Columbus Day, the flag and a certain song @ WTF 10/11

Before I begin today’s column…

Sorry for no WTF last week.

I was recovering from shoulder surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff… between the pain and the effect of the pain pills, it was just too hard for me to sit for the necessary time to even attempt to type out the column… therefore… I didn’t.

I’m still not all the way back and I still have some pain… I fear the recovery time is an absurdly slow and long process… five weeks before I can even begin physical therapy… but I am able to sit and type for a while now… so, here goes…

News item… “A Dallas school district voted unanimously to change the names of four elementary schools named after Confederate leaders.”

The story essentially says is that the board of trustees at the Dallas Independent School District voted 9-0 to allow the Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, William Cabell, and Albert Sidney Johnston elementary schools to change their names. According to the Board President Dan Micciche, the rationale being due in no small part to the violence that erupted at a white supremacist rally last month in Charlottesville, Virginia. Stephanie Elizalde, Chief of School Leadership, added, “If it was named for the single purpose of promoting white supremacy, then it should be changed,”

In my opinion… it’s a start. Albeit a small one.

It is a genuine start to changing how America views its history with very white eyesight.

This brings to this…

This past Monday was Columbus Day…

Columbus Day Parade strolls up Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue

Most places… notably NYC which still holds Columbus Day celebrations and parades… honor Christopher Columbus as this great discover of America. While, some in the minority others have decided to remove the holiday from the calendar and replace it with “Indigenous Peoples’ Day.”

Over the last decade or so it has become increasingly more and more known that Columbus, along with being the so-called discover of the new world… a fact many people of Scandinavian (Leif Erickson et. al.), as well as maybe even Asian heritage (the ancestors of the Native Americans in the Americas, who came 14,000 years earlier), would greatly dispute… was also a greedy and opportunistic mercenary avariciously looking to make a buck (some say to promote a war against Muslims who occupied the so-called Christian holy land), was also a slaver, a child abuser… there is evidence that says he  used children as currency and sexual rewards… a promoter of torture, (as in authorizing the chopping off of indigenous peoples’ hands if they were slow to produce wealth), and sexual enslavement of women and well as maliciously, and with a measure of immorality and immoral intolerance,, force fed Christianity down the throats of a native population who could care diddly about any Christian version of an almighty ruling force.

Whether you wish to accept this version of Columbus… or some more sanitized version… or somewhere in-between the two extremes… the facts exists that say the so-called discoverer of the New World and the peeps that followed… the so-called colonizers… were interested in primarily one thing above all other things… making a buck and somehow holding on to it and fuck anyone who got into their way. That is… profit for the few at the expense of the many and be damned about how it got into the few’s bank accounts.

Once more it is a story of how the 1%… a very white Christian 1%… was trying to control everyone and everything to produce wealth that they could amass and hold onto. If, that meant using Christianity as a tool to dominate and justify their greed and cruelty in amassing that wealth, then so be it.

Whether Columbus statues come down…whether the American government changes how it celebrates his historical reality and the day as a federal holiday is removed or not, the truth is America needs to face the truth about what he was and what  he brought to the Americas and what he foreshadowed for our America soon to be in a historical context… a war and veritable genocidal takeover…near extermination… of the indigenous people of continental America and the future enslavement of Black people, primarily from Africa, to be exploited as free labor to produce wealth throughout mostly the southern United States.

I come here neither to praise or negate Columbus as a historical reality but rather to detract from his propagandized school taught vanilla idealistic image and to say we need to stop blindly praising his false and/or idealized heroic personification and see our this “hero” for what he really was… a person with many faults and frailties who was entrapped within a fragile and malevolent societal and historical existence that was very unkind to those in the majority… the poor, the hungry, the fragile and weak of society… in essence the future and soon to be populace who would come to be known as working and lower middle classes in our more modern capitalist world.

I would add just as with the statues and schools and other institutions that are named for confederate historical figures that have been targeted for a name change or removal… no one is trying to rewrite history… the goal, the purpose, is to see history, in a more real and encompassing manner and rather than just very white eyesight.

One last word… I have heard many of Italian heritage lament the so-called detracting and degrading of Columbus and denigrating a day that Italians of all stripes can come together and celebrate their sociological and genealogical backgrounds.

To this I say… hooey…

Understand, my father was an Italian and thus I am partially from that Italian background and as such feel empowered to say that this is such malarkey if not outright bullshit.

There are many nationalities all throughout American cities and geographical areas who have days where they celebrate their heritage and never need a historical personage to use as an “excuse” to celebrate that heritage. They just have a day where they honor their ancestors, their heritage and their selves.

I mean if a Spanish neighborhood wanted to celebrate and honor their Spanish heritage, I don’t really envision them coming together and saying let’s have a Francisco Pizarro… or a Juan Ponce de León… day.
If Italians want to celebrate who they are, thenjust set a day… even a day in October and just do it. Just like any other ethnic group would do.

Hell… its probably not an exaggeration to say on any given day in NYC there is one ethnic group or another that is not celebrating their ethnicity with some sort of parade, party or celebratory occasion.

Just have an Italian Heritage Day…

Just fucking do it.

And if there are those who becry the loss of a day off and shopping at discounts… please… you think the 1%…. the capitalists of America would not come up with some other fabrication… justification… to have a day… a weekend… sale to steal your money?

Then you completely fail to grasp how big businesses operate in this world… in America… you fail to realize… and this is what they prefer… to understand how you are having your pocket picked by the 1%.

Believe me they will find another way to have a day to appeal to your all-consuming materialistic consumerism and piggish cupidity… oh wait… maybe I have missed the point myself.

I guess that really is the purpose of Columbus Day when you think about it…. a celebratory day of avarice… of being greedy and an insatiable hunger for possessions.

Some reality about the flag and a certain song…

With all this hullabaloo over the flag and people kneeling… sitting… standing at attention… or whatever… let’s examine some realities about what is and what is not required of Americans when the flag is displayed and and/or the national anthem is played and what is required of them

Like… are American citizens required to stand during the national anthem?

According to Title 36 (section 171) of the United States Code… “During rendition of the national anthem when the flag is displayed, all present except those in (military) uniform should stand at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart. Men not in uniform should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart. Persons in uniform should render the military salute at the first note of the anthem and retain this position until the last note. When the flag is not displayed, those present should face toward the music and act in the same manner they would if the flag were displayed there.”

However, note that nowhere are any words that appear that says Americans “must” or “shall” or “under penalty of law have to” do any of the Title 36 (section 171); rather it says “should.”

So… as an American am I required to do anything that the Article says, and if I don’t or refuse to comply, can I be penalized in any way shape or form… such as arrested or fined or both?

No and nope.

Section 171 does not specify nor impose penalties for violating the section of the code.

In fact, a Congressional Research Service report to Congress in 2008 says, “The Flag Code is a codification of customs and rules established for the use of certain civilians and civilian groups. No penalty or punishment is specified in the Flag Code for display of the flag of the United States in a manner other than as suggested. Cases… have concluded that the Flag Code does not proscribe conduct, but is merely declaratory and advisory.”

Or to paraphrase what the pirate, Captain Barbarossa, once said to Elizabeth Turner…  “The Flag Code is more what you’d call “guidelines” than actual rules. Welcome to reality.”

In other words, it is a guide and you can follow it or you can not follow as you so damn well desire.

No one can force anyone to stand for the national anthem… and… if you don’t stand you can’t be hauled off and put into chains or anything similar. In fact, the cases brought before the U.S. Supreme Court regarding the flag… mostly of defacing the flag… have had the justices saying that such conduct… to respect and honor the flag, including to stand or not to stand…  is protected by the First Amendment.

So, an employee… such as an NFL football player… can’t be punished for not standing when the flag is displayed and the national anthem is played?

This is where it gets tricky…

Yes, the argument is true that not standing for the National Anthem is a protected form of free speech or expression. BUT… if you an employee, on company time, being paid for your work, not following company standards that were clearly stated when you were hired or in a contract you signed then a company could say you have violated an agreed upon employee code and that is grounds for termination.

However, as far as I know standing for the playing of the national anthem and the display of the flag has never been a qualification mandated by the NFL for a person to play in the NFL and I’d be willing to bet dollars t doughnuts I’m correct in my assumption.

That may be soon addressed by the NFL powers that be as the rumor is that they… the owners… are considering changing league rules to make it mandatory that players stand for the national anthem. And, Dallas Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones has recently said, “Too many of the fans of the Dallas Cowboys perceive this as disrespect for the flag. And so I don’t want our team doing it.” And that if a player doesn’t stand then he won’t play for the Dallas Cowboys.

Interesting.

If, either the NFL owners as a whole made a rule regarding the players protesting by kneeling or sitting or whatever during the national anthem or if Jerry Jones made good on his promise to kick a player off the team… especially if the player were someone like running back or quarterback Dak Prescott… I think that would open Pandora’s box and get the NFL Players Association… or union…involved in a long drawn out legal case.

But, ignoring the legal battles that could erupt… if the rule is established by the NFL… or any employer for that matter… in either rules of employee conduct, employee manual or in a contract AND it is not against the law for an employer to make you do it, then could they make any standards or rules they want for their business and fire a person’s ass if they did not comply wit he standards of conduct or rules?

Nope, nada and no, they cannot.

More than once the courts…all the way up to and including the Supreme Court… have ruled that people cannot be arrested or subjected to punishment for defacing the flag or forced to say the pledge of allegiance.

The rulings were mostly specific to the government and various government institutions or systems, such as public schools, but a person does not give up a right just because he, or she, agrees to receive a paycheck for services rendered.

More than one website or legal or court authority has said that the law on your rights and employment is clear… and that your employer can only restrict them if the employer can prove a “Bona Fide Occupational Qualification Reason” to do so…

Sikorsky Aircraft which manufactures helicopters for the government and armed services as well as services the president’s and vice president’s helicopters can ask an employee to voluntarily give up some of his rights to search and seizure because of the classified nature of the aircraft it is manufacturing and that they have a legitimate fear of spying or terrorism.

Or in a more common and relevant scenario… if a person operates dangerous machinery or equipment, a company could require a person to submit to a drug test.

I am not sure under which legal opinion or argument any business could suggest that it had a bona fide occupational reason to use that would allow it to force an employee to stand for the national anthem.

What all this really is, is this…

Since almost day one of we the people being sent to school, we were forced every day to declare our nationalistic allegiance and dedication, if not patriotism, to our flag, our national anthem and by extension our country and government by standing at attention to pledge allegiance to the country’s prime symbol… the flag and to affirm and obey all the “suggested rules” that are akin to the flag and the hearing of the Star-Spangled Banner.

As if we were in some dictatorship or other form of strict oligarchic government or to put it into a more conservative line of thought… like some commie pinko country… like maybe North Korea or something.

For the record… I do not pledge my allegiance to any idols or images or religions, so why should I be “forced” to pledge any allegiance to any form of government or governmental symbols as long as I am willing to uphold my end of the implied social contract to obey any reasonable laws and rules of conduct of the society I live within… America.

And ya’ll know something else?

Seventy-four years ago, and counting, the Supreme Court ruled that forcing schoolchildren to recite the Pledge is in fact… unconstitutional. In 1943, The Supreme Court of the United States ruled in “West Virginia State Board of Education vs. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624” that forcing someone to stand for the pledge violates the First and Fourteenth amendments… “If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein… We think the action of the local authorities in compelling the flag salute and Pledge transcends constitutional limitations on their power, and invades the sphere of intellect and spirit which it is the purpose of the First Amendment to our Constitution to reserve from all official control.”

I would think this ruling would be applied to whether someone can be forced under some rules of conduct to stand for the national anthem just because they arbitrarily deem it to be the “right thing to do.”

You would think this would be clear but sadly it seems every year some teacher somewhere tries to force some child to participate in the pledging of allegiance to the flag. Forgetting that we actually live in a country that says people… including children… have the right to not participate in these civil, and arguably religious, ceremonies.

One more time… the Supreme Court has ruled… No one can force anyone… man, woman or child… to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance. You cannot make them stand up. You cannot make them place their hand over their heart. You cannot make them say the words. I don’t care what the errant school policy is. I don’t care how misinformed the district superintendent might be. I don’t care how personally offensive one may find it. You cannot force a child to participate in these nationalistic observances.

Again… the US Supreme Court settled this issue in 1943 with West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette. And, it has remained settled each and every time some city or state has tried to say otherwise… countless amounts of times in countless amount of cases.  Free speech… free expression… is a protected right under the Constitution… and that means no one can force anyone to say or do something their conscience requires them not to say or do.

And by extension this ruling also is applicable to trying to force someone to stand while the national anthem is being played as the flag is being displayed.

Simply put to do so would be a violation of the law.

And… more simply put… stop allowing yourself to be a victim of state propaganda.

No one… well at least the over whelming majority of those who are protesting… disrespects any man or woman who has honestly and honorably became a member of the military and fought in the many wars America has been involved in almost constantly since the America Revolution.

What is being protested are the lies that are continually paraded out to keep certain members of America’s population… specifically Black people, but also includes many others regardless of race, color or creed that are over worked, poor and just not very well connected… from being subjected to equal and fair treatment under the law as is deserved as the American citizens AND the human beings that they are.

Another thousand words…

 

 

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