…And I traded it in for a whole 'nother world, A pirate flag and an island girl –Kenny Chesney
Do you like Pirates? I know I do. I could watch Pirates of the Caribbean over and over again. Many people who live on the coast have pirate bumper stickers that say Salt Life. But Pirates have bad reputations because they pillaged innocent people, even though we don’t normally associate them in that way. Usually, we associate them with island vacations where people let go of their worries and play instead of worrying about work. Still, maybe we ought to ban pirates because they didn’t respect the rights of those they pillaged? On second thought, that might make some people very sad. Pirate aficionados derive joy in thinking about living by their own rules and leaving behind their responsibilities. Pirates are so popular among some groups of people that there are toys, flags, clothing, and even a Talk Like A Pirate Day. Besides, just because some people find pirates offensive, the First Amendment protects free speech, so long as it isn’t inciting people to violence.
Many people like to buy Confederate Flags and clothing with the Confederate flag logos. Those who appreciate the flag logo most often associate this emblem with the idea of states’ rights. The flag was first flown by the Confederacy in the Civil War, a war in which many slave holding states asserted their right to secede from the union, rather than change their economy, which relied on slave labor. In the beginning, this “war between the states” was about preserving the union. After fighting for two years, however, President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation which declared that all slaves in states rebelling against the Union were free, leaving slavery intact in the Border States. Freeing the slaves in the Confederate States became a Union war objective. Although the Confederate States of America wanted to maintain a way of life which included the subjugation of a group of people based on their color, today, many people would agree that not unlike the Pirate Flag, the Confederate Flag has come to symbolize states’ rights, not the subjugation of a group of people.
Recently, in Charleston, South Carolina, Dylann Storm Roof was charged with shooting nine people at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Prior to the shooting, the suspect had been photographed “waving Confederate flags and wearing symbols of racist white regimes, and reportedly wrote of fomenting racial violence.” (The Washington Times) Because he was seen in this manner, many groups are demanding that the Confederate flag be removed from the public square because it is associated with white supremacy and incites people to racial violence. This is particularly interesting because in many acts of terror, law enforcement agencies are told not to profile, i.e., associate certain clothing or associations as increasing the likelihood of violence. If a person had committed this shooting wearing a pirate shirt, would there be screams to remove pirate paraphernalia from merchandisers and consider those displaying such emblems as inciting violence?
After the Boston Massacre, when John Adams defended the Red Coats in a Massachusetts Court of law, he explained that because we are a nation of laws and not of men, everyone is entitled to a fair trial. He and the soldiers he defended, recognized that an unruly mob which was angry about British subjugation of the colonies might not be able to look at the specific events objectively. They would merge their experiences and punish the soldiers, regardless of the reality. John Adams was a brilliant lawyer and was able to save the soldiers from what at first seemed to be a certain fate. In his summation he stated,
Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.
We would be wise to heed the words of John Adams before the wishes, inclinations, or dictates of passions force the removal of the Confederate Flag from the public square, erasing a symbol of states’ rights at a time when the Tenth Amendment has been completely ignored by the Supreme Court in recent rulings on Obamacare. Freedom of speech is one of the first freedoms. There is no freedom not to be offended. And the meaning behind symbols and of words cannot be changed just to fit a political agenda.
When you think about it, both flags could represent subjugation or freedom. Yo ho, yo ho, A Pirate’s life for me.