A Court Case in Bad Taste

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary

by Daniel Nardini

It all began when the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) wanted the State of Texas to allow those members of the SCV to have the Confederate flag on their license plates in a show of pride for their ancestors who fought for the Confederacy. This is not all that unusual. Texas was once a part of the Confederacy, and nine other states allow SCV members to have the Confederate flag on their license plates. They see no problem in regards to the Confederate flag. The States of Texas seems to differ. Texas, mindful of its past, considers the Confederate flag “offensive.” This case has gone all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, and it is anyone’s guess whether this will be seen as a test case for freedom of speech or not.

Even though many Americans may see the former Confederate flag as an offensive emblem, I must point out that strangely enough southern African slaves, Latinos and yes even Native Americans fought for the Confederacy as well as fought for the Union. Regardless of whether many see the Confederate flag as a symbol of racism and slavery, there were many who fought for the Confederate flag as well as against it. So to put it mildly, the Confederate flag has a very mixed past. My concern is that if those who are advocating free speech win, and the odds are for them, my fear it will open a real Pandora’s box of what symbols can then be allowed on people’s license plates. Just about anything you can think of can be put on license plates now. If the U.S. Supreme Court should affirm that the Sons of Confederate Veterans have a right to display a Confederate flag on a license plate, then far, far more offensive emblems might be allowed on state license plates in the very near future.

What would stop people from displaying the flag of, say, the Ku Klux Klan on their license plates? How about the flag of the Nazi Party? Or to look at it conversely, a flag of the Communist Party or of the former Soviet Union? Had the State of Texas just allowed the Sons of Confederate Veterans to have their membership have license plates with Confederate flags on them, this would never have gone to the courts, and the whole issue would have been a non-issue from the get-go. But now the issue has become a major bruhaha that in my view has become a waste of time, money, and may open the door for someone’s even more extreme ideas being put on a state license plate. Even if the U.S. Supreme Court decides differently, I am sure this litmus test case will come up again in another form.

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