Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Confederate Belt Buckles and Che Guevara

Recently in Clinton, Tennessee a teenager's free-speech lawsuit against the Anderson County School Board ended in a mistrial when a jury in federal court failed to reach a verdict.

The teenager, Tommy Defoe, routinely wore a Confederate belt buckle to school in violation of a dress code that bars the Confederate symbol from student clothing. By the time he finished school last fall he had been suspended more than 40 times for wearing Confederate flag apparel.
While many consider the flag a symbol of racism, DeFoe said he considered it an emblem of Southern heritage.

Usually cases such as this are dismissed by judges or settled out of court. It is rare that such cases go to trial. The attorney for Defoe is quoted as saying, "The fact that we have gotten this far and the fact that we came so close to a victory ... should send a message to all school boards in the country that if you are banning things based on the fact that it is offensive, that violates the Constitution,"

I know that the Confederate symbol has been appropriated by the Klan and other White power hate groups, but it has also been used to simply denote Southern identity and is often associated with everything from Southern Rock music to NASCAR to college football. I have no way of knowing the motivation of Defoe in wearing the Confederate Flag.

I generally support school dress codes, and without having set through the trail I do not know how I would have voted. If the dress code banned all slogans and emblems and symbols as clothing or clothing accessories, I would have had to support the school board. If the Confederate flag was specified as a banned item of clothing but not other controversial symbols, I would have to side with Defoe.

I am certain that many find the Confederate Flag offensive, but I do not think that that is sufficient justification for banning it. I do not think we have the right not to be offended. There are other symbols that I find as offensive as I am sure some liberals find the Confederate flag. If we are going to be selective about the symbols we ban, I would start by banning the peace sign (link) and images of Che Guevara.

Che has become chic. Images of Che Guevara have become popular items of clothing accessories among celebrities and the youth. Many decent liberal parents would be outraged if their teenage son wore a swastika or Confederate flag but never bat an eye at their child wearing a Che Guevara necklace or tee shirt. These otherwise decent people somehow never have equated Communism with evil the same way they do Nazism or even the Confederacy. Ask a liberal what their response would be if their teenage son was to wear an image of Hitler around his neck. How do you think they would respond?

Che Guevara was a murdering Communist revolutionary terrorist and in South America attempted to bring about Communist revolution. In Cuba, he was Chief executioner for the Castro regime responsible for the murder of thousands. As Cuban’s Minister of Economics and the Minister of Industries he was responsible for the total destruction of the Cuban economy. Productive factories were closed and food rationing implemented. Thousands of Cuba’s most productive citizens risked their lives and took to the open sea on makeshift rafts with only the clothes on their back to escape the police state created by Fidel and Che. These people are real heroes, not the jailer they were escaping; yet liberal parents think it cute if their teen wears Che apparel.

When Che is banned, talk to me about the Confederate flag.

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