Somewhere in Bumf****, Fla., there's a principal who apparently isn't obsessed with where one half of 1 percent of the American population gets to pee.
Unfortunately, he is obsessed with using authoritarianism to foster Americanism among his students. In other words, "Love your country . . . or else." A story Wednesday from WBBH television in Fort Myers proves that you can't make this stuff up:
A Collier County principal is requiring students to stand during the national anthem at school events or face ejection.
Lely High School Principal Ryan Nemeth told students during video announcements they'll be ejected from school sporting events if they refuse to stand for "The Star-Spangled Banner."
Nemeth told students the issue is very important to him, and the policy applies to students at all school-sponsored sporting events.
"You will stand, and you will stay quiet. If you don't.. you are going to be sent home, and you're not going to have a refund of your ticket price," he told them.
NEVER MIND that respect -- or love -- coming at the barrel of a gun (or the threat of being kicked out of a football game) isn't. What it is, is a lie. A Potemkin pledge. It is standing for nothing before a national symbol that half-assed dictators have turned into full-fledged idolatry.
The only legitimately American response to a half-witted, authoritarian bully like a certain Florida principal is to quite deliberately, ostentatiously and quietly sit during the Star-Spangled Banner.
And students who do will find the Constitution is on their side.
"Over a decade ago, Chief Justice [Charles Evans] Hughes led this Court in holding that the display of a red flag as a symbol of opposition by peaceful and legal means to organized government was protected by the free speech guaranties of the Constitution," Justice Robert Jackson wrote for the majority of the U.S. Supreme Court in 1943 when it decided West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnett.
Here, it is the State that employs a flag as a symbol of adherence to government as presently organized. It requires the individual to communicate by word and sign his acceptance of the political ideas it thus bespeaks. Objection to this form of communication, when coerced, is an old one, well known to the framers of the Bill of Rights.
It is also to be noted that the compulsory flag salute and pledge requires affirmation of a belief and an attitude of mind. It is not clear whether the regulation contemplates that pupils forgo any contrary convictions of their own and become unwilling converts to the prescribed ceremony, or whether it will be acceptable if they simulate assent by words without belief, and by a gesture barren of meaning. It is now a commonplace that censorship or suppression of expression of opinion is tolerated by our Constitution only when the expression presents a clear and present danger of action of a kind the State is empowered to prevent and punish. It would seem that involuntary affirmation could be commanded only on even more immediate and urgent grounds than silence. But here, the power of compulsion is invoked without any allegation that remaining passive during a flag salute ritual creates a clear and present danger that would justify an effort even to muffle expression. To sustain the compulsory flag salute, we are required to say that a Bill of Rights which guards the individual's right to speak his own mind left it open to public authorities to compel him to utter what is not in his mind.
REMEMBER, this ruling came in the middle of World War II. The justice continued:
Government of limited power need not be anemic government. Assurance that rights are secure tends to diminish fear and jealousy of strong government, and, by making us feel safe to live under it, makes for its better support. Without promise of a limiting Bill of Rights, it is doubtful if our Constitution could have mustered enough strength to enable its ratification. To enforce those rights today is not to choose weak government over strong government. It is only to adhere as a means of strength to individual freedom of mind in preference to officially disciplined uniformity for which history indicates a disappointing and disastrous end.
The subject now before us exemplifies this principle. Free public education, if faithful to the ideal of secular instruction and political neutrality, will not be partisan or enemy of any class, creed, party, or faction. If it is to impose any ideological discipline, however, each party or denomination must seek to control, or, failing that, to weaken, the influence of the educational system. Observance of the limitations of the Constitution will not weaken government in the field appropriate for its exercise.
2. It was also considered in the Gobitis case that functions of educational officers in States, counties and school districts were such that to interfere with their authority "would in effect make us the school board for the country."
The Fourteenth Amendment, as now applied to the States, protects the citizen against the State itself and all of its creatures -- Boards of Education not excepted. These have, of course, important, delicate, and highly discretionary functions, but none that they may not perform within the limits of the Bill of Rights. That they are educating the young for citizenship is reason for scrupulous protection of Constitutional freedoms of the individual, if we are not to strangle the free mind at its source and teach youth to discount important principles of our government as mere platitudes.WELL, this is the Age of Trump, and I suppose it's more likely than not that "to strangle the free mind at its source and teach youth to discount important principles of our government as mere platitudes" is exactly what people want out of public education today.
This is precisely why we have a Bill of Rights. Perhaps it's not so much to protect us from an abusive government but, instead, to protect us from ourselves.
Language of fascists, racists and morons in this video definitely NSFW
IN TRUMP'S AMERIKA, the above video displays what "love of country" comes to when severed completely from any understanding of human dignity or the principles at the core of the American republic.
It is the principles that underlie the Bill of Rights (and the Fourteenth Amendment) that define the United States of America. Not race, not region, not class, not ethnicity and not religious affiliation, but those principles define what it means to be American.
And whether we're talking about half-witted, racist vulgarians in Massachusetts or authoritarian school principals in Florida, that shared contempt for those tenets that define us as Americans call into question the loyalty of those making "patriotism" such an issue in the first place.
Traitors are as traitors do.
HAT TIP: Jeffrey Toobin in The New Yorker.