There’s been some excited Whoop-dee-doo about the unfurling of a Confederate battle flag at a public school gathering in Green Forest last week. I haven’t heard of reactions by the school’s superintendent or principal, but the occasion met with considerable to-and-fro hither-and-yon-yawn and back-and-forth in our local coffee shops and on social media.
The upside of the ensuing debate was getting treated to a history of the battle flag by the appalled crowd, and a rousing defense of the 1st Amendment’s right to free speech by the pro-flag flyers. I especially enjoyed seeing the rights defenders step out of their comfort zone and acknowledge that the US Constitution is comprised of more than just the 2nd Amendment and a bunch of annoying suggestions. So, hooray indeed for the 1st Amendment.
We certainly have the right to fly and celebrate the Confederate battle flag. We also have the right to fart on crowded elevators, tattoo swastikas to our foreheads, and roam around town with the windows down playing the Carpenters’ Greatest Hits on the car radio. If you want to you can get drunk and throw up at your sister’s wedding, wear white after Labor Day, or smoke your guts out and still collect Social Security Disability Insurance when your lungs go south.
Objections to the exercise of these rights are simply the preoccupation of elitists or, horror of horrors, the Politically Correct. Occasionally, someone with good manners, concern for the feelings of others, a kindly disposition, or simply with an appreciation for responsible civic behavior might express concern. Such snowflakes are, apparently, to be endured and not encouraged.
What’s perplexing though, is that Green Forest is probably our most diverse and family-oriented community. Large numbers of Mexican, Central American, Filipino, and Marshallese people work and live there; the children of these citizens and immigrants are a substantial presence in the town’s public schools and robust participants in school activities. One can only speculate how they feel about seeing a Confederate flag fly in their new hometown, but maybe the town’s leaders have filled them in on the whole “Southern heritage” deal and they’re okay with it.