So proudly we hail the red-and-white striped god


Expanded from the 6-30-2002 Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune

A few years back, the Wall Street Journal published the results of a study of the status of the first ten amendments to the Constitution of the United States, better known as Bill of Rights. The analysis found that only one of the safeguards in that great document remains intact: the prohibition against being forced to quarter troops in your home. The rest was in tatters.

Clever constitutional lawyers know that the best way to blow a piece off the Bill of Rights is to hitch your wagon of explosives to an emotional stalking horse. In the 1990s, feminist lawyer Catherine MacKinnon was reported by the New York Times Magazine to be working on an exception to the First Amendment. Her goal was laudable: many films sexually exploit women, sometimes against their will.

The recently deceased porno actress known as Linda Lovelace said she was not mentally competent during the filming of her most famous work, "Deep Thoat." She was seriously strung out on drugs and not in possession of her faculties, she said much later. MacKinnon wanted to craft a way to make such films illegal and thus remove the incentive to exploit women.

MacKinnon was looking at the most revolting stalking horse imaginable to carve out a First Amendment exception to freedom of expression on the silver screen: snuff films. As far as I know, there has never been a documented case of a film wherein someone is killed as an intentional part of the plot. Such supposed imports, especially from Brazil, long ago achieved urban legend status.

The First Amendment is once again in great danger because of the latest stalking horse, cloaked in the American flag in the name of God.

Some of the greatest justices ever to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court saw the dangers of such emotional attachment to an inanimate object and openly dismissed the issue.

"In 1984, several liberal members of the Supreme Court, including Thurgood Marshall, Harry Blackmun, John Paul Stevens and William Brennan said references like 'In God we Trust,' which appears on United States currency and coins, were protected from the Establishment Clause because their religious significance had been lost through rote repetition," the New York Times reported last Thursday.

The First Amendment states that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." Many countries today have state-established religions with the attendant carnage. Israel, Iran and Palestine come to mind.

Technically, the federal judges who last week ruled the pledge of allegiance to the flag unconstitutional are correct. The Constitution is nothing if not protective of the rights of individuals from the tyranny of the majority.

Alas, the case came at a time when faith in established religions has perhaps reached a national low water mark. Scores of holy men of several faiths in several countries have been revealed as sexual predators.

Back during one of the nation's periodic convulsions over flag burning, NBC news commentator John Chancellor noted that reverence toward and consecration (the opposite of desecration) of the American flag reflected the fact that we have neither state religion nor royalty to adore. He observed that British soldiers can even black their boots with retired Union Jacks, but don't you dare insult the queen in their presence.

The liberal justices long ago realized the danger to the Bill of Rights presented when passion and emotion overrule reason. As they feared, both houses of Congress last week immediately launched a new threat on the Constitution in the name of the holy shroud of St. Betsy Ross.

A suggestion for a more proper pledge

I pledge allegiance to the United States of America. One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

(That pesky last clause still needs a lot of your attention.)

The above comes close to the original.

(Please scroll down to the second letter at the above link.)

We tend to forget that the pledge of allegiance was born as a marketing gimmick by a guy who sold flags. It got printed in a Knights of Columbus publication in 1892 as the Catholic organization celebrated the 400th anniversary of the "discovery" of America, better known today as the commencement of genocide against Native Americans.

A flag is not worthy of allegiance, which a recent Webster's dictionary defines as "the loyalty of a citizen to his or her government or of a subject to his or her sovereign." The Brits get mad if you insult the queen but see a flag for what it is.

Americans, with faith in so many of their institutions now in tatters, seek solace in their flag as demigod. The lawyer/doctor who brought the pledge of allegiance case has received death threats. Last I heard, not even flag burning is yet a capital offense.

Pandering the pledge pays off in political points. King George Bush I, in his acceptance speech to the 1988 Republican National Covention, said of his opponent, Gov. Michael Dukakis, D-Mass., "I believe in the pledge of allegiance and he doesn't."

In 1994, Sen. Bill Raggio, R-Reno, engineered a political campaign questioning the patriotism of Sen. Lori Lipman Brown, D-Las Vegas. Brown, a Jew, would leave the state senate chamber during Christian prayer and recite the subsequent flag pledge from the back of the bus. Raggio knocked Brown out of office in a campaign alleging she refused to recite the pledge. She sued and won an out-of-court settlement.

Just when the heat was getting close to Dubya's insiders, up comes a cotton candy issue guaranteed to get the rabble out into the streets with torches and pitchforks. Alas, a day after the pledge ruling came two truly chilling pronouncements from the U.S. Supremes.

Religious schools may now be subsidized with taxpayer money. What about an Islamic school which teaches its students "death to America"? That door is now open.

In the other case, Justice Clarence Thomas ruled that students have no Constitutional right to privacy. He said those who engage in extracurricular activities "voluntarily subject themselves to many of the same intrusions on their privacy as do athletes."

Aside from the absurdity of having the chess club pee in a cup, doesn't anyone see the danger of conditioning the next generation to think that submitting to any intrusion by Big Brother is entirely OK?

Clarence called the level of intrusion into a student's privacy negligible.

Is it still rape if the intruding object doesn't penetrate all the way?

Catherine MacKinnon, call your office.

Be well. Raise hell. | U-News | C.O.P. | Sen. Joe Neal
Guinn Watch | Deciding Factors


© 2002 Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a 33-year Nevadan, a member Communications Workers of America Local 9413 and editor of and He hosts Deciding Factors on several Nevada television stations. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.)Tribune since 1988.

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