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Tag: the First Amendment

This photo shows construction workers in hard hats using a crane to remove the John B. Castleman statue from traffic circle in the Cherokee Triangle, a Louisville KY neighborhood. Castleman fought on the Confederate side in the Civil War, but changed his mind later and fought segregation in Louisville parks. The statue was to be moved to the cemetery where Castleman was buried.

Whose history?

By Jan S. Gephardt and G.S. Norwood

They say that the winners get to decide whose history—that is, whose version of history—becomes the “official history.” But when it comes to the so-called “Lost Cause,” that isn’t necessarily so.

This photo shows a display of both US flags and the Confederate battle flag, as well as books bearing depictions of images from the “Lost Cause” pseudo-history narrative.
Photo courtesy of the Milwaukee Independent.

The pro-slavery South has got to be working some kind of North American record for being persistent sore losers. They’re certainly not the only ones to hold a long-term grudge in world history, but they’ve hung in there for more than 150 years.

Who was it again, that lost the Civil War? Yes, well, we all know denial isn’t only a river in Egypt.

History and the First Amendment

Jan has written a lot of blog posts this summer inspired by the First Amendment. Since the rise of the Black Lives Matter protests, these rights have been on her heart.

Especially so, because the clashes turned violent. Violations of freedom of expression, freedom of the press, and freedom of assembly and petition were thick on the ground this summer. We can’t afford not to pay attention.

This photo shows construction workers in hard hats using a crane to remove the John B. Castleman statue from traffic circle in the Cherokee Triangle, a Louisville KY neighborhood. Castleman fought on the Confederate side in the Civil War, but changed his mind later and fought segregation in Louisville parks. The statue was to be moved to the cemetery where Castleman was buried.
Photo by Pat McDonough/Louisville Courier-Journal via CNN.

The renewed calls to take down Confederate monuments are a topic we haven’t tackled till now. For every call to remove them, others cry “you can’t erase history!” But when it comes to issues of erasure and representation, we’re not sure the sympathizers with the “Lost Cause” understand.

They don’t realize that ideologues such as the United Daughters of the Confederacy—who put up many of the monuments—were actually the ones who rewrote, and erased, important parts of our collective history.

The question of whose history we represent—and whose history we erase—is a modern-day minefield where the rules are changing almost as rapidly as the demographics of this country.

A case study in Parker County, TX

A recent episode illustrates some of the complexities of this problem. As she wrote to Jan recently, reports from Weatherford struck home for G., who lived in Parker County, Texas, from 1985 through 2010.

Whose history should be represented on the grounds of the Parker County Courthouse? This aerial photo shows a stunning view of the Courthouse’s distinctive architecture and dramatic setting in the middle of the Weatherford Texas Square.
Photo by Charles Davis Smith, FAIA, via Reddit Snapshots.

“Twenty-five years. I liked the people I met there. They were smart, kind, generous people. Quick to volunteer money and time to worthy causes, they still believed in community groups like the Lions Club and the Masonic Lodge.

“They served on boards, organized rodeos, trail rides, and scholarship funds. They gave high school kids their first jobs, and made sure seniors citizens had hot lunches, affordable housing, and a nice place to go to socialize every day. There were black and Hispanic officers on the local police force and the regional Department of Public Safety (highway patrol) roster. Everybody turned out for the annual Peach Festival.

“I won’t pretend there wasn’t racism. I am white, so I probably didn’t see as much of it as the black professionals I worked beside, but I’m sure it was there, simply because it’s everywhere—especially in states that once belonged to the Confederacy.

The monument on the Courthouse grounds

“A generic stone statue of a nameless Confederate soldier had been placed on the Parker County courthouse lawn by the United Daughters of the Confederacy sometime in the past. Not a work of fine art—just a statement about the county’s history. And apparently its present reality, too.

This photo shows the stone statue of a man in a Confederate uniform, standing and holding a rifle atop a base that reads, “In honor of the United Confederate Veterans of Parker County, 1861-1865.” The base was placed on the grounds of the Parker County Texas Courthouse by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1915, but the statue’s date and ownership are less clear.
Photo by Dreanna L. Belden/University of North Texas “Portal to Texas History.”

“I moved away from Parker County in July 2010. Almost exactly ten years later, on July 25, 2020, some local progressives decided to up their ongoing battle to remove the Confederate statue by leading a small protest march.

“Some sources say there were about 25 Black Lives Matter marchers making their way up South Main to the courthouse square in Weatherford that afternoon. Some estimates go as high as 50.

The counter-protest

All news sources agree that the crowd of counter-protestors who met them was nearly ten times bigger—anywhere from 250 to 500 people.

Counter-protesters came out in force to oppose a small group of demonstrators calling for the removal of the Confederate soldier statue on the grounds of the Courthouse in Parker County, Texas. One of their displays looked like a jail cell with effigies of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in “prisoner black and white stripes” inside. Signs on it read, “Jail Transport,” “History Matters,” “All lives matter,” “Trump has opened our eyes to fake news and lies,” and “Deep state demon rats.”
Photo by Walt Burns/Spectrum News.

“The counter-protesters came with Confederate Flags. They came with signs, denouncing the Black Lives Matter movement. And they came with guns. One guy even mounted a semi-automatic assault rifle in the back of his pickup truck, military style.

“There was a lot of yelling, some pushing and shoving, and three people were arrested. One of them turned out to be a white supremacist leader from Utah. Nobody was injured, but I was appalled.

I had loved Parker County. Loved Weatherford. Made it my home for many happy years. Never in all that time did I suspect that such ignorance and hatred lived just under the surface. I still don’t know how to process it.”

It’s a lot to process. But that question of “whose history?” certainly comes down to some very personal history. As it is many places, it’s deeply personal for many in Weatherford.

Whose history is important?

Some people, like Kim Milner, who grew up in Weatherford and started a petition to keep the statue, call themselves “Those who want to keep the monuments that reflect our history rather than tear them down.”

But “That Lost Cause propaganda,” as protester Courtney Craig called it in an interview last June with CBS 11’s Jason Allen, has drowned out all other historical perspectives for decades.

Doesn’t mean those perspectives went away, though—or aren’t real.

This photo shows a crowd of the original protest group, who want the statue removed. The crowd contains both White and Black people, many of whom are wearing masks. A protester at the front of the crowd holds a sign that reads, “If you’ve ever wondered what you’d do during slavery, the Holocaust, or Civil Rights Movement, you’re doing it right now!”
Photo by Walt Burns/Spectrum News.

Tony Crawford, one of the organizers of the Parker County protesters, told Spectrum News, “My family was lynched on that square,” he said. “I’m going about this knowing full well that after that statue comes down, it may be too dangerous for me to ever step foot in Weatherford again.”

History’s context

Whose history do we value? Whose history do we preserve? Jan and G. believe that history’s lessons are the most rich and meaningful when we remember the voices, thoughts, and memories of all who had a stake in the events of the times.

That means not glorifying any single narrative over all the others. It also means placing things in context. And sometimes that means removing them from one place to another. Along with Courtney Craig, we believe that there may be places where Confederate monuments could be displayed. Confederate cemeteries, perhaps. Museums.

We do not, however, believe that monuments placed years after the end of the Civil War and intended as propagandistic declarations of domination by “Jim Crow” racists should remain on their pedestals overshadowing public spaces. Or stay in places where justice should be upheld.

IMAGE CREDITS:

All of our image sources come from great online articles and other sources that will reward you if you’re interested in learning more. Please dig deeper to your heart’s content. Many thanks to the Milwaukee Independent for the photo of “Lost Cause” books and memorabilia.

We also want to thank photographer Pat McDonough, The Louisville Courier-Journal, and CNN for the photo of John B. Castleman’s equestrian statue being removed from Louisville’s Cherokee Triangle. There’s a video of the removal in the Louisville C-J article, and an in-depth, illustrated list of other removals in the CNN article.

We’re grateful to Charlies Davis Smith, FAIA, via Reddit Snapshots, for the amazing drone shot of the Parker County Courthouse. And we’re also indebted to Dreanna L. Belden and University of North Texas “Portal to Texas History” for the photo of the Confederate monument at the center of the Weatherford controversy.

Double thanks to Walt Burns and Spectrum News for the two photos from the Weatherford protests, both the “Jail Transport” and “You’re doing it right now!” images. They really captured the range of ideas on the march that day.

And finally, we appreciate Mitch Landrieu’s words about the place of Confederate monuments in New Orleans today, made available via the beautifully-produced video from the Atlantic and YouTube.

Many thanks to all!

In this cartoon by Osama Hajjaj, a newspaper is torn apart by the personified logos of big-name Internet and social media players Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, and Google.

Freedom of the Press under attack

Important as the “sages of the ages” may have considered it to be, freedom of the press is under attack in the first quarter of the 21st Century. Many economic problems have beset our news media. Local newspapers have taken the hardest blows.

The business model that profitably supported newspapers and what we now consider “traditional” broadcast news media for decades has eroded out from under these organizations in the Age of the Internet.

In this cartoon by Osama Hajjaj, a newspaper is torn apart by the personified logos of big-name Internet and social media players Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, and Google.
(Osama Hajjaj/Cartooning for Peace/Global Geneva)

Freedom of the press is under attack from social media that draw eyes away from paid news sources, too. News aggregators depend on them, but they also freely borrow from them, reaping the benefit of their paid professional journalists.

This quote-image from Indian author Arundhati Roy says, “The crisis of modern democracy is a profound one. Free elections, a free press and an independent judiciary mean little when the free market has reduced them to commodities available on sale to the highest bidder.”
(AZ Quotes)

This changing landscape drains surviving news agencies drier and drier. The average regional newspaper that still exists has seen its staff of professional journalists dwindle down to a hard-working, multi-tasking few. Efforts such as Report for America (modeled on Teach for America, but a separate entity) can’t fill that gap.

It also has trained people to expect free news. I hear complaints all the time from people who have followed my links to a fuller discussion on a news source, only to face a paywall.

In this photo from March, 2020, the owner of a smaller local newspaper, the Sacramento News & Review, holds up an announcement that the paper is suspending publication, although it appears to have made a comeback since then.
(Terry Hagz/Sacramento News & Review/L.A. Times)

Free news, “echo chambers,” and the rise of fake news

Recent research by Reuters found that most people aren’t willing to pay for news. Those who do pay for a subscription rarely have more than one. And even those willing to pay may suffer subscription fatigue” from repeatedly being confronted with pleas to pay, wherever they go. Personally, I have at least ten subscriptions—I just tried to count them all and was kinda shocked—but I still get subscription fatigue.

This whole dynamic can lead to a range of problems. We all have heard how divisiveness in politics is exacerbated when people stick to their own echo chambers of information and opinion. Their confirmation bias grows ever more entrenched when they only listen to people who agree with them.

This quote-image from Franklin D. Roosevelt says, “Freedom of the press is essential to the preservation of a democracy; but ther is a difference between freedom and license. Editorialists who tell downright lies in order to advance their own agendas do more to discredit the press than all the censors in the world.”
(AZ Quotes)

Mistrust of information from the outside, and uneven or sporadic exposure to free news, that may or may not be accurate, poses an existential treat to democracy. Confirmation bias can cause people to avoid information that may make them question their beliefs. Even if it’s true.

This makes them vulnerable to chicanery. Malicious actors or propagandists have learned how to use this mistrust for their own ends. Roosevelt inveighed against “Editorialists who tell downright lies” in the quotation above. But in the Age of the Internet, they don’t even have to identify themselves.

This quote-image from Kathleen Hall Jamieson says, “’Spin’ is a polite word for deception. Spinners mislead by means that range from subtle omissions to outright lies. Spin paints a false picture of reality by bending facts, mischaracterizing the words of others, ignoring or denying crucial evidence, or just ‘spinning a yarn’—by making things up.”
(AZ Quotes)

People with no clear reference points and a distrust of established news agencies fall for fake news such as “Pizzagate” (referenced in an earlier post in this series). Or any other malign messages that foreign agents and domestic ideologues decide to package.

In this cartoon from Mexican artist Antonio Rodriguez, a tightrope-walker holding a pencil makes his way along a high wire, over a newspaper-like headline that reads “Fake News.”
(Antonio Rodriguez/Cartooning for Peace/Global Geneva)

A misinformed electorate

This is how wild assertions get spread and believed. They can be life-threatening messages, such as the idea that one might cure Covid with an injection of bleach, or that wearing a mask during a pandemic is somehow weak.

Or they may be democracy-threatening, such as the idea that one leader or political party is coming to take away all the guns belonging to members of the other. Or that voting fraud is rampant, so it’s futile to vote, or it’s okay to place burdensome restrictions on voting.

This quote-image from Melissa Bean says, “Mr. Speaker, democracy works best when the American electorate is engaged and informed.”
(AZ Quotes)

We can’t ignore or wish away the fact that freedom of the press is under attack in our world today. Misleading messages and widely-believed falsehoods are the very opposite of what prevails in a functional democracy.

If the United States—indeed, to a great extent if the world—does not soon learn to counter this pernicious trend, we stand to lose all of our freedoms.

The quote-image from 44th U.S. President Barack Obama says, “We have to uphold a free press and freedom of speech because, in the end, lies and misinformation are no match for the truth.”
(AZ Quotes)

IMAGE CREDITS:

Deepest thanks to Global Geneva and Cartooning for Peace, for two images: I also thank Jordanian cartoonist Osama Hajjaj for the unsettling image of the effect of all too many social media/Internet forces on professional journalism, and Mexican cartoonist Antonio Rodriguez, for his “tightrope over fake news” image.

Many thanks to the L.A. Times, photographer Terry Hagz, and owner Jeff vonKaenel and the Sacramento News & Review, for the “Suspending Publication” photo. I’m pleased to discover their demise wasn’t permanent.

And heartfelt gratitude to AZ Quotes, for the assorted quote-images used in this article: For Indian author Arundhati Roy’s analysis of the free market’s influence on free elections, courts and press. And for the warning from FDR about false messages in the news, long before the term “fake news” had been coined. For the description of “spin” from Kathleen Hall Jamieson. Once more, for the quote from former U.S. Rep. Melissa Bean (D-Ill.) on the importance of an engaged and informed electorate. And lastly for the Barack Obama quote about lies versus the truth (from a speech given in Estonia in 2014).

With a photo of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as its backdrop, this quote from Dr. King reads, "If we are to have peace on earth . . . our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective."

Freedom of religion

Monday’s post was partially inspired by a column I saw in the newspaper. Today’s post is, too. Same issue of the Kansas City Star, actually. But this one originated in The Times of IsraelSorry to say, it has a pretty dark tone. I’m talking about freedom of religion.

Yes, I mean the clause in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that goes, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” 

This illustrated quote from Thomas Jefferson uses a portrait of him, alongside his words, "The constitutional freedom of religion is the most unalienable and sacred of all human rights."

But I’m also talking about more than that. The need for–and the attacks against–individuals’ freedom of religion is a worldwide issue. And 2019 was a challenging year for those who support the ideabecause it was a pretty scary time to assemble for worship.

Fire in the holy places

I could approach this topic of attacks on places of worship from several directionsWarterrorismhate crimesshootingsbombingsarson (whether intentional or negligent) . . . Some took worshipers’ lives. Some “only” took historic buildingsholy books, or other sacred objects.

But all took peace of mind. All took traditions and cherished ways of being. And all scarred people’s lives.

St. Mary Baptist Church was the first of three historically black churches burned near Opelousas, Louisiana by an arsonist now charged with hate crimes. (photo by Natalie Obregon/NBC News).
St. Mary Baptist Church was the first of three historically black churches burned near Opelousas, Louisiana by an arsonist now charged with hate crimes. (photo by Natalie Obregon/NBC News).
Firefighters eye the smoldering remains of the Adas Israel Congregation's 118-year-old synagogue, which went up in flames this year. Although not the result of a hate crime, it was an example of irresponsible behavior that resulted in devastating loss. (Photo from MPR/Dan Kraker, via Jewish Telegraphic Agency).
Firefighters eye the smoldering remains of the Adas Israel Congregation’s 118-year-old synagogue, which went up in flames this year. Although not the result of a hate crime, it was an example of irresponsible behavior that resulted in devastating loss. (Photo from MPR/Dan Kraker, via Jewish Telegraphic Agency).
Assailants burned statues and holy books in a southern Sindh Province Hindu temple. The brazen attack sparked censure from the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan on his Twitter feed. Police officials promised an independent investigation, while the advisor to a local Hindu council demanded greater security for Hindu temples. (Photo from Imran Khan/Times of India).
Assailants burned statues and holy books in a southern Sindh Province Hindu temple. The brazen attack sparked censure from the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan on his Twitter feed. Police officials promised an independent investigation, while the advisor to a local Hindu council demanded greater security for Hindu temples. (Photo from Imran Khan/Times of India).
With a bonfire in the background, this quote from boxing coach Cus D'Amato says, "Fear is like fire. It can cook for you. it can teat your house. Or it can burn you down."
Without respect for others, we all live in peril from that third kind of fire.

Bullets, Bombs, and other Explosives

It isn’t only fire that’s been a threat to holy places this year. Even more destructive to the lives of worshipers is violent intent. People have fired hundreds of rounds, or lobbed bombs and grenades into sacred spaces. Into peaceful crowds of people just practicing their faith

It’s hard for me to grapple with the depth of dysfunction and twisted logic that makes such an act seem rational to anyone. But the evidence that it can be rationalized was overwhelming this year.

A soldier stares at the destruction of a Roman Catholic cathedral in Jolo, Philippines. Two suicide bombers detonated their explosives during Mass last January (photo from WESMINCOM Armed Forces of the Philippines Via AP/Times of Israel)
A soldier stares at the destruction of a Roman Catholic cathedral in Jolo, Philippines. Two suicide bombers detonated their explosives during Mass last January (photo from WESMINCOM Armed Forces of the Philippines Via AP/Times of Israel)
In a possible retaliation for the cathedral bombing, two Muslim scholars died and four others suffered injuries in a grenade attack on a mosque in Zamboanga. (Photo from Armed Forces of Philippines via AP/Al Jazeera)
In a possible retaliation for the cathedral bombing, two Muslim scholars died and four others suffered injuries in a grenade attack on a mosque in Zamboanga. (Photo from Armed Forces of Philippines via AP/Al Jazeera)
Mourners outside the Al-Noor Mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, where a white supremacist gunned down 40 people on March 15 (Photo from Agence France-Presse/Reuters via VOA)
Mourners outside the Al-Noor Mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, where a white supremacist gunned down 40 people on March 15 (Photo from Agence France-Presse/Reuters via VOA)
Bombs went off on Easter Sunday during services in several locations in Sri Lanka. Here's what was left of the sanctuary at St. Sebastian's Church, where 104 people died. (Photo from AP/Chamila Karunarathne via The Times of Israel)
Bombs went off on Easter Sunday during services in several locations in Sri Lanka. Here’s what was left of the sanctuary at St. Sebastian’s Church, where 104 people died. (Photo from AP/Chamila Karunarathne via The Times of Israel)
On the final day of Passover, a gunman opened fire on congregants at the Chabad of Poway Synagogue (California). This picture shows a makeshift memorial set up across the street. (Photo from AP/Gregory Bull via The Times of Israel).
On the final day of Passover, a gunman opened fire on congregants at the Chabad of Poway Synagogue (California). This picture shows a makeshift memorial set up across the street. (Photo from AP/Gregory Bull via The Times of Israel).

Can’t we make it stop?

Are you exhausted by the carnage yet? We’ve only made it to the end of April 2019, with our latter set of photos above. There’s been lots of violence since then, but I think we all more than get the point

There are dangerous people out there. They have guns, bombs, grenades, and flames–and they’re not afraid to use themDon’t seem the least bit ashamed to attack innocent people in worship services, although any such act is shameful and cowardly. They don’t care if a place has historic significance, or if it means something to others, although that attitude is invariably brutish and self-serving. Nothing within themselves seems to hold them back, and no security system will stop them all. 

But we can and must do better than this

We must support broader access to mental health care and social services–not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because it can help defuse the human hatred that sets off all-too-literal bombs. Keep pushing back till commonsense curbs put access to deadly weapons of mass destruction out of unauthorized reach. Strive for greater educational and economic opportunity for all, since we know that inequity breeds resentment and hatred. Stay alert for problems festering in our midst, and fearlessly call them out.

Freedom of religion isn’t only an American concept. It’s a basic universal human right (see Article 18)If we don’t uphold and defend it as a right for all, then it is secure for none of us.

With a photo of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as its backdrop, this quote from Dr. King reads, "If we are to have peace on earth . . . our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective."

IMAGE CREDITS: 

Many thanks to AZ Quotes for the wisdom from Thomas Jefferson. I am indebted to NBC News and Natalie Obregon for the photo of St. Mary Baptist Church in Louisiana; to Jewish Telegraphic Agency for the MPR/Dan Kraker photo of the burned remains of Adas Israel Congregation‘s synagogue; and to Imran Khan, via The Times of India for the photo from the temple in Kumb. I’m grateful for the quote about fear and fire by boxing coach Cus D’Amato, from Authentic Traveling with Andrew Scott

Many thanks to the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Associated Press, via Times of Israel and via Al Jazeera, for the photos of aftermaths from the two Philippine bombings. I’m also grateful to Agence France-Presse/Reuters via VOA for the photo from New Zealand, and to the AP and Chamila Karunarathne via The Times of India, for the photo from inside the sanctuary of St. Sebastian’s. Thanks also to AP and Gregory Bull via The Times of Israel, for the photo from Poway, CA.

Finally, I deeply appreciate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s wisdom, and the image from The Peace Alliance that gives it a dramatic presentation.

Why we should respect student protests

There are always a few. Not content to let history teach a giant, life-altering civics lesson, there will be a few school administrators who won’t respect students’ First Amendment rights to join the groundswell movement of student protests against gun violence, because it’s “too disruptive.”

We owe it to these kids to respect their fear and their feelings NOW. No one wants to live with a target on her back. Seeking the chance to “LIVE in order to LEARN” is NOT an unreasonable request!

When I was a high school journalism teacher, I saw this impulse first-hand. The traditional impulse of many schools is to keep the kids quiet, out of the way, and docile. The Paradigm of Control runs crosswise to the First Amendment (also to critical thinking).

Even more than corporations, kids are people, my friend. They have rights, weirdly enough including the rights of free speech, to freely assemble, and to petition the government. In my research for yesterday’s post, I found a quote that seemed à propos of the #ENOUGH movement and students’ rights in general.

People tend to place children in some kind of sub-human category, maybe a little higher than pets (or maybe not). That’s always bothered me. Even when they’re too young to be completely autonomous, they always, ALWAYS deserve respect.

It may be more time-consuming to reason with the child (and–reality check–parents sometimes have to just decide), but in my experience it’s always worth listening, explaining, and respecting. In the household, in the classroom, and in life, it just always works out better to listen and to respect. (Remember, they’re the ones who’ll pick your nursing home).

I also stumbled across a fun website built on that very principle: Kid President (unfortunately suspended in 2016, it seems). But in the spirit of the student protests and the message of this post, here’s a word of wisdom from Kid President:

You’ve now been schooled. Go forth and respect!

IMAGES: Many thanks to to the Mankato Free PressAP images, and Jim Mone, for the photo of the student protest in Mankato, MN, from which I cropped a detail for emphasis; to Gryphon House via Pinterest for the quote and image from Stacia Tauscher, and to OdysseyRobby and Brad, for the Kid President quote/image.

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