This Is Not a Confederate Flag

Things are a bit slow around here as I continue to pack up my library and work to get the house ready to show.  I have to say that I’ve begun to embrace the downsizing of my library.  I’ve never had a bibliophile’s attachment to books; rather, they have always held an instrumental value based on the information contained.  It really is time for me to embrace more practical methods made possible through digital sources.

In the news it looks like our favorite “Redneck” has, in fact, been fired from his bus drivers position.  I feel bad for the guy, but it’s hard not to think that he brought this on himself given the regulations of his employer.  Ken Webber will be represented in court by the Charlottesville-based Rutherford Institute.  In my ten years living in this city I’ve not once heard of this organization.

Let’s just get one thing straight: Mr. Webber is not flying a Confederate flag.  He is flying a banner that resembles a Confederate flag.  It’s a salient distinction in this case.  There is no evidence that Mr. Webber is a racist and beyond the casual language of “states rights” and rhetoric of individual freedom there is no evidence that this has anything to do with the Civil War.  And, from what I can tell, this has nothing to do with anything resembling a “heritage” violation or attack on “the South.”

There is nothing to see here.  Look Away, Look Away…

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14 comments… add one

  • Jimmy D Mar 11, 2011

    I’m not familiar enough with the facts of the case. The reporting in the link doesn’t really help with the details either. That aside, the one thing that stuck out at me was this:

    “It’s about freedom of speech,” Webber said. “You know I have the right of free speech. And no one can take that away from anybody.”

    His last sentence that “no one can take that away from anybody” is an important reminder of why personal education and an understanding of history and context are so critical to our daily lives. The right of free speech guaranteed in the First Amendment does not protect us from “anybody” encroaching upon it. It merely ensures that Congress (and according to extended jurisprudence, state and local governments as well) cannot pass laws that restrict our right to free speech. Private persons, private companies and the like are unhindered by the First Amendment’s prohibition. If your boss in a private company decides he doesn’t want you to say something or express something, your only recourse is to comply, encourage change, or quit. If you’re fired for violating that policy, that’s on you.

    Again, I dont know the facts of this case well enough to say whether it was a government coming down on Mr. Webber or a private employer. Just wanted to point out Mr. Webber’s error of law, if acted upon, could lead to tragic results.

    • Kevin Levin Mar 11, 2011

      I don’t think this case is going to go anywhere for similar reasons. Thanks for the comment.

    • Keith Harris Mar 11, 2011

      Sometimes I can’t believe that I once lived in a town surrounded by these guys! Ahhhhhhh…the memories….
      At any rate – good luck on the big move – and I am fully behind your efforts to downsize your library. One word – Ibooks :)

      Talk to you soon – and are we ever going to do that Skype thing??

      Keith

      • Kevin Levin Mar 11, 2011

        Hi Keith,

        Congrats on your recent talk. I recently lined up my first speaking gig in the Boston area.

        I apologize for not getting back to you re: the Skype idea. Things have been so chaotic around here and I suspect that it will continue for the next few weeks. I will definitely be in touch.

    • Lyle Smith Mar 11, 2011

      I think he knows enough law to understand that he can wave his flag on his personal property and in most public places. That’s the gist of his point. He doesn’t need to talk like a lawyer to make his point.

      • Lyle Smith Mar 11, 2011

        Oops, didn’t read the article. Not smart. He had his flag at his workplace, I see.

        Should be interesting to see how successful his claim is. Don’t know how compliant government contractors have to be with freedom of speech. I am assuming the company he works for has a government contract. Maybe the ACLU will get involved on his behalf.

    • Margaret D. Blough Mar 11, 2011

      Kevin-Even for public employees, the First Amendment defense has limits. One doesn’t give up the right to speak on matters of public concern just because one works for the government but it doesn’t prevent the employer from setting reasonable rules for employees. Content neutral rules are always best and the simplest to enforce (i.e., no personal items on uniforms, etc. instead of allowing some and not others). However, a somewhat recent US Supreme Court case, Garcetti v. Ceballos http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?court=us&vol=000&invol=04-473 allowed greater restrictions by a public employer over employee speech than had traditionally been considered the constitutional standard.

      • Kevin Levin Mar 11, 2011

        Thanks Margaret.

  • Billy Bearden Mar 11, 2011
    • Kevin Levin Mar 11, 2011

      Thanks for the link. They should have turned such an accomplishment into a commercial.

    • Margaret D. Blough Mar 11, 2011

      The whole vanity/private organization sponsored license plate thing is a stupid idea and has been from the beginning. In the first place, police hate these plates because it often makes it much harder to identify license plates. In the second place, the absolute toughest standard to meet in First Amendment law are the standards for content-based restrictions to be upheld.

  • James Kabala Mar 11, 2011

    The Rutherford Institute is well-known enough to have a Wikipedia page. (Someone cited it for having a press release tone, but I’ve seen a lot worse; it seemed reasonably NPOV to me.)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rutherford_Institute

  • Andy Hall Mar 12, 2011

    What’s funny about this — although not so funny for Mr. Webber’s wife and four young kids, who’ve been put in some economic jeopardy by his actions — is that that part of SW Oregon is mostly rural, and very conservative — it has more in common with Idaho than, say, Portland. If he’d simply had a flag that said, “REDNECK,” I doubt anyone would have noticed or so said anything, except maybe to ask where they could get one, too.

    • Lyle Smith Mar 13, 2011

      What I think is interesting though.. is that the CBF continues to evolve as a symbol, even if in ignorance. There are people in Europe who fly it. I’ve seen the CBF several times from a train, while traveling through Europe, Germany mostly. And you’ll see it at some football (soccer) matches in Europe and at large outdoor concerts.

      Being from Southern Oregon it must just be a rural, redneck, “hell no, I’m not from Portland” type of symbolism. It’s really totally harmless.

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