Madison County Opinion...

 July 25, 2001


Column
By Frank Gillespie
The Madison County Journal
July 25, 2001

Frankly Speaking

Banning Confederate symbols denies free speech
Do school systems have the right to ban clothing with Confederate symbols? A federal judge is wrestling with this question. This week, he ruled that the Seminole County can temporarily ban Confederate flag-embossed T-shirts pending a final decision later.
Chief Judge W. Louis Sands of the U.S. Middle Georgia District Court had been asked to bring a quick end to the dispute, but he feels he needs more time to study the question.
What is more important, First Amendment rights of free speech, or public safety? People who object to Confederate symbols say they are offensive to blacks and may cause trouble in the schools. Defenders of Confederate symbols argue that the First Amendment right to free speech must be protected.
As always, I come down on the side of the U.S. Constitution, and the right of traditional southerners to honor their ancestors by displaying Confederate symbols.
The First Amendment guarantee of free speech was designed to protect controversial opinions. It is just the kind of sentiment expressed by displaying Confederate flags that are protected by this amendment. Even if the expressed opinions are wrong, are historically inaccurate or include ideas that the majority finds offensive, the right of individuals or groups to express those ideas are fully protected. Only when a message is likely to create public hazards, or encourage illegal activity can that message be banned.
Threats of violence or protest by people who disagree with the ideas are not grounds for denying that right. If a person or group feels offended by someone's comments or symbols, that is still not ground for prohibiting them. Those who object to free speech, threaten violence against those who exercise free speech or officials who bow to such threats, should be forced to attend First Amendment classes.
Efforts to prohibit the displaying of Confederate symbols are especially troubling. These symbols are not intended to reflect racist attitudes.
They are not intended to offend anyone. They represent efforts of traditional Southerners to obey the biblical commandment that we "honor our fathers and mothers." The message they convey is cultural pride and protest against the distortion of Southern history.
Rather than ban students who wear T-shirts with Confederate symbols, educators in Seminole County should require all students, teachers and administrators to study the First Amendment. Any student, parent or other who threatens to carry out acts of violence against anyone who wears these shirts should be prosecuted for terrorist threats.
This is the United States of America. We are all guaranteed the right to express our opinions without being threatened with violence. We have the right to speak out without being pressured by governments, civic groups or individuals who dislike what we are saying.
Would-be dictators are steadily attacking our constitutional rights. We can only keep those rights by actively defending them.
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His web page can be accessed at www.mcga.net. His e-mail address is frankg@mcga.net.


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Column
By Ben Munro
The Madison County Journal
July 25, 2001

In Other Words

Hatchback pride
I'm sure you've seen that truck commercial that boasts, "Hey man, nobody ever wrote a song about their first hatchback?"
Well true, truck enthusiasts have a point there.
But reading a classified ad for the hatchback I've driven for the past five-and-a-half years sure would sound similar to any ballad about a beloved, rugged, beat-up old truck.
You see, the driver's side window won't roll down, the antenna was snapped in two, the driver's side mirror was knocked off, the CD player just kinda sits there and acts mute, the driver's side fender is also dented in and the left blinker has decided to go on strike right now.
The story gets sadder considering there's no air conditioning to speak of and the volume on the radio goes up unexpectedly.
But despite its injuries, the hatchback and I kind of have that "Kit-Knight Rider" rapport-minus all the conversation (if you remember that "milestone," talking-car, 80s television program).
I'm loyal to the contraption because it has taken me everywhere-my first job, countless Georgia football battles, to work every day, all over the Western Hemisphere covering high school sports. That's 116,523 miles of memories.
And believe me "The Go-cart," as my buddies have christened it, has a cruel owner.
I sparingly change its oil, force it to spend miles on the road without new pairs of shoes (tires), make it work without food (fuel) and never take it to the doctor (mechanic).
If all cars were possessed like "Christine" from Stephen King's auto-horror novel, then the Go-cart would surely seek vengeance by running me over.
But then again, maybe not. I mean, we do go way back.
I got the thing straight off the assembly line in 1995 when I was a 17-year-old kid that had no clue how to drive a straight shift.
The Go-cart had to suffer through my apprenticeship to the world of five-speed transmission and somehow lived through it.
It took me under its wing and guided me to school the day after I got it and has been keeping me on the road ever since.
And we've matured together both showing the signs of aging.
I've lost my baby face, the Go-cart has lost its showroom shine.
I've lost a step or two off my mile time, the Go-cart no longer gets 40 miles to the gallon.
But me and the Go-cart know it's not about the glamour, it's about the results, getting from point A to point B.
And the Go-cart is definitely not a glam ride-we haven't exactly had the women lining up in droves to take a spin. Some cars are babe magnets but the Go-cart is babe repellent-I don't expect MTV to be calling me anytime soon to see if they can use the Go-cart in Shawn "Puffy" Comb's next scantily-clad-woman-filled rap video.
But what the Go-cart lacks in gravitational pull of females, it makes up for in character. It's had a Cal Ripken-like career-never on the disabled list, always ready to play. In a world full of headaches, the Go-cart is one less.
Sure, there are more desirable rides, but I think the Go-cart is a nice contrast to all that conformity. If I ever took the time to slap a coat of wax on it or get a new fender, then the old red contraption might look halfway decent cruising down UGA's Sanford Drive amongst the Toyota Four Runners.
So while the rest of the world writes songs about Ford and Chevys with extended cabs, this is my song to my red hatchback.
Hopefully it can provide me 116,523 more miles of memories.
Ben Munro is a reporter for the Madison County Journal.


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