The late political humorist and columnist extraordinaire Molly Ivins once said, “Many a time freedom has been rolled back — and always for the same sorry reason: fear.”
With that notion in mind, we want to comment on a tweet issued by President-elect Donald Trump on Tuesday morning.
According to The Associated Press, Trump says that anyone who burns an American flag should face unspecified "consequences," such as jail or a loss of citizenship.
The president-elect's tweet is a direct conflict with free speech rights guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution. It comes as he struggles to name a secretary of state.
But let’s not forget, he’ll likely be sending a few judges up for confirmation (probably to go in front of a mostly lock-step Congress) to the Supreme Court, which routinely rules on such constitutional cases.
Trump tweets: "Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag — if they do, there must be consequences — perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!" It was not clear what prompted the tweet Tuesday morning.
We think it was to be used as a diversionary tactic (so very National Enquirer of the next leader of the free world) — like his tweets about the Green Party’s call for a recount in three states.
There is plenty to divert journalists — and the Americans who voted for him — from rally promises on which he has already backtracked to his many foibles just three weeks into the transition.
The president-elect also is surely seeking to divert the American people from his business conflict of interest, which could see him selling out our country to the highest foreign bidder for personal gain, infighting in the transition team and his lack of experience, diplomacy, clear thinking and intellectual curiosity.
The list goes on. Yet, we aren't diverted.
The Supreme Court ruled in 1989's Texas vs. Johnson case that flag-burning is protected by the First Amendment.
It has been pointed out since Trump's tweet that former Sen. Hillary Clinton supported a 2005 measure to make burning the flag with intention to incite violence a crime. We support no measure, regardless of the party affiliation of those who support it, whose aim it is to diminish First Amendment rights.
According to The Associated Press report, Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wis., agrees with our stance. He suggested on CNN's "New Day" Tuesday that Trump's tweet was wrong.
"We want to protect those people who want to protest. ... I disagree with Mr. Trump on that," he said.
Duffy is the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee's panel on oversight and investigations.
We'll see how this all plays out. There are real and salient reasons why Trump resonated with those who voted for him. And though not all of those voters are racist, sexist white nationalists, for all of them, Trump’s racism, sexism and sense of white superiority wasn’t a deal-breaker.
And we believe they have been sold a bill of goods.
For many who made up the popular vote across the country — and for our nation at large, though Trump's most ardent supporters might not ever admit it, even as we sink into its throes — a dark period in U.S. history is about to emerge.
We must not normalize Trump’s talk, which is fast, loose and often beyond offensive to downright hateful. He doesn’t tell it like it is, he spouts the first thing that comes to his mind. Those are two different things.
He lies. He lied to the people at his rallies. Now he has the most powerful position in the world and he’s talking (tweeting) about jailing — or worse — those who exercise their First Amendment rights.
Maybe he's lying! Maybe not! Who knows?
It has been suggested someone take away his Twitter account privileges. We think they should remain intact so we can continue to monitor him as he tells it like it is. It would be helpful to know what he's thinking so we are fully aware that if we exercise our constitutional rights we could be jailed or lose our citizenship under a Donald J. Trump presidency.
Ivins also said, “So keep fightin’ for freedom and justice, beloveds, but don’t you forget to have fun doin’ it. Lord, let your laughter ring forth. Be outrageous, ridicule the 'fraidy-cats, rejoice in all the oddities that freedom can produce.”
We can't help but wonder, if Ivins were alive today, would she be as horrified by our current "oddities" as many of us are?