Opinion | Susan Knopf: The Confederate flag and the First Amendment | SummitDaily.com

Opinion | Susan Knopf: The Confederate flag and the First Amendment

Susan Knopf

There’s been a brouhaha brewing in the county ever since July Fourth. Someone had the audacity to exercise his First Amendment right to display a Confederate flag. It was paraded along with a Trump sign, so there was widespread confusion as to who was promoting the ideals of the Confederacy. For the record, the Republican Party did not wave the archaic Southern flag. High Country 4×4 Adventure Group displayed the Trump sign and the Confederate flag in Jeeps.

Club president Maverick Gray said they have proudly rolled their Jeeps in the Frisco parade for the past eight years. I called Roy Stark, who drove the Jeep with the flag, and he said, “Too many ignorant people believe it’s about hate. Originally, it had nothing to do with hate. If I drive into a crowd of Muslims in a Chevy, does that mean a Chevy now represents hate?”

Apparently both Stark and Gray believe the Confederate flag came to represent hate as a result of Dylan Roof killing nine people on June 17, 2015, at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. “I just think its crazy that some lunatic shot up a black church, and he had a Confederate flag in his room, and now we can’t watch Dukes of Hazard,” Gray said.

According to Stark, the Confederate flag “represented soldiers who were trying to get away from the government because they didn’t agree with the government. It’s sad people want to erase history.”

I asked Stark why the soldiers were trying to get away from the government, and he said it was “taxation.” I asked him about slavery, and he said Irish people also were enslaved. Stark said the Confederate flag represents heritage. He was born in New York, moved to Florida, lived there during his early childhood, and then moved here in middle school. He said he now lives on the Eastern Plains of Colorado.

These folks don’t acknowledge any factual understanding of the Civil War and why the Confederate flag upsets people. Stark said he has close black relatives. I’m not sure Stark and Gray are hate mongers as much as they are the kids at the back of the class throwing spit balls.  To them, the Confederate flag is a sign of civil disobedience. It is, in fact, a symbol of white Southerners enslaving black people, trading them like we sell horses, a symbol of denigration, hate.

Clearly, anyone brandishing the Confederate flag wants attention. I think the president also wants negative attention to forge his base. In tweets over the weekend and then again on Monday, the president said four congresswomen of color should go back to “the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” Three were born in the U.S. and one came from Somalia. All are citizens of the U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, who is married to Trump appointee Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, who is Chinese by birth and a naturalized citizen, keeps insisting “the president is not a racist.”

Noam Chomsky, “intellectual” and far left-wing activist, nailed the president. On BoingBoing.net he is quoted as saying, “… Trump has to maintain the voting constituency, with one outrageous position after another that appeals to some sector of the voting base. And he’s doing it very skillfully. As … a political manipulation, it’s skillful. Work for the rich and the powerful, shaft everybody else, but get their votes — that’s not an easy trick. And he’s carrying it off.”

Both these events appear to be an assault on American values, good taste, good judgment and decorum.

The fact is Stark got it right, “We’re supposed to be free, yet if somebody does something that somebody doesn’t like, they want to take (freedom) away from them.” 

Vanessa Agee, Frisco marketing and communications director fielded the deluge of complaints about the Confederate flag. She wrote to upset paradegoers: “… the town of Frisco doesn’t examine parade floats for their speech content, because the Constitution and precedent are quite clear that the government should not abridge the freedom of speech. … It is dangerous and inadvisable to invite the government into regulating speech, and it is unconstitutional.” Well said. Next time, don’t give them the satisfaction of being upset. That’s why they do it. Maybe if we stop reacting and playing their game, we’ll have enough media time to thoughtfully discuss the issues and find real solutions we can all agree on.

Susan Knopf’s column “For The Record” publishes Fridays in the Summit Daily News. Knopf has worn many hats in her career, including working as an award-winning journalist and certified ski instructor. She moved to Silverthorne in 2013 after vacationing in Summit County since the 1970s. Contact her at sdnknopf@gmail.com.

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