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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.

A manner of speaking

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press
Wednesday, February 01, 2017 07:45 am

A Fed Ex driver in Iowa saw Old Glory in trouble and jumped in to save the day:

Reminiscent of Chicago Cubs outfielder Rick Monday famously grabbing Old Glory from flag-burning protesters at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles in 1976, a FedEx driver in Iowa City was captured on video snatching away a flag at Dakota Access Pipeline protest.

A reporter for the Iowa Press-Citizen uploaded video Thursday of the protest, which got heated when a group of individuals voicing fears of the "Illuminati" and "fascism" were confronted by the driver as they attempted to set the flag ablaze.

"All you guys back off! Back off!" the man said after grabbing one of the flags and trying to secure another.The blogger who linked to the story called the man a hero and said he was exercising his free speech no less than the wannabe flag burners:  "If someone has the right to burn the flag, another has the right to try and stop it."

Well . . . Actually, he doesn't have the "right to try and stop it." What they were doing was legal, however repugnant we might find it. What he die was confront people physically and steal their flags. It was theft. The Supreme Court got into some murky territory when it decided symbolic speech deserved as much protection as actual speech. Now everything from nude dancing to smearing yourself with chocolate is an expression of free speech. We're a long way from the First Amendment's original intent, to safeguard the political speech a free people need to be informed citizens.

But we are here, and there's no going back. What the Fed Ex driver had the right to do was offer counter speech, symbolic or real, to let the flag burners know how repulsive he found them.

I do understand the guy's attitude, however. Protest hit my street this week, and it isn't pretty:

A U.S. Army veteran in Fort Wayne, Indiana, hung a life-sized effigy of President Donald Trump from a noose in the man’s front-yard tree shortly after Trump’s inauguration, and cops say they can do nothing about the display that’s raising concern among his neighbors.

[. . .]

Neighbor Jared Paden said, "It was kind of shocking. Honestly, I don’t necessarily like it. I’m not really excited about it being in my neighborhood."

Paden continued, "I don’t think it’s respectful to Trump and a lot of people that voted for him to be president. I don’t think they should do it, but it’s their right. They have the right of free speech. So I’m not going to say they have to take it down, but I wish they would."

The veteran lives on Oakdale, just a few blocks up from my house. I'm pretty much in agreement with Paden: Not saying he must take it down, but I really wish he would. Tom Tiernon, our neighborhood association president, told NewsChannel 15 that  "we’re all for free speech, but we are concerned that a line has been crossed and what to do about it next." If a line has been crossed it's one of civility and good manners, not free speech.

Burning or hanging someone in effigy is an enduring American tradition, for generations the wack-a-doodles' way of figuratively giving the finger to one's detested enemies. The only way an act could be considered outside First Amendment protection is if it incited, or was intended to incite, violence. That's certainly not happening on Oakdale — it's  just one guy who wants everyone to know how honked off he is.

Donald Trump was the favorite of half of America and detested by the other half. The half that lost is, alas, the one with all the whiny pouters who like to ostentatiously hold their breath and stamp their feet when they don't get their way. I'm afraid we're all going to get very weary of protests before this is all over. On the other hand, the longer they go on, the more irrelevant they will seem and the easier to ignore. 

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