Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Out of touch in the Senate, 1 vote away from a police state

I'm analyzing why I have such a violent reaction to the B.S. that happened in the Senate today, and why folks like Sen. Diane Feinstein decided to vote FOR an amendment that will criminalize flag "desecration." If you'd like to know how subjective a term "desecrate" is, feel free to follow the link above.

Anyway, I'm sure my anger toward those who would criminalize causing damage to a SYMBOL has something to do with me being an artist, and that I've used a flag in my artwork. To me, it was not anywhere near desecration, but where's the line? I physically cut out parts of the flag, who's the judge? When does wearing the flag become desecration? When it's on a disfavored body part or person? What if a child drops the flag on the ground, is that desecration? I thought artists are supposed to be the ones that are grossly subjective and emotional, not politicians.

But where is there room for art in a culture that places the value of symbols over people? People have ideas, symbols don't, people live, symbols live inside our minds and, supposedly, can't be harmed by other's aggressions. To suggest that someone can harm our symbols by physically mangling it makes us appear weak, as my brilliant husband observed. For me, to arrest someone for burning our flag makes us look scared of ourselves--not to mention that we're trampling on freedom of expression (formerly one of our most patriotic principles). It may be true that we're scared of each other, but let's work on that instead of criminalizing our own fear in the constitution. We were one vote away from that, and, although I see it as a near miss, that is exactly what the Republicans will run on in the fall.

Let's criminalize our fear and suspicions! Down with personal autonomy and personal expression! Vote republican and you can eat your cake in a police state where no one knows exactly what "desecration" means (big brother likes it that way).

G_d help us.


Update: Letter to Senator Feinstein (an edit of last summer's letter to Rep. Harman)...

Dear Sen. Feinstein,

I am very disappointed to learn that you voted to restrict Americans' freedom of expression by supporting a constitutional amendment that allows Congress to define flag desecration (what a job!). This vote on free speech actually strikes at the true power of the American flag. If you vote to "protect" it, it will actually loose it's ability to symbolize freedom for all. It becomes a federal stamp rather than a powerful symbol that weathers the full spectrum of the American people and our passions.

I wonder, what does freedom mean to you? I believe that the principle of freedom means that American symbols can be both respected, venerated and denigrated by Americans. This is one very important reason why America is unique and great. This actual freedom shows, or maybe showed, that we are fundamentally free. But today in America, peace means war, freedom means civil rights restrictions, and we are every day losing a sense of reality and truth and living in an Orwellian fantasy based not on principles of freedom and liberty, but of the political power of special interests and politically generous corporations. To me, a vote for restrictions on freedom of expression (e.g. flag "desecration," and also academic tinkering) is a serious erosion, and actual desecration, of the principles of freedom and liberty for all, and a vote for personal political power at the expense of these principles.

Symbols are not principles. Why should we protect symbols over our principles? That is a fundamental error in American democracy. And as powerful as symbols are, they are not life. They serve as forms of communication, as metaphors, and therefore they are very clearly SPEECH (as the courts clearly recognize). Because they are like speech, their meaning depends completely on context, history, and interpretation.

I am an artist. Does this mean that my art involving the flag that I produced while I was living in New York, in reaction to 9-11, is a desecration of our national symbol [it is a flag with the word "comfort" literally cut out of it]? Who will make these interpretive decisions? What are the full consequences of this restriction on speech for which you are about to vote, and who will it most affect? Why would you give Congress such a controlling power?

To me, individuals' fears of the flag being desecrated put America in a position of weakness, as if we are not strong enough to endure self-criticism (yet we will continue to be criticized by those in other nations). That's tough to support, and I would like to believe that our nation will always be strong enough to endure self-criticism. In spite of your optimistic justification for this vote, you can be certain that an amendment to protect the flag will in fact limit Americans' rights to express their views of America through her symbols--and that's exactly why certain people are gunning for it. In the end, no law can really stop flag desecration (or abortion, for that matter). If someone desecrated your personal flag, or any other person's flag (monument), I'm certain our property laws would be sufficient to arrest those individuals.

I understand that many veterans venerate every image of the flag and think it should never be used as a symbol of dissent or protest. Their personal and emotional relationship to this symbol is something I can sympathize with because I also venerate our flag, and wish it to be a symbol of peace. However, ANY personally emotional or nationalistic reason for stifling the American tradition of freedom of speech is dangerous and not justified by our history of expanding liberties (this tradition is already being seriously undermined by the Bush administration and our Republican congress).

Please reconsider your position and keep the Old Glory a venerated symbol of the people, for the people. Veneration and patriotism is more meaningful when it is freely chosen.

Thank you

Thursday, June 15, 2006

G_d is the Word, the Word is G_d

I have no intention of reading the blonde conservative's new book, and she does not deserve my rage, but lest she think that there is no outrage over her accusation that liberals are godless, let me voice mine.

I saw her speak on the Tonight Show after Jay Leno questioned the language that she uses to make her points. He characterized it as nasty. She denied that it's nasty (see the link below and form your own opinion about her word choices).

"The wisdom of Ann Coulter"

I'm only human, and am not anywhere near perfect, but I have been trying to make my words "impeccable" lately which means "without sin." It is the First Agreement of the four agreements, a theory that I believe would make this world a much better place. I'm liberal. I guess you could call this political correctness, you could also call it trying to make myself into a woman who feels G_d's presence through my words. It involves showing respect for others as well as myself.

So I'm not enraged that Ann Coulter is labeling me as godless because I'm a liberal, that is simply wrong, I'm enraged because I don't recall hearing her say one true or godly thing tonight. In other words, she's a pot calling the kettle black (when the kettle is actually a brown).

She characterized liberals as an intolerant religion--that we all follow the same mantras and infuse our children, government and schools with our radical agenda. Ha! If that were true we'd be so powerful! The truth is, we have lots of competing ideas. If we are unified as liberals at all, it is possibly the principle that knowledge is good, that learning is good, that honest debate is good, and that science is generally good (and valid). We are tolerant, but are wary of the intolerant. This can lead to intolerance of the intolerant, naturally, but liberal principles include tolerance. She is telling us we're generally intolerant and weak at the same time she's saying we're so powerful. Illogical.

So I wonder which conservative first hired her to go around saying that liberal men are wimpy. That seems to be her whole M.O. Watch out for the godless, wimpy liberal threat!

Huh? That's hardly something to make us shudder--oh wait, that straw man is so that we don't ELECT liberals. It's much better to elect uninformed "strong" conservatives who can't handle wars, national disasters, money or scientific truths. Yeah, that's better for America.