Trump, the Confederate Flag, and a Rage for Censorship

Why ban The Donald, Dems? The closer he's linked to the Rs, the better for Hillary in 2016.EXPAND
Why ban The Donald, Dems? The closer he's linked to the Rs, the better for Hillary in 2016.
Gage Skidmore

We live in a time where the left in this country is scoring wins like there's no tomorrow.

From gay marriage to Obamacare to redistricting, conservatives are licking their wounds and looking at the prospect of being denied the White House yet again in 2016 by their Democratic bete noir, Hillary Clinton.

So why the rage for censorship?

Take GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump's impending visit to Phoenix this Saturday. Both Republicans and Democrats rightly have deplored his depiction of Hispanic immigrants, but some would like to deny him a platform altogether, even if the billionaire pays for it.

When it was announced that Trump was moving his anti-immigrant rally to the Phoenix Convention Center, Phoenix City Councilman Danny Valenzuela, a Democrat, declared that Trump's "racially inflammatory comments" did not represent "Phoenix values," so he should be stopped from using the convention center.

In a press release, Valenzuela stated that, sure, Trump has a First Amendment right to say whatever he wants, but, (and there's always a but), "we should draw the line at allowing him to use the Phoenix Convention Center...for his hate filled circus."

Valenzuela pointed out that the convention center was a public building. True, but we allow all kinds of groups from the National Rifle Association to Netroots Nation to Phoenix Comicon to rent the space out. Why not Trump?

Democratic State Senator Martin Quezada said he backed Valenzuela's move on Twitter for the same reasons. But City Councilman Michael Nowakowski and Mayor Greg Stanton, both Dems, denounced Trump's rhetoric while saying that he should be allowed to rent the facility. 

A reinactment of the Confederate surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomatox for that event's 150th anniversary this year. Note the flag. This took place on federal land.
A reinactment of the Confederate surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomatox for that event's 150th anniversary this year. Note the flag. This took place on federal land.

"Mr. Trump has a right under the First Amendment to make absurd and embarrassing statements,"Hizzoner said in a press release, "and the City of Phoenix will not attempt to censor political speech based on content. The Convention Center is a public facility and open to everyone willing to pay for it – including Mr. Trump."

To be fair to Quezada and Valenzuela, Republican U.S. Senator Jeff Flake didn't want the Maricopa County Republican Party to sponsor the event. I think Flake's heart was in the right place, as he's long been a supporter of immigration reform and for a more moderate tone in discussing immigration.

On the other hand, Trump's antics could cost GOPers any share of the Latino vote, and with it, the presidency.

Trump's visit rips open a sore for a state that was torn asunder by the battles over Senate Bill 1070. I find the guy loathsome as well. The correct reaction is to demonstrate against the real estate tycoon, which I'm sure plenty of people will be doing on Saturday.

In my column this week, I addressed the overkill on the Confederate battle flag.

Even as the flag has come down from a memorial at the South Carolina capitol in a bipartisan effort led by Republican Governor Nikki Haley, Democrats are pressing their advantage on the issue in Congress, attempting to ban it from federal cemeteries.

See, once a year, private groups, at no expense to the state, are allowed to place miniature Confederate flags on 150-year old graves to honor those who wore gray during the Civil War.

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Our own Representative Ruben Gallego got in on the action, co-sponsoring a bill in the U.S. House to "to prohibit the display of the Confederate battle flag in national cemeteries."

The Democrat from Arizona's 7th Congressional District spoke as a veteran of the Iraq War, stating in a press release that, "The Confederate flag does not represent the values our veterans fought to defend."

American soldiers uphold our freedoms under the Bill of Rights, including the First Amendment, I would hope. 

Even if the attempts of Gallego and other House Democrats to ban mini-rebel flags from Confederate graves does not violate the letter of the First Amendment, it certainly violates the spirit of it. 

Just for clarification, this is from the U.S. National Parks Service's guidelines regarding federal cemeteries:

Superintendents may authorize the placement of small U.S. flags on each grave in honor of Memorial Day and other dates as designated by the superintendent.

In national cemeteries located in States which officially set aside a specific date as Confederate Memorial Day, the superintendent may permit a sponsoring group to decorate the graves of Confederate veterans with small Confederate flags. These flags will be removed from the graves as soon as possible following the designated Confederate Memorial Day. The acquisition and placement of these flags will be at no cost to the National Park Service. Confederate Flags will
not be flown on any cemetery flagpole.

Even if you find this rather limited practice offensive, "banning" an image that you do not like is heading down a very slippery slope. 

Should we ban the Confederate battle flag from all of our national parks? Should it be banned from historical reinactments as well as from grave sites?

What about a billboard by the side of a busy highway? What if its use is ironic or critical, then is it OK?

I have no affection for the Confederate battle flag. I know what it represents. And it won't bother me if Congress banishes it from the graves of the long dead, though I regard the idea as unnecessary.

But slavery stained the entire nation. And if you're going to start getting rid of monuments, flags and whatnot because their origins are offensive, there won't be much of the country left, from the University of Virginia, founded by that notorious slaveholder Thomas Jefferson, to the Washington Monument, honoring another slavehodling president, to the U.S. Constitution itself, initially the product of mostly rich, white slaveholders.

That's a history we should remember, warts and all.

Email Stephen.Lemons@newtimes.com.

On Twitter @stephenlemons.

Valley Fever on Twitter: @ValleyFeverPHX.


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