Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Ignorant boisterous free speech is OK, but silence is not?

You'll have to forgive me, I'm confused. It's OK to for an elected official to yell at the President during a speech, and it's OK to carry guns, be rude and yell at town hall meetings, but it's not OK to exercise your free speech by not saying anything and by merely staying seated? What kind of bizarro country are we? I didn't sign up for this.

TRENTON, N.J. — Three teenagers who say they were tossed from a New Jersey ballpark over their refusal to stand during the song "God Bless America" are suing the minor league Newark Bears.

The boys argue that their constitutional rights were violated when they were asked to leave Newark's Bears and Eagles Riverfront Stadium on June 29 by Bears' president and co-owner Thomas Cetnar.

Cetnar acknowledged the boys were asked to leave but declined to say why. He also has denied making some statements attributed to him in the lawsuit.

The boys — Millburn High seniors Bryce Gadye and Nilkumar Patel, both 17, and junior Shaan Mohammad Khan, 16 — sued in federal court on Friday seeking unspecified damages.

According to the lawsuit, the boys were seated behind home plate when the song began playing. Once it ended, they say Cetnar approached them yelling.

"Nobody sits during the singing of 'God Bless America' in my stadium," the lawsuit quotes Cetnar as saying. "Now the get the (expletive) out of here."

... "The boys weren't trying to make any political statements, they just didn't get up," he said. "No one gave them an ultimatum. The song was sung, it was finished, then they were thrown out."

..."I think what makes it so horrible is that they were publicly humiliated for exercising a right that was guaranteed to them by the United States Constitution," Gadye said ...

And don't tell me it's the national anthem. God Bless America is not our anthem. I do stand during the Star Spangled Banner. I've got no problem with that. It's a matter of civic participation, rooted in ritual and has been performed at least semi-regularly at ballgames since the 1890's. God Bless America, however, is overtly religious and has only been played with any type of regularity at ballgames since 9/11.

If you ask me, Woody Guthrie's This Land is Your Land is a much more fitting anthem. Let's see ... on the one hand, we have a couple of "anthems" that glorify religion (specifically Christianity) and war. On the other hand, we have a song that talks about the natural beauty of our country and of brotherhood. The last couple of verses of This Land is Your Land are even oddly prescient (considering they were written in 1956):

"... As I was walkin' - I saw a sign there
And that sign said - no tress passin'
But on the other side .... it didn't say nothin!
Now that side was made for you and me!


In the squares of the city - In the shadow of the steeple
Near the relief office - I see my people
And some are grumblin' and some are wonderin'
If this land's still made for you and me."

I'm grumblin' and wonderin' indeed.

1 comment:

wunelle said...

There seems to be no bottom to the grip of conservative nuttiness that has us imprisoned in our own country.

Maybe we should implement some basic educational litmus test for voting privileges... (If you believe that saddles on dinosaurs looks good, NO VOTE FOR YOU!)