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Friday, October 09, 2009

Blind Justice

The Supreme Court’s hearing a case that could be interesting (or not) involving a ginormous cross in the Mojave National Preserve atop Sunrise Rock that was put there in 1934 as a “war memorial.” Ten years ago, as the L.A. Times reports, “it came under legal attack from a former park service employee who, though a Catholic, thought it was inappropriate to favor one religion over another in the preserve. The National Park Service had turned down a request to have a Buddhist symbol erected nearby.

“A federal judge and the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the stand-alone display of the cross in the national preserve was unconstitutional and, further, Congress’ move to transfer it to the private VFW did not solve the problem.

“The Obama administration, joining with the VFW, urged the high court to uphold the display of the cross now that it is in private hands.”

In other words, the government was trying to duck the issue by shoving a piece of (formerly public) land with the cross on it off into private hands then declare, See, it’s a private matter right to have a ginormous cross right in the middle of public land, heh-heh.

Well, the court will now decide to focus on the “private” land deal only or go for a larger view, but what was interesting was how well this case illustrates how we get ourselves into paradigms that then that construct becomes “real.”

In this case, without even thinking about it much, it is culturally accepted that a cross signifies death, graves, war-dead memorial & etc. You name it, if you’re looking for a symbol involving “dead,” the cross is simply a cultural “given,” handed down from our theocratic ancestors. Build a memorial to dead people? Put up a cross. No questions asked. Of course we put a cross up, we’re honoring dead people. What else would you put up??? So, Honored Dead = cross; case closed.

So now we have Justice Scalia apparently stuck in this paradigm, which is scary. A justice of the Supreme Court? Stuck in constructs?

Argued the ACLU, a cross “is the predominant symbol of Christianity. It signifies that Jesus is the son of God and died to redeem mankind for our sins,” Peter Eliasberg told the justices. But because of its special religious significance, he said, it should not stand alone as a prominent symbol in a national park.

“Justice Antonin Scalia sharply disagreed. ‘It’s erected as a war memorial. I assume it is erected in honor of all the war dead.”

“Eliasberg objected, ‘I have been in Jewish cemeteries. There is never a cross on a tombstone of a Jew.’

“Scalia shot back: ‘I don’t think you can leap from that to the conclusion that the only war dead that the cross honors are the Christian war dead. I think that’s an outrageous conclusion.”

Uh, no, Mr. Scalia, the outrageous conclusion is that a Supreme Court justice finds himself comfortably and unquestioningly in a cultural construct that accepts, without question, that, Of COURSE a War Dead Memorial = A Cross, What else should be used” in honor of all the war dead?”

What else, indeed. Think, Mr. Scalia. THINK.

Quick, Hide the Gerbils

Followup story on the Supreme Court’s hearing on the 1st Amendment case versus selling videos of dogs fighting or “snuff” films involving torturing and killing small animals for sexual gratification of sickos & etc. (Quel Make-A-Buck American! Quel human, alas!) the Times reports the justices taking the discussion of this issue to an interesting new place.

“Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. garnered the attention of his colleagues with a series of questions on whether videos portraying humans being killed would be protected as free speech.
“Describing a hypothetical scenario, Alito said there might well be a “pay per view” market for programs made outside the United States and beyond the power of U.S. law that showed people actually being killed. He call it the ‘Human Sacrifice Channel’ and wondered aloud whether Congress could outlaw the showing of such programs in this country.

“Live. Pay-per-view, you know, on the Human Sacrifice Channel. That’s OK?” Alito asked.

“A lawyer defending a Virginia man who sold dog-fighting videos said she wasn’t sure.

“The fact conduct is repulsive or offensive does not mean we automatically ban the speech,” said Patricia Millett, the lawyer for Robert Stevens.

“She said the 1st Amendment usually protects speech and expression, even if the underlying conduct is ugly or illegal. She said the government should work to stop the illegal acts rather than make it a crime to show the illegal acts. [Forgetting the powerful link between sales fueling and even creating the behavior because it’s so lucrative – the old free market at work.]

“Several members of the court pressed her.

“I’m still looking for an answer,” said Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. “You are unwilling to say that Congress can pass a law that you cannot have a Human Sacrifice Channel.”

Ah, doncha love it. A Human Sacrifice Channel. Well, rest assured, if there’s a way to make THAT happen, bet on it – it’ll show up on your nearest pay-per-view and will make a bundle!

Meantime, this case will attempt to somehow figure out where 1st Amendment lines can be drawn. So far it’s No yelling Fire in Crowded theatres and no Child Porn. And, of course, there’s all kinds of remedies in civil court vis a vis libel & etc. But will the court add No Animal torture & snuff films for profit and/or No Human Sacrifice Channels to the list? Or will those be O.K? Stay tuned.

5 comments:

annerallen said...

As far as that cross goes, I think we have way bigger things to worry about. And remember how the Taliban blew up all those ancient Buddhas in the Afghan desert? Do we really want to follow in their footsteps? How about a little tolerance and multiculturalism instead of erasing every cultural artifact that suggests anybody ever had a religious feeling.

The Human Sacrifice Channel? You mean they don't have one already? I thought that was what America's Next Top Dancing Loser was about.

Churadogs said...

America's Next Top Dancing Loser? hahahahah.

Re the cross issue. I'm going to presume the court will skate by this one, saying, The Gov swapped out the land to a private group, case closed, move on. But then, maybe they'll wided it to actually deal with first amendment issues. The Court's hearing the Hillary Movie issue and seems to be willing to broad tht issue and maybe rule complete corporate personhood, which will be the death knell for America, unless Congress can wake up. We'll see. I can only hope a Wise Latina Woman can talk some sense into The Boys.

Alon Perlman said...

Annerallen,
Hi and good connect, re Afganistan, I kinda half remember a documentary that the Taliban forced the local villagers to hang from ropes and drill and place the explosives (And what nation(s) produced and what nation(s) supplied those explosives?)
If I'm not mistaken the villagers were not even Buddhists but taking Care of the monuments was their dedicated cultural heritage.
Fanatical or just plain o’l mean?
Guess, in one of the most impoverished nations on earth some people don't need tourism.

On a different note-I donno-was it installed near when the comprehensive "One nation under God" entered the pledge of allegiance? We obviously needed something more then the red white and blue, to differentiate "Us" (I wasn't even born yet, let alone naturalized) from the Godless Commies.

Speaking only for myself-As a Jew born in the holy land, the Old New Cross on the hill does not offend me. Why should I object to the symbol of the words and deeds of a long haird sandal wearing messiah born about the same distance (One day's Donkey ride from the Holy city (Ursalem, Al kuds, Yeroshalayim), speaking the wise words of the same deity.

The "Package" is another matter. That pickup truck racing back and forth in front of the monument had flags on it that have implications not intended by the constitutional words of the inspired wise fathers (Martha and Betsy played a part).

When living in England for a few months (1968?) I had to attend a (Public? Middle?) School, Prayer was not silent (1/2 Hour) and at meals. Talking in secular class earned actual Corporal punishment.

Other than in the "All the News that is fit to entertain you" and every Sitcom aimed at young teens, where are the "Sacrifice Channels"? (I don't get HD digital)

Was that Chuck Lydell, or the other guy, I saw in the Poufy Pirate shirt?
Word verification; synym
For when one "Word" is not like another.
Second word verification; sulfr
Deos ex machina- The ghost in the machine gives them out.

Mike Green said...

Blind Justice.
Is that the one with eight by ten glossy photographs with pictures and arrows?
Ever been across Kansas?
That pitiful christian (or whatever) cross pales in comparison to what meets the eye, mile after ghodforsaken mile, crossing the government subsidized megafarms with the government subsidized corn that we subsidized to "save" the farmers.
Where exactly does the commons start and stop?
And who is being protected here? and from what?
Annerallen has a good, very good point.
If tolerance is our mantra, when are we going to practice what we preach?
Verification, chink

Churadogs said...

Mike Green asks:"Where exactly does the commons start and stop?"

Ah, excellent, excellent question. And what should be private and what public, and when does "commons" and "sharing" shade over into "coercion," and unthinking presumption slide over into restrictions and limitations and discrimination and finally prohibitive "law." &etc. Always grey areas and few bright lines. America The Land of the Free, Home of the Constant Social Negotiation