Oh Genre, My Genre

"You are what you eat." We've all heard someone tell us that. But it might be that we are what we consume, whether that be food, literature, or souls. Richard Thomas had us look at what we've consumed, and we did:

  • Favorite Authors: Madeleine L'Engle, Christopher Pike, Friedrich Nietzsche, Jonathan Swift, Chuck Palahniuk, and Neil Gaiman.
  • Favorite Books: The Starlight Crystal by Christopher Pike, A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L'Engle, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig, Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk, and American Gods by Neil Gaiman.
  • Favorite Movies: The Matrix, Captain America: Civil War, Cabin in the Woods, and Raiders of the Lost Ark.
  • Favorite Television Shows: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Stargate: SG-1, and Breaking Bad.

When we looked at our influences, it was easy to see that I was attracted to fantastical stories with philosophical or psychological themes. Much of the fiction I love sprinkles its story with humor. Dialogue is sharp-witted and informal. And there's a deep sense of nostalgia or romanticism towards the past. Madeleine L'Engle's stories were timeless in scope—the magical past and the rational present collided and worked in tandem to push back an evil primordial. Christopher Pike and Friedrich Nietzsche both explore eternal recurrence in their stories—where time is a circle, and everything that has occurred will re-occur ad infinitum. In Pike's horror novels, there is always a sense that love is a crucial spoke in the rolling wheel of time. Nietzsche is a poet. He's like Plato, but funnier and more transgressive—which it turns out I love. Jonathan Swift and Chuck Palahniuk—I'm convinced—are literary twins born in different times. Both transgressive in their own times, they manage to peel the aesthetic l from the rotting carcass of the grotesque. Neil Gaiman is able to weave ancient lore into contemporary stories that are beautiful and gritty and a delight to read. Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is a philosophical and psychological exploration into the mind of a man cleaved in two by an idea—the nature of Quality.

I assume most people have at least heard of my other influences. The Matrix is a stylized rendition of an old argument between Plato and Aristotle—whether the best things are or whether they become. Captain America: Civil War is a fantastic movie that explores the relationship between security and freedom, and between revenge and justice. Cabin in the Woods is a speculative horror piece asking the question "What if all horror movies were true? And what if there was a reason for all the clichés we rail against?" Raiders of the Lost Ark is a classic adventure story, with a helping of romance and a thrilling story about an archaeologist competing with the Third Reich in his search for the Ark of the Covenant. The humor in this movie lies in both the action and in the dialogue—from Indiana Jones's abruptly short showdown with the black-garbed swordsman to Sallah's comically self-evident revelation that Indiana had been given "bad dates."

Buffy the Vampire Slayer's witty dialogue and innovative take on old horror tropes are great. But Adrean and I think that Joss Whedon affected us as writers more deeply because the main characters of the show were our age. While I was a grade behind Buffy, she started high school in Sunnydale on the same year that I entered North Miami Senior High as a freshman. The timbre of their dialogue became the timbre of my generation's. It became mine, as much as I became its. Stargate: SG-1 also had fast-paced, sharp dialogue. Its main plot revolved around two warriors, a scientist, and an archaeologist exploring the galaxy, blending science and magic, the new and the ancient, into their stories. As in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, where the ancient and powerful gods of Bajor, the Prophets, play a major role in shaping the sociopolitical future of the nations of the Alpha and Beta Quadrants, Stargate: SG-1 displays a romantic nostalgia for the past while valuing the future for its own merits. Breaking Bad is transgressive, tragic television at its finest. One man's hubris brings the lives of everyone around him crashing down. Sometimes literally.

I'm not telling you what these titles are about; I'm telling you what I took from them. I learned that I'm an author of transgressive speculative fiction, occasionally skirting the edge of literary fiction. Now I know where to look for my literary brothers and sisters, and how to improve my skills by learning from what they do right—and also from what they don't.

The Oculus in Clavi

This blog post and others like it represent fictional characters, places, or groups existing within the universe of Stormborn. They will serve as supplemental material to the serial novellas.

The sigil of the Oculus in Clavi, adopted November 12, 1944, at Sète.

The sigil of the Oculus in Clavi, adopted November 12, 1944, at Sète.

The Oculus in Clavi formed in Languedoc as part of the Albigensian Crusade in 1202, following the murder of Pierre de Castelnau. It began as an organization composed of Catholic magi to hunt down and kill Cathar magi in the south of France. When Pope Gregory IX handed authority over the Inquisition to mortals during the 13th century, witches and non-magi were removed from the Oculus in Clavi and labeled heretics.

The Oculus in Clavi hunted non-Catholic witches throughout Europe until the 15th-century, when magi who used Kabbalic practices began to be targeted by the Church in France and Spain.  A bloodless coup followed within the organization, leading to its separation from the Catholic Church in 1494. After the Act of Supremacy of 1534, established by King Henry VIII of England, the Oculus in Clavi in England became known as the Eye in the Lock. The mainland European branches of the Oculus in Clavi retained their Latin name.

The Eye in the Lock spread to North America along with the European colonists. The American Revolutionary War led to a schism within the North American and English branches of the Eye in the Lock. When the United States formed, the North American branch changed its name back to Oculus in Clavi, further strengthening its alliance with its founding branch in France. The magical nation of Terra Nova formed across the new American states, with the authority of the American Oculus in Clavi set forth in its founding document.

After the American Civil War and Canadian Independence, the American branch of the Oculus in Clavi and the British Eye in the Lock became allies. Eastern Canada joined Terra Nova, spreading the authority of the American Oculus in Clavi all the way to the Arctic. During the Reconstruction Era, the American Oculus in Clavi was also the first of its branches to allow witches to join its ranks in four centuries.

During World War II, the American Oculus in Clavi and the British Eye in the Lock's alliance strengthened. The English and Latin names began to be used interchangeably on both continents. The democratized structure of the American Oculus in Clavi spread as far as West Germany, stopping at the Iron Curtain, where the Soviet Volsek—the Russian analogue to the Oculus in Clavi—retained control until 1992.

Today, the Oculus in Clavi has branches throughout most of the magical nations of the Western world, with some exceptions in Latin America and Eastern Europe. It functions as a magical intelligence and counterintelligence agency. Although the Oculus in Clavi remains largely unified and holds world summits every ten years in the beautiful Mediterranean city of Sète, its branches are known to spy on one another regularly. Its stated purpose is to protect both the magical and mortal worlds from the combined threats of reckless magic use and daemonic influence.

I Believe in Freedom of Speech...Unless You Disagree With Me

The author I mentioned in my last post replied to me! I'm so honored. Here's what he said:

My last post showing a quote from a 2010 protest in Morgan Hill, California received some criticism because of the age of the post and the fact the school system eventually allowed shirts with flags.

When I first retorted to the author, I did laugh away the fact that the Cinco de Mayo event he described was six years old. I also mentioned that the Morgan Hill Unified School District had distanced themselves from the Live Oak Hill High School administrators by stating publicly that the school system does not disallow the wearing of patriotic clothing. Of course, he missed the larger point.

The title of his new post is "Freedom of Speech-Apply it Both Ways." He starts it this way:

Freedom of speech must be applied to both liberals and conservatives fairly. So says The Old White Guy.

I couldn't agree with him more. Freedom of Speech is a right granted to American citizens under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. It's a rather simple statement that has had a remarkable effect on our society. Here's the language of the text:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; [emphasis mine] or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
— https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/first_amendment

Such a simple set of ten words, yet so powerful that it has sparked discussion, dissent, and heated arguments for the past 224 years.

But all you have to do is look at the headlines to see that the same things are going on everyday. I quote an article from the Washington Times. ‘A new “challenge” in support of a wanted Georgia college student and New Black Panther Party member encourages individuals to desecrate the U.S. flag.’ (Which by the way is unfortunately legal under the Constitution) [emphasis mine]
Pictured: A proud American exercising her freedom of speech.

Pictured: A proud American exercising her freedom of speech.

Wait what? OK, kudos for sourcing, but gimme a second. How does one say, in the same breath, that freedom of speech is an inalienable right while also claiming that "unfortunately" it is legal under the U.S. Constitution to desecrate the flag?

As Palestinian-American writer Yousef Munayyer says, "Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from its consequences." Freedom of speech, put simply, allows Americans to say whatever they want—with a few exceptions—without fearing punishment from the state. Over the course of its 224 years of existence, this right has been clarified again and again at the highest levels of our government, in order to ensure that every single person in the United States feels free to criticize the government (and others) without facing fines or prosecution.

But you can't say whatever you want and expect that people aren't going to criticize you for it. As I write this, I understand that there are a great many Americans that disagree with me, fundamentally, on many issues. Some of these Americans may use their own platforms to criticize me. That is their right. I don't get to claim a violation of my freedom of speech because someone on the Internet thinks that my blog posts are ridiculous. Private companies and private persons are not bound by the First Amendment; the states and the federal government are. Freedom of speech is guaranteed. Freedom from consequences never is.

That having been said, let's move on to the issue of flag desecration. This is an interesting subject that sparks a great deal of debate, especially during times of civil strife in this country's past and present.

The right to desecrate the flag of the United States has been protected by the Supreme Court on multiple occasions. While the U.S. House of Representatives has attempted multiple times to pass a constitutional amendment that gives Congress the power to prohibit the desecration of Old Glory, it keeps failing. The last time an attempt was made on this right was in 2006, and the amendment failed in the U.S. Senate by one vote.

Laws prohibiting the desecration of the U.S. flag date back to 1968, when Congress passed legislation to prohibit Vietnam War protesters from burning the flag during their demonstrations. A number of different states, including Texas, followed suit, penning statues against flag desecration into their penal codes. (Sorry for picking on Texas so much but, seriously, get your act together, guys!) In 1984, Gregory Lee Johnson was charged with the desecration of the U.S. flag, which was defined in the Texas Penal Code as a venerated object. He was sentenced to one year in prison and a $2,000 fine. Thus began the landmark Supreme Court case Texas v. Johnson, another case of the author failing to do his reading.

The Supreme Court held that Johnson's conviction was inconsistent with the First Amendment of the United States. Why? Because...

Under the circumstances, Johnson’s burning of the flag constituted expressive conduct, permitting him to invoke the First Amendment. The State conceded that the conduct was expressive. Occurring as it did at the end of a demonstration coinciding with the Republican National Convention, the expressive, overtly political nature of the conduct was both intentional and overwhelmingly apparent.
— https://www.law.cornell.edu/supremecourt/text/491/397

But that's insufficient. As in Dariano v. Morgan Hill Unified School District, an individual's freedom of expression can be limited if, say, that individual's expression amounts to "fighting words"—legally, words or actions expressed for the purpose of inciting violence from their target. There's a test that the Supreme Court uses to determine whether a law or regulation set forth by the state has violated someone's First Amendment rights. If it passes the test, then it does not violate the First Amendment. This test was put into place during another landmark case, United States v. O'Brien, and it goes like so:

  1. The regulation must be within the constitutional power of the government to enact.
  2. The regulation must further an important or substantial government interest (e.g., keeping the peace).
  3. That interest must be unrelated to the suppression of speech.
  4. The regulation must prohibit no more speech than is essential to further that interest.

In Texas v. Johnson, the Supreme Court determined that...

Texas has not asserted an interest in support of Johnson’s conviction that is unrelated to the suppression of expression and would therefore permit application of the test set forth in United States v. O’Brien, whereby an important governmental interest in regulating nonspeech can justify incidental limitations on First Amendment freedoms when speech and nonspeech elements are combined in the same course of conduct. An interest in preventing breaches of the peace is not implicated on this record. Expression may not be prohibited on the basis that an audience that takes serious offense to the expression may disturb the peace, since the Government cannot assume that every expression of a provocative idea will incite a riot, but must look to the actual circumstances surrounding the expression [emphasis mine]. Johnson’s expression of dissatisfaction with the Federal Government’s policies also does not fall within the class of “fighting words” likely to be seen as a direct personal insult or an invitation to exchange fisticuffs. This Court’s holding does not forbid a State to prevent “imminent lawless action” and, in fact, Texas has a law specifically prohibiting breaches of the peace. Texas’ interest in preserving the flag as a symbol of nationhood and national unity is related to expression in this case and, thus, falls outside the O’Brien test.
— https://www.law.cornell.edu/supremecourt/text/491/397

I think the following words by Chief Justice Earl Warren are just perfect.

The Government may not prohibit the verbal or nonverbal expression of an idea merely because society finds the idea offensive or disagreeable, even where our flag is involved. Nor may a State foster its own view of the flag by prohibiting expressive conduct relating to it, since the Government may not permit designated symbols to be used to communicate a limited set of messages. Moreover, this Court will not create an exception to these principles protected by the First Amendment for the American flag alone.
— https://www.law.cornell.edu/supremecourt/text/491/397

And it shouldn't. Because that wouldn't be in the spirit of the First Amendment. Let's remember that the First Amendment was designed for the purpose of protecting people from the state, specifically when said people wish to criticize the state. That's speech. That's freedom. It's a right that people fought and died for, as the author is fond of reminding us. The author appears to believe that an exception should be created for the rule because he finds flag stomping personally offensive.

That's not how rights work.

The sad thing about this is that liberals are lauding the protesters who frequently stomp on the flag at Trump rallies. Yet at the same time, criticize Trump supporters for voicing their outrage. People have died bravely, so idiots like these can stick their fingers in the air and slander our flag and our country.

There's a number of people going from Trump rally to Trump rally with a giant American flag and stomping on it in protest. It's called the "Fuck Your Flag Tour," directed by a group that calls itself "FukYoFlag," which formed in 2015. They hold that stepping on the U.S. flag is a way of protesting the killings of Black men by police officers throughout the country. They don't only protest at Trump rallies because they believe that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton stands for the same imperial system that the FukYoFlag group decries.

But are they lauded by liberals, as the author claims? Casey Abbott Payne, who runs the #BlackLivesMatter Milwaukee Facebook group, stated, point blank, that:

The flag stomping is, in my opinion, misdirected energy. It is from a group of people who are, justifiably, angry and don’t feel as though they have any other way to be heard. I believe that their act of stomping on the flag only displays the power of our flag. Whether they know it or not, they are also making a display of how awesome our country is, even though we have a dark past (all countries have a dark past).
— http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2016/04/05/flag-stomping-protesters-fueling-tensions-at-trump-other-events.html

And I think she's right. Most liberals have a deeply held respect for Old Glory. I would never stomp on a flag. I would never wear it either because (a) it's disrespectful to the flag and (b) it's tacky. But as I said yesterday, strawmen are easier to argue against than facts. In general, liberals do not support FukYoFlag and their tactics, but we can empathize with them. Maybe empathy is what's missing here.

Another question comes to mind. Are the members of FukYoFlag bad actors? Take a look at the following video, and decide for yourself:

The representative for the group says that, until there is freedom and respect for all people, regardless of the color of their skin, the symbol that is the U.S. flag is "bullshit." It's not a crazy message. If one takes the time to listen to what they're saying instead of reacting to what they're doing, one might see that these are reasonable individuals, hugely frustrated with a system that has been harming them for a very, very long time. If their actions are offensive to you, that's the point. They're trying to get attention. And it's working.

So maybe they're not such idiots after all.

Saying Stupid Things

I find inspiration in a number of different places. One of these is the Internet, where any idiot with a keyboard and a screen can write whatever they want. Like me! When I look online for news, though, I generally try to find articles that look well researched and, ideally, share their references. Because you want to know whether someone's getting their information from The New York Times or Breitbart, the Associated Press or the Daily Caller, or the Journal of Psychiatric Research or Buzzfeed. Some sources are objectively better than others, but all should be examined with care.

Some bloggers don't appear to care, and they don't cite their sources, which tells you very little about whether their opinions are informed or not. One of my least favorite blogs—but which comes across my feed all too often—is that of a local Tulsa author who fashions himself a truth-teller of the highest sort. He believes in the importance of warning people about the horrible state of America today, the destruction of the American system by multiculturalism and political correctness, and how ill-prepared most of us are to face the coming apocalypse, which will apparently be brought about by Islam.

Yesterday, this author posted a blog on his site entitled "The Declaration of Independence/the American Flag are racist?" The claims he makes are pretty wild, but he does admit that he's "writing on the wild side." I won't link to his website because I don't want to give him any views, but I do want to break down his post because that's always fun. And because my country, the United States of America, gives me the right to do so under fair use.

It seems the world has turned upside down. Young people today are being fed a re-engineered view of history by racist people who call others the same. Even with a Black President in the White House, the blame is still placed on old white guys.

This is about how most of the author's blog posts begin: "America (read: the world) is falling apart because young people don't agree with me." He calls himself an old White guy, and he feels like too many people put the onus on him and on others in his in-group to correct the problems of the world. And he doesn't believe that's fair.

Let's agree that it's not fair to put the problems facing the world on any one person. All of us are to some extent responsible for our own actions. But it must also be true that some options are outside the realm of feasibility for certain individuals. A mother of three working a ten-hour-a-day, minimum wage job cannot solve her transportation problems by buying a Lamborghini. And, if you've got a basic understanding of psychology, sociology, or history, you also understand that our individual history, and the history of the family that we're born into, informs the kinds of options that are available to us.

So, for the author's sake, let's not blame White people for everything. Because surely that's unfair. But I wonder what racist, re-engineered history is being taught to young people. I was raised in the 1990s, and I was still learning that George Washington was such an honest man that, as a young lad of eight, he confessed to his father that he had cut a cherry tree from his orchard because "I cannot tell a lie." I was still learning that Christopher Columbus discovered America because, apparently, the natives who he called Indians didn't count. Lies My Teacher Told Me is a great book by James W. Loewen breaks down many myths that I was taught in school as historical fact.

If any history has been re-engineered, it's the history being taught in states like Texas, where fundamentalist Christians like Don McLeroy, a dentist from Bryan, Texas, have co-opted the educational system to promote an agenda that focuses on American exceptionalism and downplays the struggles of minority groups like Native Americans and Black people. A quote often misattributed to Winston Churchill—there are so many—says that "history is written by the victors." Nowhere is that more true than in Texas. In one glaring example, the new textbooks call African slaves "workers" and describe the slave trade as a migration. This is history re-engineered. And it's the history that this "old White man" appears to have learned.

Our colleges and our legislators seem to have forgotten the Civil War and the thousands of white men who died to free the slaves.

The author appears to have forgotten that the larger portion of the opposing army in the American Civil War was made up of White men. Men who were fighting to protect their "God-given right" to own people as property. It's also important to remember that roughly 10% of the Union army, who fought to end slavery, were African American men. Proportionally, this is about what one would expect with full participation. So I think it's fair to say that Black people fought for their own freedoms. White people helped, but they weren't doing it for them.

Luke 20:25 says, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's." And let's give Black people what's theirs too. They fought for their own rights, and they don't have any good reason to be grateful to the race that enslaved them. Especially after what followed during the Reconstruction Era.

The newly freed Black men and women found themselves without any way of making a living. Many were left homeless since "old White man" President Johnson and his Congress refused to agree to any Reconstruction plan that allowed for the redistribution of property to freed former slaves. Sharecropping was the only option many freed Black men and women were left with, and as an option, it was about as bad as slavery. This, despite all that they had been promised by the White commanders under whom they served. After over a century of discriminatory practices in voting, employment, and medicine, the Tuskegee Experiment, Jim Crow laws, and the present need for #BlackLivesMatter, I don't see how grateful Black people should be to White people.

Colleges and legislators that are able to look past their own feelings of "White guilt" and see the horrors that the Black community has suffered in this country have not forgotten anything. They are remembering.

Or the World Wars fought under the American flag so these yoyos could have the right to say stupid things.

I don't remember a single world war fought only under the American flag. Do you? Let's begin by ignoring the fact that the United States entered World War I in 1917, the penultimate year of the war. We'll focus on World War II, in which the United States played a more extended role.

How many flags actually contributed to the Allied fight in World War II? Too many for me to post here. Almost every country in the world played a role in the war. I'll focus on the Latin American Allied states:

Panama, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Cuba, and Guatemala entered World War II in 1941 as a direct result of the attacks on Pearl Harbor and U.S. entry. Mexico and Brazil entered the war in 1942, as a result of attacks against them by Axis powers. Bolivia and Colombia joined the Allied forces in 1943. This is only a small fraction of the countries whose flags flew during the fight against the Axis powers.

One would expect that, among all of these, the biggest influence over the course of the war would have been had by the country with the most resources and the most sociopolitical power: the United States of America. After over a century of the United States' destabilizing influence on its southern neighbors, how could it not be the most powerful country on the American continent? Despite all this, the United States had the friendship and support of its Latin America partners, although its citizens often forget that Old Glory doesn't encompass the entire hemisphere.

Thanks to the influence of these Latin American countries, we all retain the right to say stupid things anytime we want. But don't we have the responsibility to be as informed as possible when we say anything? Rights don't exist in a vacuum; they carry with them corresponding duties, such as the duty to be respectful in public discourse and to exercise good judgment when we publish something on the Internet.

But not all of us do that 100% of the time. I can't say that I do. Sometimes, I am unequivocally a yoyo exercising his First Amendment right to free speech with abandon. Sometimes, I wait a day and rework the post I intended to publish because writing when I'm angry accomplishes very little.

In 2010 at Cinco de Mayo, Mexican students allegedly threatened violence because of shirts with Old Glory on them. School officials, consequently, suspended the right of other students to wear those shirts. Political correctness at its worst. “What’s wrong with these white people holding up American flags in Morgan hill??? Racist a–holes,” Gia Lee wrote.

Anyone who observes race relations in this country finds that there is a staunch disapproval of immigration on the Far Right. Disapproval is probably not a strong enough word. Suffice it to say that, being a Hispanic living in Oklahoma, I find a lot of people—mostly White, I'm afraid—who make assumptions about me given my ethnicity. My sister; who worked at a restaurant, speaks English fluently, and was raised in this country; encountered more than a few people who would rather she go back to Mexico than serve them water.

Neither of us have anyone in our families from Mexico. Our families are Colombian and Cuban. These White people want us to go "back" to somewhere we don't belong. It's the equivalent of someone going up to a White person and telling them to go back to England. Most White Americans aren't English (they're of German descent), and they don't have any family members from England.

So what's the author talking about? Cinco de Mayo at Live Oak Hill High School in Morgan Hill, California, was a source of tension. In previous years, fights had broken out among the Hispanic and White students because some Hispanic students had the gall to celebrate their Mexican heritage on the day of Mexico's victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. As a show of protest, these White students took out their American flag shirts and bandanas and paraded around the school in the same spirit of trolling that proponents of #AllLivesMatter engage in.

The author appears to agree with Gia Lee, who is a random person that wrote a barely coherent tweet and has been quoted multiple times on various conservative blogs. But are the Mexican students and the administrators at Live Oak Hill High School racist against White people?

I'm gonna make a quick aside here and say that the United States Code, Title 36, Section 176 states:

The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery. It should never be festooned, drawn back, nor up, in folds, but always allowed to fall free. Bunting of blue, white, and red, always arranged with the blue above, the white in the middle, and the red below, should be used for covering a speaker’s desk, draping the front of the platform, and for decoration in general.
— http://www.usflag.org/uscode36.html#176

Patriotism or not, these people do not respect their flag by wrapping it around their heads as a bandana. Talk to anyone with even an iota of knowledge about how Old Glory should be handled, and they will tell you that.

The administrators of Live Oak Hill High School told the students to take the flag off or go home for the day. They told the students that they would not be disciplined further. The students chose to go home for the day and file a lawsuit against the school because, they argued, their right to be trolls was protected speech under the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution. Except that a school is not a public space, and administrators have the right to enact policy in order to protect the health and well-being of their student body. The Supreme Court refused to hear the case after the 9th District Court of Appeals declared that:

...’[C]onduct by the student, in class or out of it, which for any reason—whether it stems from time, place, or type of behavior—materially disrupts classwork or involves substantial disorder or invasion of the rights of others is, of course, not immunized by the constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech.’ Under Tinker, schools may prohibit speech that ‘might reasonably [lead] school authorities to forecast substantial disruption of or material interference with school activities,’ or that constitutes an ‘actual or nascent [interference] with the schools’ work or...collision with the rights of other students to be secure and to be let alone.’ As we have explained, ‘the First Amendment does not require school officials to wait until disruption actually occurs before they may act. In fact, they have a duty to prevent the occurrence of disturbances.’ Indeed, in the school context, ‘the level of disturbance required to justify official intervention is relatively lower in a public school than it might be on a street corner.’
— http://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2014/02/27/11-17858.pdf

So who are the racists? The Mexicans celebrating their ethnic heritage? The administrators who didn't want any racially motivated fights breaking out on their campus? Or the students who wore American flags as articles of clothing in order to protest Cinco de Mayo? Maybe none of them are, and this whole thing was blown way out of proportion. Maybe we're making a mountain of a molehill.

The United States is such a great country because it has a system in place to deal with precisely these kinds of problems—where the protected right of one group (the Mexicans) to gather and celebrate in peace is interfered with by the protected right of another group (the White students) to protest Mexican heritage by being louder and more obnoxious. When the system works correctly, these problems are resolved in a civil way. We agree to disagree once the matter has been decided by the Supreme Court, but the Court's decision stands. As it was, and as it does.

It's possible to believe both that the United States is a great country and that the Supreme Court makes wrong decisions. If one believes that erring is an ineluctable part of being human, then it must follow that the Supreme Court, comprised of humans, occasionally gets decisions wrong. But conservatives like the author appear to believe that the judicial system is fundamentally flawed. That seems to contradict the conservative edict that the U.S. Constitution is an infallible document inspired by God and brought to us by the ineffably wise Founding Fathers.

Herein lies the problem. Americans have the freedom to say whatever they want, but they do not exist in a world where freedom from consequence can exist. We are held accountable by our actions and our motivations. When our actions are made in good faith and our motivations are pure, then the rights that we exercise deserve protection from the law. When our actions are intended to harm others, the rights of those we are attempting to hurt deserve greater protection. This was the case in Morgan Hill.

Really, are the Morgan Hill Hispanics, not American citizens? Did no one from that area fight and die for this country. The American way of life should not be disrespected like this. Who is the racist? Why did the school system cave in to the pressure?

I don't favor calling anyone a racist in this situation. That's an invective, and it's unhelpful. But it's clear, to me at least, that the White students were in the wrong. They were being belligerent, and the school system was within their rights to stop them. They didn't have to "cave in to the pressure." They simply had to act in good faith to protect their student body. They did so, and both the 9th District Court and the Supreme Court agreed.

The author may have reached a different conclusion had he read the 9th District Court's opinion on Dariano v. Morgan Hill Unified School District. Maybe not. But an informed person looks this shit up rather than regurgitating what he read on a blog.

The situation in our country has deteriorated from there. In the last few days, the Declaration of Independence has come under attack as being racist a well. Louisiana lawmaker Barbara Norton (D-Shreveport), argued that America’s founding document was racist during debate on a bill requiring public school students in the state to recite the Declaration of Independence daily.
’For the Declaration of Independence only Caucasians (were) free,’ Norton, who is black, said Wednesday during the debate on the floor of the Louisiana House of Representatives. ‘And for you to bring a bill to require that our children will recite the Declaration of Independence I think it’s a little bit unfair.’

Oh, man. Louisiana representative Barbara Norton has been making the rounds on the conservative blogosphere these past few days. She's infamous for her statement that forcing kids in school to recite the Declaration of Independence in schools is "a little bit unfair."

What an inflamatory statement! "A little bit unfair"? Who does she think she is?!

Sarcasm aside, Norton has a point. When the Declaration of Independence was penned, Black people and women were not included in the umbrella term "men" as having been created equal. It makes sense for a Black woman to see Black children being forced to recite this document and find it appalling. In many ways, it is.

So many strawmen have been made of Norton's statement. The first three pages of a Google search using the words "Barbara Norton Declaration of Independence" lead to conservative news blogs talking about how awful and stupid Norton is for having said what seems obvious to those of us who the Founders would not have considered equal under God.

But aren’t black children in America free today? Free because of white men and women who gave their lives and aid during the fight for their freedom.

Are they? You tell me.

In all seriousness, racism is still ever-present in this country. Compare the rhetoric used against former President George W. Bush to the rhetoric used to disparage President Barack Obama. In language alone, it is very clear that the election of a Black man to the office of the presidency did not wipe away centuries of racism in this country.

I further object to the notion that Black children in America are free today because of the actions of White men and women. They are free because of the actions of a number of different individuals, of peoples from every race and creed, of men and women fighting together for what is good and just. The fact is that when one does not engage in White apologetics, one finds that White people have done far more to hurt Black people in this country than to help them.

As someone who identifies as a White Hispanic, I find this troubling. I don't feel guilty about the atrocities committed by my ancestors; I feel motivated to do right by the people they have historically harmed. I think that's a distinction that should not be ignored.

The principles of the Declaration of Independence were worth fighting for then and now. I’m an old white guy. I say when blacks in political office make the kind of statement she made, she is attacking the sacrifices white people gave, including their lives. That is racist.

Strawmen are great because, no matter what your opponent is saying, you can simply put words in their mouths and argue against those. It's easier than having a fair discussion, although it is significantly less helpful in improving the state of this nation.

Here's the strawman in this argument: Norton stated that having children recite the Declaration of Independence in schools is unfair to minority students because the latter were not considered equal under God when it was written. The author, and everyone else on the extreme right apparently, accused her of calling the Declaration of Independence a racist document and attacking the sacrifices that White people have made for her.

This doesn't answer the question of whether it's fair to force minority students to recite the Declaration of Independence or not. Is the Declaration of Independence a racist document? I'll address that later. Should students be forced to recite it at schools? That's an argument with a great deal more nuance that became ignored in all the outrage from the Perpetually Offended Right.

Let's look at the document, though, because the author suggests that the Declaration of Independence was worth fighting for both in 1776 and today. And I doubted the validity of that claim the moment I saw it. Let's look at the text of that legendary document:

Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
— http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration_transcript.html

Well, Great Britain has a queen at the moment, and I don't think that Queen Elizabeth II is that awful a despot. I mean, she's fine. She's got great hair for an old lady, and her dogs are adorable. But I don't really see how she's attempting to establish "an absolute Tyranny over these States." Let's see what these "Facts" are. Maybe those'll clear this matter up.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
— http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration_transcript.html

This sounds more like the 114th Congress of the United States than the Queen of Great Britain.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
— http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration_transcript.html

This is like when President George W. Bush established the Department of Homeland Security and signed the Patriot Act into law.

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury
— http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration_transcript.html

Guantanamo Bay's still open, and President Barack Obama's in his eighth year.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
— http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration_transcript.html
Thomas Jefferson: "You sure we should leave that stuff in about the 'merciless savages'?" George Washington: "Yeah, sure. Who could it hurt?" Alexander Hamilton: "Well, the natives for one." George Washington: "Meh. Who cares? They'll be either assimilated or exterminated by the time 1800 rolls around." Thomas Jefferson: "You sure?" George Washington: "We got this."

Thomas Jefferson: "You sure we should leave that stuff in about the 'merciless savages'?"
George Washington: "Yeah, sure. Who could it hurt?"
Alexander Hamilton: "Well, the natives for one."
George Washington: "Meh. Who cares? They'll be either assimilated or exterminated by the time 1800 rolls around."
Thomas Jefferson: "You sure?"
George Washington: "We got this."

I was a little surprised by this. It'd been a few years since I've examined the text of the Declaration of Independence, and I didn't remember that it labeled the Native Americans as "merciless savages" who only fight wars of attrition by killing women, children, and the infirm.

It's a racist statement. It's offensive to the Stockbridge Natives of Massachusetts and other New England tribes that fought in the American Revolutionary War alongside White soldiers, believed in the same rights and freedoms as the colonists, and bled the same blood for independence from the British yoke.

Stockbridge Chief Solomon Unhaunawwaunnett said, "If we are conquered our Lands go with yours, but if we are victorious we hope you will offer us our just Rights." In return for the support and friendship of Native American men like him, his people were thanked with centuries of torture, extermination, relocation, and cultural erasure.

And the author wants to perpetuate that failure on the part of the Founders by forcing minority students to repeat those words like some kind of nationalistic creed? No. Absolutely not. While some of the "Facts" of the Declaration of Independence might still be applicable today, and the document deserves to be studied by students learning American history, it is not appropriate to force students to repeat those words as if they believed in them. Especially not if they're Native Americans themselves.

Actions like these above bring dishonor to all those who served this country, be they White, Black, Hispanic, American Indian, or Asian American. Shame on you.

It's clear that the author has little to no idea what he's talking about. But he's posting his blog inside of an echo chamber, where only his opinion is heard and comments are moderated. I don't expect my own blog post to start a conversation because I've developed an unhealthy cynicism about many of my fellow Americans' willingness to abandon wrongheaded opinions for ones more representative of reality. Thankfully, I'm surrounded everyday by White people who are exceptional and magnanimous. They keep me hopeful that America will continue to grow into the nation that the Founders envisioned, even if they didn't have the tools—or the willingness—to put it into effect themselves.