To be honest, my nose was never out-of-joint over the protests by NFL players during the National Anthem. But in the interest of honesty, I will admit I have been a fan of the NFL (Fly, Eagles fly!) since the 1960s.
It’s not that I agree or enjoy watching million-dollar athletes taking a knee or raising a fist in protest of a Country that enables their lucrative careers. There are quite simply expressions that madden me much, much more, such as the burning of U.S. flags. However, I do reserve a special level of rage for the sickly Westboro Baptist clowns, who are fond of expressing their Rights in the most insensitive ways at the most inappropriate times.
Maybe I prefer reserving my wrath for the greatest threats to Free Speech. The rage and discomfort we endure is the price one must pay for belief in our Constitution and for faith in the world’s most successful free and open republic.
Amendment I, United States Constitution
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Free Speech requires an appreciation for Advanced Citizenship in the U.S. of A. The more centered and focused you remain on the guiding principle of Free Speech, the more likely you will recognize that such citizenship sometimes requires herculean self-control when someone expresses thoughts and ideas in ways that infuriate.
It’s a concept a lot of people have a difficult time accepting, whether the issue involves a student opting to sit for the Pledge of Allegiance or a couple of knuckleheads burning an American flag. And sometimes – maybe at when it’s needed most – a remarkable moment unfolds in a way that’s unexpected and ultimately memorable!
And yes, when Rick Monday swooped to the rescue of the national standard, he too was expressing his Right to Free Speech as well! He spoke with his actions.
Advanced Citizenship – a level of patriotism fewer Americans seem to achieve of late – demands the ability to grit our teeth and chalk your outrage up to a higher national calling. Not that such a thing makes the demonstration any easier to accept. Consider these challenges a test … an opportunity to exercise your appreciation for the ability of those with whom you disagree to exercise their Free Speech, not matter how infuriating.
And no … the excuse that “They do it!” is insufficient. Let their actions define their character and Patriotism. Don’t let your reactions negatively define yours.
Keep in mind, it’s the lesser of us who choose to shout down or violently suppress Free Speech. It’s a tactic favored by those who would rather tell us what to think or how to vote at the point of whatever weapon might be handy. White supremacists and elements of the Far Left, such as Antifa, have much in common in that regard.
In the case of the National Football League, their recent misguided attempts to rein in the pre-game protests in the face of withering public opinion (more free speech about Free Speech) actually exacerbated the problem. My opinion is that the Players would likely have allowed the protests to die had they not been confronted in such a direct and public way.
But even as I encourage a daunting level of civic sainthood, I cannot give those Westboro Baptist idiots a sliver of accommodation. They are vile, mean-spirited, and unworthy – in my estimation – of even being called Americans.
Yes, if nothing else, I am a flawed American. But I can live with that …
There are nuanced limitations to this Freedom of Speech thing.
- You cannot scream “Fire!” in the proverbial crowded theatre.
- You cannot express thoughts or opinions under the name of your employer, especially if they serve to somehow conflict with business or embarrass them among consumers of their products.
- You cannot defame an individual or organization with false statements. A student’s free speech rights are limited somewhat while in school.
- You cannot openly exhort people to violence.
- At events deemed to be National Special Security Events (e.g. political conventions, inaugurations, Super Bowl), your Speech can be restricted to specified protest zones.
The recent hullabaloo over the National Security clearance of John Brennan, former head of the CIA, appears to fall into several of the above exceptions. Brennan’s security clearance was revoked by the Trump Administration, likely at the direction of President Trump, for – among other things – making wild, unsupported accusations of Treason on the part of The President.
My rationale for accepting the Trump Administration’s action against Brennan comes from the following:
- Although precedent has set the standard that former National Security officials keep their clearances in order to assist succeeding officials in consultation during sensitive events, the same precedent forms a link (in my mind anyway) between the former officials and the current Administration. In some ways, the relationship mimics the employee-employer relationship ,,, in a quasi kind of way. If the former official becomes an embarrassment to the Government, the Government should exercise their authority to withdraw the privilege of access to sensitive information.
- Brennan was spouting a lot of unsubstantiated viewpoints that in essence defamed the Government and The President. It would be impossible for anyone to successfully argue that Brennan – or anyone else – deserves to retain such access as they openly and continuously cause embarrassment and suggest treason unencumbered by any attempt to factually document the accusation.
- Yes, rescinding such access is a bit retaliatory in that it can affect Brennan’s ability to benefit monetarily. Yet that very sentiment underscores in a way that quasi-employer-employee exception to Free Speech. Ask yourself if any Administration (the quasi-employer) should allow a pointed and factually unreliable critic the ability to earn money using the very information managed, controlled, and heavily relied upon by the current Government? Seems like a slam dunk …
- Removing his security clearance does nothing to restrict Brennan’s Free Speech. He can still appear in forums, on cable TV, in print media. Brennan can say anything he wants, subject to the restrictions the rest of us are expected to observe. He might not make as much money doing it as he did before (in theory), but nothing about removing his clearance affects his ability to express his views.
And there you have the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of a beautiful Freedom instilled upon a Free People to ensure their freedom prospers and perhaps spreads to freedom lovers the World over!