the Confederate flag–and this display certainly qualifies as a "desecration"–is a violation of Florida Statute 256.051 which reads as follows:
256.051 Improper use or mutilation of state or Confederate flag or emblem prohibited.–
(1) It shall be unlawful for any person, firm, or corporation to copy, print, publish, or otherwise use the flag or state emblem of Florida, or the flag or emblem of the Confederate States, or any flag or emblem used by the Confederate States or the military or naval forces of the Confederate States at any time within the years 1860 to 1865, both inclusive, for the purpose of advertising, selling, or promoting the sale of any article of merchandise whatever within this state.
(2) It shall also be unlawful for any person, firm, or corporation to mutilate, deface, defile, or contemptuously abuse the flag or emblem of Florida or the flag or emblem of the Confederate States by any act whatever.
(3) Nothing in this section shall be construed to prevent the use of any flag, standard, color, shield, ensign, or other insignia of Florida or of the Confederate States for decorative or patriotic purposes.
History.–ss. 1, 2, 3, ch. 61-375; s. 5, ch. 91-221.
You state in your article that, "Anyone who thinks this is not a free-speech issue or about freedom of expression needs to think again." This statement seems to imply that you believe this display of Mr. Sims’, and the museum’s decision to display it, are protected "speech." I assume you believe that this is protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution. Am I correct in that assumption?
Throughout the South, April is celebrated as Confederate History and Heritage Month, and I wonder if Mr. Sims would find it offensive if I would create an "artistic" display depicting the lynching of the black, red, and green "Afro" flag. I can guarantee that neither you nor Mr. Sims would be defending my "artistic license", nor would you be defending my God-given right as an American to my act of free expression. Mr. Sims, and others like him, would see such a display as "racist", "bigoted", "insensitive", and "divisive." Those are all very apropos descriptions of his own display from the viewpoint of Southerners and others who choose, quite rightly, to honor the sacrifices of our Confederate ancestors. Your article also states,"How serious and strong the rumblings are remains to be seen, but the point is still the same: It’s about using government authority or the threatened cutoff of government funding to curtail speech."
If that is your contention, you evidently have not read the First Amendment, so I will show you precisely what it says:
Amendment 1 – Freedom of Religion, Press, Expression. Ratified 12/15/1791. Note
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; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Are you contending that CONGRESS is attempting to pass a law which will prevent Mr. Sims and The Brogan from displaying this piece of bigoted garbage, because that is the entity that is restrained by the First Amendment to the Constitution. The outcry against this display is a matter of public decency, and an attempt to condemn a public display of intolerance, bigotry, and insensitivity–it has nothing to do with any laws passed by Congress to abridge Mr. Sims’ freedom of speech.
Obviously, you have your own agenda in condemning the Confederate flag, descendents of Confederate soldiers, and persons who honor and appreciate the sacrifices of Florida’s Confederate heroes. You stated in your article,"It’s true that I personally find the public display of the Confederate flag in most circumstances objectionable and would oppose its inclusion on the state-issued license plates or other government-sanctioned, taxpayer-funded activities. I’m not even sure I know what the ‘honorable display’ of that which symbolizes rebellion against the United States means." (My emphasis.)
If you actually believe that the Confederate flag "symbolizes rebellion against the United States", then you have apparently never heard of the tenet of "government with consent of the governed", have you? It is an old, apparently out-dated concept of American liberty that used to be taught in American History and Civics classes back before the days of political correctness run amok.
I suppose you would disagree with President Thomas Jefferson when he declared in his First Inaugural Address (1801),"If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it." Jefferson was defending the rights of free speech and of secession.
The famous political scholar Alexis de Tocqueville observed in his pamphlet Democracy in America, "The Union was formed by the voluntary agreement of the States; in uniting together they have not forfeited their nationality, nor have they been reduced to the condition of one and the same people. If one of the states chooses to withdraw from the compact, it would be difficult to disapprove its right of doing so, and the Federal Government would have no means of maintaining its claims directly either by force or right."
Even Abraham Lincoln himself endorsed the right of secession in a speech in Congress on January 12, 1848 when he declared, “Any people anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up and shake off the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better. This is a most valuable, a most sacred right—a right which we hope and believe is to liberate the world. Nor is this right confined to cases in which the whole people of an existing government may choose to exercise it. Any portion of such people, that can, may revolutionize, and make their own of so much of the territory as they inhabit.”
Mr. Lincoln obviously changed his mind about our God-given right to "government with the consent of the governed" by 1861 when he summoned 75,000 troops to attack the sovereign and independent State of South Carolina to drag it back into what was supposed to be a "voluntary Union" of sovereign States, because the U.S. Constitution certainly wasn’t altered between 1848 and 1861 to take that right away from the States.
Some of our greatest American heroes–men such as Dwight D. Eisenhower, Harry S. Truman, Woodrow Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt, Ulysses S. Grant, and others–have spoken admirably about the heroes of the Confederacy, the gallantry of the Confederate soldier, and the valiant efforts to defend their homes and families from Northern attack.
The U.S. Congress has even passed laws officially designating Confederate soldiers as "American veterans" guaranteed the same rights and honors as any other American veterans. The V.A. even provides veterans’ headstones for the graves of Confederate veterans. Obviously the U.S. government does not consider Confederate veterans as "traitors." Do you expect us to believe that you and other modern-day revisionists have opinions regarding our Confederate heritage that are more valid than men of the caliber of those above-named? Are we to believe that you modern-day advocates of politically correct dogma are somehow more enlightened than the last 3 or 4 generations of Americans who have gone before you who have honored our Confederate heroes?
Do you also believe that our Founding Fathers were a traitorous lot for seceding from Great Britain in 1776? The circumstances were exactly the same in 1776 as they were when the South seceded in 1861–the absence of "government with the consent of the governed." Had we lost the War For Independence in 1776, undoubtedly you would be declaring that George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, and others were guilty of treason, and the U.S. flag would then, in your opinion, be a symbol of rebellion against the British Crown.
This offensive display needs to be promptly removed from the museum, and Mr. Sims and The Brogan Museum need to offer their apologies to all Confederate descendants who have been wronged by this senseless act of insensitivity. And the very least you, as the Executive Editor of the Tallahassee Democrat, can do is allow dissenting views to be placed as prominently as your own. This is a subject that definitely needs to be aired in public, rather than your simply expounding your views, and then closing the discussion.
David A. Anthony