Format of the Day
Things are hectic, but I’ve got too many odd thoughts floating around in my bean to wait for a good time to blog. So this entry may be a bit scattered.
A while ago I mentioned a college some 40 miles from here (Northwestern College in Orange City, IA to be exact) that hung some artwork done by an alumnus in a public space, causing some controversy. The artwork was a replica of an American flag, dyed black, with a pretty scathing (and poorly written) explanation below. Many of the veterans in the area took offense to the art and raised quite a ruckus, wanting the art to be removed.
I asked around, and got comments ranging from “we should go tear it down, I don’t care if I go to jail, I’m defending our flag,” to “it’s only art, lighten up.” A few people had thoughts along the lines of “veterans shouldn’t wrap themselves in the flag so much — what the artist did was disgraceful, but there’s no need to get up in arms about the issue.”
I truly wish I had a week to ponder and research the issues and morality behind free speech, imagery, loyalty, art, symbology, etc. But I don’t…
When I heard of the “Black Flag” my first reaction was surprise. “Art? In this part of the country? Really?” My second reaction was, “Oh man… Some 18-year-old freshman art student did this simply to create controversy and get attention. What a cheap ploy.” Was I upset that the American flag was desecrated? You betcha! The flag is an important symbol to me, one that’s not easily defined.
My actions in the matter? I wrote an e-mail to the president of the college. I told him I found the exhibit to be disrespectful, and asked that it be removed. I received an e-mail from him later in the day (it was a form letter, by the way) thanking me for my opinion, stating that the artwork was there to spark debate and open discourse amongst the students. I was happy with that, to be honest. I saw a situation I didn’t agree with, I voiced my disagreement, let’s move on. In other words, the flag bothered me, but I understand free speech and the “campus environment.”
In the end, quite a few other people wrote letters to Northwestern as well, and rumor has it that some major donors were threatening to pull funding. The college finally put the “Black Flag” in a locked room in their art hall; to see it you had to ask for a key.
Note: Turns out the artist who designed the “Black Flag” wasn’t an 18-year-old freshman after all. He was a 50-something alum of the school who graduated in the 1970s. He made the flag for the FIRST Gulf War, and recycled it when the Iraq War came along… In a statement to the press he said he was pleased with his work.
I haven’t been watching the local news much lately, but I did catch one addition to the taser story. The day after the news hit the streets that a security guard (who is also a police officer) had used his taser on a 13-year-old girl to stop a violent confrontation, a local TV station interviewed a lady who said, in effect, “I was there, I saw the whole thing, and I can’t believe the officer waited that long before he used his taser.”
Some people in the community, and some of the people who commented on my blog, think it’s unconscionable for an officer to use physical force on a minor. Other people think he was well within his authority to do so. Personally, I tend to agree with the latter — if someone trained in law enforcement and crowd control deems it necessary to use a taser, he’s probably right… A 13-year-old girl should know enough that when an officer tells her to quit fighting, she should quit fighting — NOT attack the officer.
The lady being interviewed continued to say that the two girls who ended up arrested (the tasered girl and her 14-year-old sister) were out of control, biting people, crawling on the floor, hitting, kicking, and wouldn’t stop. The lady held up her thumb, which had a very visible bite mark, and said the girls were out of control.
Sadly, the girls’ mother did NOT discipline the girls for fighting, attacking a police officer, biting strangers, kicking and screaming and eventually getting arrested. Instead she demanded the City Council look into the matter, saying the officer used force because (and I didn’t mention this in my last post) the girls are Native American. Now the Native American community in the area is actively defending the two girls as well, and is demanding a full accounting of how the local police use force in regard to minorities. (Turns out the police around here taser people on an average of twice a week. How many Native Americans have been tased in the past year? The phrase I heard was, “a couple.”)
To me, it’s still a simple issue. Every parent wants to defend their children against spurious accusations and unfair situations, but every parent should realize that their children are not infallible, and that sometimes their children need to learn to be responsible for themselves. The children attacked a police officer, causing the officer to use non-lethal (though painful, from what I hear) means to subdue them. What made the girls think it was proper behavior to brawl and attack an officer? Why did they think they were going to get away with it? Because they knew they would. And that’s sad.
As a side note from this issue, many people around here are now talking about getting tasers for personal protection. I was trained in the use of various firearms as well as very basic hand-to-hand and bladed weapon combat, and I’d personally rather have a taser in my house than a handgun or a knife.
1. “Hmmm… Our nation’s vice president has somehow managed to put the ‘ick’ in ‘Dick.'” (I stole that one from a comment I left on Leonesse’s blog. Is that plagiarism?)
2. I overheard someone say, “I can’t afford to get my medicine because I have to pay my insurance bill. Too bad my insurance won’t cover my medicine.” That made me sad. Then I petted a puppy and I was happy again.
3. Speaking of insurance, my neighbor has lived in his house for over 50 years. He’s paid homeowners’ insurance the whole time. Fifty years. A few days ago an arsonist hit his house (his son’s girlfriend got mad and lit a bed on fire in the middle of the night). They estimate the damage at $15,000. The man’s insurance will give him $5,500. That just ain’t right. Fifty years of paying premiums should get you a bit more than that. We need more governmental oversight on just how much profit the insurance companies can legally take. We’re getting bled to death here.
4. You’ll never regret doing the right thing. That concept often surprises me. I’m happy Ma and Pa taught me that.
A Pleasant Surprise and a Small Disappointment
The pleasant surprise was a phone call from one of the candidates. Living in Iowa, I get a fair number of these calls. “Hello, I represent so-and-so’s campaign, and we’d like to know who you’re planning to vote for…” They usually lead into a ten-minute long spiel that I don’t want to listen to (I know, for the most part, what the candidates have done).
This time, however, the conversation was much different.
“Hello, I’m from Governor Bill Richardson’s campaign. Do you have a few minutes?” asked the nice young man on the phone.
“Sure,” I replied, looking around for a place to sit down. “What’s up? Anything I can help you with?”
“Well, I was wondering who you’re going to caucus for in the upcoming primary.”
“Richardson, actually,” I said. I like Richardson. I think he’s got more real-world experience than the other candidates (he’s negotiated hostage releases from some very nasty places overseas, and has experience both at the state and federal level, including Ambassador to the United Nations), and his commercials show a sense of humor. Seeing as how I’ve pretty much lost my sense of humor altogether, I live vicariously on others’.
“Well, that’s great,” said the voice. “May I ask what your top issues are in the election?” I had the impression the person behind the voice had a military background. Very matter-of-fact.
“Sure…” I paused to think. There are a helluva lotta issues, you know. “Environment, Iraq, and veterans’ rights,” I said.
“Do you know the Governor’s position on those issues?” (Richardson was Secretary of Energy. That’s important to me. We’re going into an energy crisis — we need someone in office who’s NOT catering to the oil cartel, and understands the issues from political, economic and environmental standpoints.)
“Yes, actually. I do research.”
“Very well then,” said the voice. “Thank you for your time. If you need any more information, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Have a good evening, sir.”
Well, how nice! I wasn’t bludgeoned with unwanted information, the phone call was short and pleasant, the caller was not pushy, nor did he sound desperate… Nice! Unusual.
Now, on to the disappointment.
I’ve heard a lot about Republican Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee lately. People seem to be impressed with his honest approach, and from what I’d seen, I agreed. Seems like a nice guy. Be great if the race came down to the Democratic Richardson vs. Huckabee. Two nice guys, vying for the top job… Then I heard Mr. Huckabee speak on television this morning.
The interviewer asked the Governor what he thought of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s positions on several issues. Governor Huckabee disappointed me by resorting to party rhetoric and outright misinformation, slamming Clinton’s campaign pretty unfairly. (Remember, I’m supporting Richardson, not Clinton.) The thing that stuck in my craw most was when he said something akin to “Mrs. Clinton supports more government controlling your life, and she won’t protect you from terrorists.” That’s quite simply incorrect and misleading.
Let’s get this straight — neither party supports the terrorists. Both parties want to squish their little heads. The Republicans do not have a patent on hating terrorists. (Nor have Republicans patented the words “Moral” and “Values,” and they do not have exclusive rights to this “Christian” thing, by the way.) Both parties are American, and people of both parties can belong to the military, can support the military, and can dislike the war.
To answer Governor Huckabee’s charge, a bit more specifically, I cannot think of any presidential administration in United States history that has imposed more governmental control over citizens than the current Bush administration. At the moment, the Democratic candidates, one and all of them, have agendas that will reverse this trend, actually lessening governmental control over individuals.
I honestly think that if Americans could put away the bitterness and hatred, we’d probably find that most of us are closer to Libertarians than we are to either of the main parties. Ah well.
Dirty Nasty Bikers
The American Legion Riders held a fundraiser for a local Iraq War veteran who was sent home with leukemia. It was a soup and pie supper, with an auction and a dance afterwards. We estimated there might be 350 people at the event, but just over halfway through the supper we’d already gone through 500 bowls of soup. We raised a lot of money for Joe’s medical bills! (If anyone wants to donate, by the way, we’re still taking donations for a few more days, just e-mail me for details. Or you can stop in at Vantus Bank in Le Mars.)