Thursday, September 13, 2007

Freedom of expression

Thanks for the interaction on yesterday's article on the 2007 First Amendment survey.

I got a good chuckle out of an anonymous poster's comment when he said, "Oh, W.S. is just in his kitchen standing on a chair screaming 'Eeek! A Christian!' again." I liked it enough to add it to the "Can I quote you on that?" section over there in the sidebar. (Send your comments about The Burning Taper to

In today's news cycle there are two stories that seem to me to be related to the attitudes and views of Americans as indicated by the First Amendment survey. Both stories seem to indicate that a majority of Americans hold the twin icons of our country, the American flag and Jesus, in higher esteem than they do tolerance for our differences and for "liberty and justice for all."

Matt Drudge yesterday linked to a North Carolina TV station's story about a Sampson County high school not allowing students to wear clothing displaying the American flag. Actually, the ban was against students wearing any flag, American or otherwise. The logic behind the ban was that gang members identify themselves with flags of different countries.

Personally, I think that's lame logic, but I agree if one flag is banned, then all, including the American flag, should be banned.

However, I don't believe any flag should be banned. As a libertarian, I'm all for free expression, including by school students. If people want to wear red, white and blue clothing, or flags — any flag — I'm all for it.

(Aside: I'm old enough to remember when hippies took to wearing American flag patches and red, white and blue clothing, hats and bandanas. In those days, the "Establishment" took offense at that, saying that type of clothing showed disrespect to the flag. Nowadays, shirts and jackets mimic the flag, and the flag emblem is everywhere. Thanks to retailers like Old Navy, most everyone has some item of clothing that 35 years ago would have been considered disrespectful of the flag. Now it's considered patriotic. When did that change?)

After a day's pummeling in the press, the Sampson County School Board overruled the local school's ban, and today, students can wear any flag they wish to on their clothing. Good call.

So what does this have to do with yesterday's First Amendment survey?

On the TV station's website, accompanying both stories is a poll asking "Should schools be allowed to ban clothes that display flags?" The answer-choices were Yes, No, An exception should be made for American flags, and An exception should be made for other national or cultural flags."

Of course, I voted "No." Schools shouldn't be banning any clothing as long as the clothes cover up the essential "naughty bits" and don't have the commonly agreed upon "dirty words" on them.

Most of the poll respondents (at this moment, just over 20,000) didn't say "no, schools shouldn't ban clothing with flags on them."

Seventy percent said that an exception should be made for American flags.

So much for freedom of choice, and freedom of conscience, and freedom of expression. Instead of celebrating the freedom that the American flag represents, a majority of those answering the poll chose the rah-rah patriotic warm and fuzzy glow.

America used to be the beacon of freedom in this world. Now, according to polls, we'd rather rally around the symbol of freedom instead of letting everyone have a taste of that freedom.

And now, as Bro. Paul Harvey used to say, "Page Two."

I can't think of any female comedienne that I like less than Kathy Griffin, except for Rosie O'Donnell. (I haven't decided yet if I love or hate Sarah Silverman.) I find Griffin boorish and extremely unfunny.

But someone must like her; she recently won a Creative Arts Emmy Award.

The other day she gave a crude, but funny to the audience, acceptance speech, mocking award-winners who include Jesus in their lists of people they thank for winning an award.

I don't think Jesus gets too personally involved in granting wishes, or helping people win awards, or any of the other zillions of favors people ask of him everyday. I mean, by helping you win an award, wouldn't he be actively involved in keeping someone else from winning? Hardly seems Christ-like.

But I digress.

Here's what she said: "A lot of people get up here and thank Jesus for helping them win this award, but I have to say nobody has been less helpful in getting me to this moment than Jesus. I don't know what I ever did to him, I just think he doesn't like me that much, and if he had his way, Caesar Milan would be holding this statue right now, but he's not and I am! So I guess all I can really say is, 'Suck it, Jesus! This statue is my God now!'"

While the audience apparently thought it was funny, the Catholic League (and I'm sure other Christian groups, both Catholic and Protestant) didn't.

Catholic League president Bill Dohohue condemned Griffin's remarks, calling them a "vulgar, in-your-face brand of hate speech."

Hate speech? Oh, come on! Jesus doesn't offend that easily.

But Americans do. Most of the news articles I read about Griffin's comments wouldn't even print her entire quote. The E! Channel has already said it will delete her comments when the program airs on Sept. 15th.

Americans get offended far too easily. Jewish-Americans got up in arms 20 years ago when Bro. Jesse Jackson called them "hymies." Jackson himself gets all high-and-mightily miffed when a black man calls another black man "nigger." Don Imus caught hell for joking about "nappy headed ho's." Newspapers won't even reprint Griffin's comments for fear of offending Christian readers.

In a comment to the First Amendment story yesterday, Bodo summed it up succinctly. "Freedom," he wrote, "is frightening to ignorant people. They know deep down inside that they can't trust themselves, and so they don't trust anyone else (assuming everyone is like them) and want protection."

Let freedom ring. Let others speak. Don't censor their choice of clothing or their choice of words. If someone doesn't like you, or attacks your sacred cow, relish in it. Be proud that you're living in a country where you — and everyone else — has freedom of expression.

Sometimes I get complaints about what I write on this blog: "You shouldn't say that," or "I don't like your tone," or "You're too preachy," or "You're doing a disservice to Freemasonry by exposing such and such."

Those are all expressions of a desire for censorship, for the suppression of ideas, because I've pushed the envelope of someone's belief system. People don't like hearing things that go against their set-in-stone beliefs. "How dare you question my politics/religion/Freemasonry?!"

As Thomas Jefferson said, "Question with boldness even the existence of God...."

He also said this: "I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it."

Live free.

And let others do the same.

Image: The Bill of Rights

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  1. I love how people alive with feelings are defending JC's feelings, who is dead, or never may have existed in the first place?

    Now we can not make fun of a potential myth?

  2. Kathy who?

    It takes a lot of Hollywood ego to poke fun at a man who taught peace and love.

    I have to wonder what Kathy "What's-her-name" will do as a follow up? Go out to the clubs without her panties or drive drunk?

    Let's face it, she will not be remembered. At best, she will be an answer to a trivia question.

    Just because a dog barks at a lion, it doesn't make the lion any less great.

  3. To those who say Burning Taper is doing a disservice to masonry...

    Think back, how did Freemasonry start? Enlightened people organized and associated with one another in secrecy to prevent execution or imprisonment.

    I relate this today. Those who accuse Widow's Son for not having guts to post his name; perhaps he is spreading his ideas of enlightenment and is protecting himself from expulsion with a screename.

    I find his ideas quite open-minded and besides, I don't have to agree with him if I don't want to. Just becuase someone is saying something you don't think should be said, dosen't mean THEY should stop; it simply means YOU stop listening. Freedom is a beautiful thing isn't it?

    At the close of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia on September 18, 1787, a Mrs. Powel anxiously awaited the results, and as Benjamin Franklin emerged from the long task now finished, asked him directly: "Well Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?" "A republic, if you can keep it" responded Franklin.

    Freemasonic movement within Freemasonry!



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