Sir, as a veteran I am deeply disturbed by the policy recently enacted by the Marine Corps regarding the banning of all public displays of the Confederate Battle Flag; otherwise known as the Saint Andrews Cross. I understand that, as Commandant of the Marine Corps, you are ultimately responsible for maintaining order and discipline among the ranks, but I find it both offensive and disturbing that the Marine Corps would ban any public display of a historical image simply because it has been hijacked by racists and extremists.
We are told that the U.S. military, of which the Corps is an essential part of, stands for the principles this country was founded upon, and that it fights wars to preserve those principles. I feel that this recent move to ban any public display of the Confederate Battle Flag violates those principles the military claims to uphold and defend.
The freedom of speech and expression is the cornerstone of free political debate. It is a slippery slope one steps upon when they begin limiting what can be said or displayed simply because others find it offensive; or because certain groups have taken those images and words out of context and used them for evil purposes.
In 1919 Justices Oliver Wendell Holmes and Louis D. Brandeis held that speech could only be punished if it presented a clear and present danger of imminent hard. They further argued that mere political advocacy was protected by the First Amendment.
In 1787 Thomas Jefferson penned a letter to William Stephens Smith in which he said, “The people cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented, in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions, it is lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. … The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon and pacify them.”
Although my time served in the military was decades ago, I recall how fond the military is of making service members attend briefings and classes. I had to go to numerous such classes during my 3 enlistments, so I know for a fact that they try to instill in their members justice, and equal rights for all their members.
I feel that your policy of banning the Confederate Battle Flag violates the rights of those who wish to display it. Could it be displayed by those who do not understand what it truly stands for; those who seek to pervert the cause of the Confederacy? Of course, but the argument that you must ban something because it has been used improperly is the same argument that has been used to enact laws that violate many of our other rights; such as gun control laws.
In 1943 Justice Robert H. Jackson held, “The very purpose of a Bill of Rights was to withdraw certain subjects from the vicissitudes of political controversy, to place them beyond the reach of majorities and officials and to establish them as legal principles to be applied by the courts. One’s right to life, liberty, and property, to free speech, a free press, freedom of worship and assembly, and other fundamental rights may not be submitted to vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections.”
The Freedom of Speech, and expression are unalienable rights, one which you, as Commandant of one of the branches of the armed forces has taken an oath to support and defend. I feel that your actions are in direct violation of that oath; as they limit and restrict the rights of those whose right to display the Confederate Battle Flag has been denied.
I hope that you will reconsider your position, and instead of denying the rights the Marine’s claim to support and defend, that you might begin educating your Marines as to what that flag truly stands for; not the biased history they have been taught in school; and certainly not the misguided interpretations held by racists and extremists.