Freedom of speech is one of the most precious and important rights granted to an individual citizen by the Bill of Rights under the U.S. Constitution.
The right to speak freely was considered so fundamental that it was incorporated into the First Amendment.
Even while framing the Constitution, the Founding Fathers realized that a totalitarian regime begins to assert complete control over the people when individual citizens are no longer allowed to criticize their government. So they took immediate steps to ensure that individual right was preserved.
Although one of the most important symbols representing the United States is the American flag, for which brave men and women have sacrificed their lives to serve and protect, in the case commonly known as Texas v. Johnson, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that burning the American flag is a protected form of free speech allowed to government protestors.
However, in today’s madness of political correctness, merely flying a Confederate flag at her personal residence might become the reason a twenty-year veteran police officer can be terminated from her job with no warning.
Of course, not all speech is protected by the First Amendment. Exceptions do exist. You can’t libel or slander another citizen with impunity. You can’t incite panic or mob violence. And unless your last name is Clinton, you can’t commit perjury or disseminate classified information into public domain without facing serious criminal charges. And as everyone probably knows by now, you can’t yell “Fire!” in a crowded theatre and cause a general panic, unless there really is a fire.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I should acknowledge that I do not own a Confederate flag. I have never met and do not know Sergeant Silvia Cotriss, or the Roswell police chief. However, I do have great admiration for the Roswell police department and certainly can appreciate the difficulty that police officers face in the current attitudes shown by the general public, especially where instigators within the Black Lives Matter movement have practically inspired open season on law enforcement officers in Texas, Louisiana, and elsewhere.
Police officers have been ambushed and shot with alarming frequency of late, and a disturbing percentage of contemporary society doesn’t seem very upset about the murder of policemen, only the deaths of young black men (as long as they aren’t wearing a police uniform, of course.) Naturally, some of the public’s outrage is justified — the death of Laquan McDonald is only one example of a black man being gunned down by a police officer in what appeared on camera to be a cold-blooded execution.
While it is true that McDonald was carrying a knife, he was walking away from the police and not threatening anyone with his knife when an officer shot him multiple times. There isn’t much doubt in my mind that this is a classic case of excessive use of force by the police. But I’m not on the jury.
On the other hand, McDonald’s death seems more appropriately prosecuted as 2nd degree murder, not premeditated 1st degree murder. The problem is that prosecutors in their zeal often overcharge the defendant in a criminal trial, frequently leaving juries unable to convict the accused of anything at all. When the public has been convinced that the police have committed a crime but somehow escaped punishment, unrest soon blossoms into full blown outrage, which usually leads to senseless and unjustified violence.
Most people who saw the videotape of Rodney King being viciously beaten with nightsticks by multiple police officers were very upset by what they saw, this writer among them. When the police officers involved were acquitted of all criminal charges, the 1992 riots that broke out in L. A. and caused an estimated $1 billion dollars worth of damage.
However, mob “justice” is vigilantism, and no different than a lynching — punishment without trial and conviction. More often than not, innocent victims are the ones who suffer the consequences, not the genuinely guilty.
Police officers in Texas were murdered because of an incident that took place in Louisiana.
All lives matter.
My biggest problem with the Black Lives Matter movement is their inconsistency and the selective nature of their outrage. When a young child becomes a casualty of street gang shootout, BLM is strangely silent — unless, of course, the perpetrator of the senseless violence can be described as a white Hispanic, or classified as Caucasian in some form or fashion.
Tyshawn Lee’s life mattered. It mattered more than the life of some thug who resists arrest and perhaps causes the police to overreact.
As a result of heightened public tensions, cops on the street must walk on eggshells these days. My best advice to anyone who runs into trouble with the law is to cooperate with police if they attempt to arrest you, and then hire a good lawyer.
Because one civilian drove by Sergeant Cotriss’s house and saw a Confederate flag flying underneath the U.S. flag, he complained. Consequently, this distinguished public servant was unceremoniously fired from her job after twenty years of dedicated service to the community.
Sergeant Cotriss became a widow not long ago. Now without warning, she has lost her primary source of income, due to a single complaint from one person.
Now I am outraged. People who have been willing to die to protect my rights, personal safety, and private property are having their own rights trampled upon. Sergeant Cotriss should be immediately reinstated to her job and simply asked to remove the flag from her flagpole.
She has every right to display a flag on her own private property…and yes, I would feel exactly the same way if she’d been flying a Palestinian flag. But I can understand why the police chief would prefer his officers did publicly display a symbol that offended a hyper-sensitive liberal.
It isn’t mandatory to maintain our society that I should agree with your opinions. But it is necessary that I respect your right to have an opinion that I don’t like. Nor do I have a right to tell you what you can and cannot do in the privacy of your own home. The reverse is also true, of course.
Unfortunately, the type of person who would complain about a flag and get a person fired almost surely won’t see things that way. Their life matters, and their feelings matter. Yours, probably not so much.
Political correctness cannot be weaponized, or allowed to usurp the rule of law.