Tag Archives: Civil War

Supreme Court to hear Confederate plate case

This is going to be an interesting case headed for the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans think Texas license plates should carry a design that includes the Confederate flag. Millions of Texans are on their side. Millions of other Texans — as yours truly — think the design is offensive in the extreme.


The state Department of Motor Vehicles has denied the design, citing a state law that says it can deny a specialty plate “if the design might be offensive to any member of the public.” Former Gov. Rick Perry opposed the design, citing its offensiveness to millions of Texans.

Cut-and-dried, yes? Hardly.

The Sons of the Confederacy think a denial deprives the organization of freedom of speech.

Here’s how the Texas Tribune reported the sequence of events: “The group challenged the DMV’s decision in federal court, but a district judge upheld the state’s decision to restrict what it determined to be offensive content. The Sons of Confederate Veterans appealed to the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which reversed the lower court’s decision. The court said the DMV had unlawfully discriminated against the Confederate group’s beliefs that the flag was a symbol of Southern heritage in favor of those who were offended by it.”

Southern heritage? I suppose it does represent one element of Southern heritage. That segment happens to include a Civil War that killed 600,000 Americans, a war that was fought over the South’s contention that states had the right to do certain things — such as sanction slavery.

The Confederate flag in the 150-plus years since the end of the Civil War has become a symbol of hate groups who fly the flag proudly whenever they’re protesting issues, such as granting all Americans — including African-American — the right to vote.

The symbol is offensive and should not adorn motor vehicle license plates.

I just hope the Supreme Court sees it that way, too.


Gov. Abbott must act as AG Abbott did on rebel plates

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott no doubt casts himself as a man of high principle.

Well, here’s his chance to demonstrate it. He can ensure that the state does not issue motor vehicle license plates that carry the Confederate flag on them.


He should take the argument to the Supreme Court of the United States and argue the same thing he did while he served as Texas attorney general. The plates are offensive to a significant number of Texans and they should not celebrate Confederate Heroes Day. Period.

As the blogger Tod Robberson points out on the link attached to this post, the plates would “honor” individuals who became enemies of the United States of America by fighting to defeat the Union during the Civil War.

Robberson writes: “It shouldn’t matter whether it’s a visible symbol on a license plate or the in-your-face knowledge — especially among African American taxpayers of the state — that Texans have to pay state employees for the day off to commemorate people who were enemies of the United States and who fought for the right to preserve slavery. It’s offensive either way to a huge number of people.”

I will add that African-Americans comprise about 12.5 percent of the state’s population, or about 3 million people.

Gov. Abbott is the same man who served as attorney general. He was right to oppose the issuance of the plates before — as was then-Gov. Rick Perry. The new governor should follow suit and not allow these license plates on Texans’ motor vehicles.


'Selma' lays racism bare

“Selma” may be one of the more important films of the past decade.

It tells the story of Martin Luther King Jr.’s efforts to rally a march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala. It’s gripping in the extreme.

But my wife and I took the same feeling away from the film as we drove home this evening from the theater. It was the presence of the Confederate flags being waved by counter protesters who did and said some nasty things aimed at the marchers.

Proud sons and daughters of the Confederacy keep saying — with all earnestness — that their pride rests in their heritage and that it has nothing to do with race. They contend, for example, that slavery was not the reason the Confederate State of America seceded from the Union.

But those Confederate flags waving at the Edmund Pettus Bridge and in Montgomery, where the marchers ended their trek tell a different story — at least to my wife and me.

This enduring symbol of the Confederacy often is displayed by those objecting to African-Americans’ calls for equality. Why is that? How is it that the Stars and Bars has become such a symbol of groups that remain dead set against equality for all Americans based solely on the color of their skin?

We watched the film tonight with our son and his girlfriend. Our son said the film is “tough to watch,” but said it is “worth the time.” We all liked the film very much.

For me, the toughest elements to watch in the movie were the brutality inflicted by law enforcement on the marchers seeking to cross the bridge — and the sight of those Confederate flags waving amid the hideous insults being hurled at Americans who were demanding the right to vote.

Yes, indeed. “Selma” is an important piece of moviemaking.


Court to ponder Rebel Yell

The First Amendment allows free political speech.

That might include hate speech. Does it include subversive speech? I doubt it strongly.

So … the U.S. Supreme Court is going to hear sometime next spring an appeal to allow Texas license plates to carry a symbol of the Civil War and what many millions of Americans consider a symbol of hate. Oh, and the Civil War? That was an act of sedition by the Confederate States of America that declared war against the United States of America.


Texas had rejected a proposed to have its license plates featuring the Confederate battle flag. A Texas chapter of the Sons of Confederate appealed, saying the ban violated the group’s freedom to make a political statement.

Now it goes the highest court in the land.

Part of me understands the First Amendment argument. A bigger part of me, however, is grossly offended by the battle flag.

I do not have any Confederate heritage in my background. However, I’ve witnessed the battle flag symbol waved proudly by Ku Klux Klan members demonstrating against the rights of African-Americans. If there ever was a more profound symbol of hate, I haven’t yet seen it.

Does this state — or any state in 21st century America — really want to sanction a display of this symbol with public money provided by Texans who have reason to be grossly offended by its presence on automobile license plates?

Texas said “no” once already.

Will the Supreme Court uphold the state’s refusal?

I am hoping it does.


Let's hear the rebel yell!

A story that has gotten past a lot of folks, including me, involves a license plate emblem.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that Texans should be able to display a Confederate flag on their vehicle plates.


I happen to agree with the ideas posted on the link attached to this post. The blogger Paul Burka notes that the Confederacy symbolizes a “terrible episode from America’s past.”

My many Texans friends who are proud of their Confederate heritage have taken issue with those of us who dislike what the Stars and Bars stands for. They have told me the flag represents pride for their state, that it’s just about “states’ rights” and all that stuff.

Burka’s view is that it stands for denigration of human beings held in slavery as well. Yes it does.

It also symbolizes a group of states that sought to dismember the Union. The states went to war against the federal government. They fired those cannon balls at Fort Sumter, S.C. in 1861 and committed a heinous act of treason against the United States of America.

All this reminds me of the bumper stickers one sees on Texas motor vehicles that proclaim the desire to secede once again. My favorite remains the one on the back of my neighbor’s pickup, which has “SECEDE” right next to a U.S. Army unit patch … which tells me he’s a self-proclaimed “proud American” who wants Texas to withdraw from the very country for which he proclaims his love.


These pro-secession goofballs just don’t get it.

Yes, it’s disappointing, indeed, that the state will be able to issue these license plates.

‘Carpetbagger’ no longer a four-letter word?

Former Massachusetts U.S. Sen. Scott Brown is considering whether to run for Senate once again.

He might run for a Senate seat in … New Hampshire!

Brown isn’t from the Granite State, which borders Massachusetts. Indeed, one can get from virtually anywhere in Massachusetts to New Hampshire in pretty short order, given that the Bay State is so small in geographical size. For that matter, so are all the New England states.

Is the former senator a carpetbagger?


And isn’t it a bad thing to roll into a state, congressional district, legislative district, county commission district — name it — just to win a political office?

The very term “carpetbagger” became known after the American Civil War, when northerners carrying carpet suitcases went south to “reconstruct” the states of the former Confederacy. The term also applied to Republican political appointees who moved south packing the customary sturdy carpetbag luggage that was common in that era.

Well, “carpetbaggers” have moved into states to seek public office and done pretty well.

U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy fought off the carpetbagger charge when he quit President Johnson’s Cabinet to run for the Senate seat in New York in 1964, even though he lived in New York for only briefly when he was a boy. RFK won, served part of his first term, ran for president in 1968 and was killed by an assassin.

Hillary Rodham Clinton had even less familiarity with New York when she ran for the Senate in that state in 2000. She won, was re-elected in 2006, served until 2009, when she became secretary of state in the Obama administration and now appears set to run for president in 2016.

Those are the two more notable examples of “carpetbaggers” who made good.

Right here at home in the Texas Panhandle, we watched a Randall County resident, Victor Leal, move into a rental home in Potter County in late 2009 for the expressed purpose of running for a Texas House seat that included Potter County; his former residence was outside the district. The new Potter County resident lost the GOP primary in 2010. Leal had to fend off questions about his residency, which likely contributed to his defeat.

All in all, though, “carpetbagger” might technically still be a pejorative term but politicians have perfected ways of scooting past the negative implications.

Former Sen. Brown no doubt has his elevator speech lined out if and when the question comes up. He’ll likely be able to say that New Hampshire and Massachusetts are so packed so close together, they share the same media market and they share so many common interests and concerns that living in one state is like living in the other.

Times do change.

Now this was a speech for the ages

Americans are filled this year with commemorations of seminal events in our nation’s history.

We’ve noted already the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, with its climactic speech by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who proclaimed for the ages that “I have a dream today …” This Friday marks the 50th year since a gunman shot down the 35th president of the United States, John F. Kennedy, as he motored through downtown Dallas.

Today also marks the 150th year since another milestone moment. President Abraham Lincoln stood on a field that once was the scene of immense carnage and delivered the Gettysburg Address.

The speech is remarkable for two things: One is the content of the text and the profound wisdom it contains. The other is its brevity. Here is the speech … in its entirety:

“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

“Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

“But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

President Lincoln was incorrect about one element of his remarks. He declared “The world will little notice, nor long remember what we say here … ”

Wrong, Mr. President. The world remembers.

And many of wish we could return to an era when statesmen rose to speak such wisdom.