100%

Scanned image of the page. Keyboard directions: use + to zoom in, - to zoom out, arrow keys to pan inside the viewer.

Page Options

Download this Issue

Share

Something wrong?

Something wrong with this page? Report problem.

Rights / Permissions

This collection, digitized in collaboration with the Michigan Daily and the Board for Student Publications, contains materials that are protected by copyright law. Access to these materials is provided for non-profit educational and research purposes. If you use an item from this collection, it is your responsibility to consider the work's copyright status and obtain any required permission.

March 27, 1989 - Image 4

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1989-03-27

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

4

OPINION

Page4Monday, March 27, 1989 The Michigan Daily

4

Who

By Lucy Lippard
The following article was condensed from
the March 1989 edition of Zeta magazine.
Who owns the stars and stripes? This
month the Supreme Court will decide
Whether it is the state or its citizens.
Is "symbolic speech" (actions and im-
ages protected by the First Amendment?
This month the Supreme Court will decide
whether radicals and artists are second-class
citizens.

owns ti
Revolutionary Communist Party member
arrested in 1984 while protesting the Re-
publican National Convention in Dallas.
The Johnson case is the Supreme
Court's current focus. William Kuntsler
and the Center for Constitutional Rights
are his attorneys. Johnson, now 32, was
convicted by a Texas court, sentenced to a
year in jail and $2,000 fine for
"desecration of a venerated object." When
he appealed, a higher court ruled the Texas
flag law was unconstitutional. That should
have been that. But the Texas Attorney
General's office chose to petition the
Supreme Court to overturn the appeal de-
cision. The Court, Reaganized for reac-
tion, accepted the case - an indication
that it is unwilling to let the sleeping
dogs of unconstitutionality lie.
The "Question Presented" to the
Supreme Court in the Johnson case is
"Does the Public Burning of an American
Flag during the course of a political
demonstration constitute free speech sub-
ject to the protection of the First Amend-
ment?"
It has been made very clear that
prosecution is a privilege reserved for the
left. This was noted, not for the first time,
by attorney James Harrington of the Texas
Civil Liberties Union, who represented
Joey Johnson in his appeal proceedings:
"We allow certain people with certain po-
litical persuasions to use the American
flag with impunity. Oliver North and Jerry
Falwell claim they have some sort of cor-
ner on its meaning. George Bush has been
using it this year as a political tool. But if
you burn it as a symbol of protest against
these government policies, you're arrested.
There's a hypocrisy about this."

H

e stars
According to Texas law, the flag is a
"venerated object," and the Texas brief
makes much of "the physical integrity of
the flag" as well as "protecting public
peace" and the "immanence of public un-
rest" provoked by flag burnings. (In
apparently unintentional puns, there is ;
much talk of "inflammatory" and
"incendiary" behavior, although as the
ACLU brief points out, no breach of peace
or unrest ever took place that day in Dal-
las.) Yet according to the Constitution,
veneration is a private affair; for some,
idolatry of the flag is as offensive as its
destruction if for others. George Bush in a
flag factory piously washing his dirty lit-
tle hands with Pledges offends me, but I
guess I won't sue.
In 1943, the Court said that a "person
gets from a symbol the meaning [s]he
puts into it." (Politics is in the eye of the
beholder.) The State of Texas insists that
the flag is above all ideologies while at
the same time presenting a petition that is
clearly ideological.
The Right, while repeating its devotion
to "content-neutral" laws, also makes a
distinction between "political speech" and
"other types of speech," and also between
speech/ideas and "overt acts." (Performance
artists and street theaters beware.) Such
dissections of the First Amendment
potentially limit the extent of radical dis-
sent as surely as do Israeli laws that jail
Palestinian artists for using their national
colors, even in a flower painting.
William Kuntsler says the Johnson case
involves more than just free speech:
"Throughout the world, the burning of
flags has always been regarded as a most
dramatic form of expressing contempt for

and si
the activities or policies of the country
whose banner is involved. To insulate the
American flag from such treatment is not
only to eliminate one form of direct
protest against the government, but to
continue the veneration of a piece of cloth
and the false patriotism it so often
cloaks."
"This is the flag painted on the side of
'Fat Boy.' ...It graced the sides of the
planes which dropped napalm on the Viet-
namese people. It is sewn on the uniforms

ripes?

It's not only artists and potential dis-
senters who should be concerned about the
outcome of this case and the criminaliza-
tion of "disrespect." Whether or not Joey
Johnson is an "artist," according to the
avant-garde canon, all he has to do to be-
come one is to say he is. Symbolic speegh
is not solely the domain of cultural work-
ers. It is the bottom line of our particular
brand of "democracy." It should not only
be protected, but fiercely monitored aid
protested when it is unjustly manipulated.

'Yet according to the Constitution, veneration is a private af-
fair; for some, idolatry of the flag is as offensive as its de-
struction is for others.'

Who are the criminals? Raquel Welch
flaunting a flag bathing suit? Richard
Nixon's button defiling the flag with his
superimposed portrait? The U.S. post of-
fice daily planting millions of black bars
across it? Abbie Hoffman wearing a flag
shirt to the House Un-American Activities
Committee? An art critic burning the flag
in the street? A "punk anarchist" member
of the Revolutionary Communist Party
Youth Brigade burning the flag in the
street? You- if you've ever carried a flag
emblazoned with a peace symbol, like a
17 year old girl in Boulder, Colorado, who
was ticketed two years ago for "mutilation
and contempt for the flag"?
All or none of the above. But only
[some] of these people were prosecuted,
[including] Gregory Lee "Joey" Johnson, a

'4

of the 'advisors' of the contras in Central
America," points out The Revolutionary
Worker, and compulsory patriotism opens
the door for mandatory flag salutes in
schools. (Can prayer be far behind?) The
Dallas demo was intended to dramatize
fascist tendencies in the Republican party.
With Johnson's arrest, the young people
involved may have succeeded in drawing
still more direct parallels between recent
regimes and another art-destroying, book-
burning society of recent memory.

The protectors and monitors must be us
- the "owners" of that democracy as well
as of the flag that sometimes represents"it
- not a government that all too often
abuses it.
If you're not up for making artworks or
art gestures that include the burning of
flags in public, just tear a canceled flag
stamp off the next letter you get, and pin'
it onto your lapel as a statement of your
own pledge of allegiance to the stuff this
country is supposed to stand for.

I

E ie mi iguan aUQ
Edited and managed by students at The University of Michigan

I

Vol. IC, No. 120

420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Unsigned editorials represent a majority of the Daily's Editorial Board. All ott' er
cartoons, signed articles, and letters do not necessarily represent the opinion
of the Daily.

I

Usual bedfellows

KARL MARX, were he still alive,
would undoubtedly find a recent Wall
:Street Journal article (3/17/89) expos-
ing the connections between top East-
em Airlines management and the high-
est echelons of government thoroughly
,ntriguing.
Although the Journal probably didn't
intend to present a Marxist analysis of
the relationship between powerful eco-
nomic interests and the government, it
,nevertheless dihi an excellent job of re-
vealing the close relationship Eastern
boss Frank Lorenzo has with top gov-
ernment bureaucrats, and the conse-
quences this has for the striking East-
ern workers.
The Journal lists nineteen past and
present influential members of the
Democratic and Republican parties who
have been - and in many instances
remain - on Lorenzo's payroll.
In perhaps the most important labor
dispute in a decade, the government
has sided with the company, and its
doing so may stem from the extensive
financial links between Lorenzo and the
Republican and Democratic parties.
The government has acted against
Eastern's unions by refusing to appoint
an emergency National Mediation
Board to investigate the dispute. Con-
fident that even the most biased inves-
tigation would rule in their favor, East-
ern's workers, who have taken mas-
sive wage cuts and acquiesced to other
concessions over the past two years,
have demanded that a governmental
panel be instituted to adjudicate their
conflict with Lorenzo. Federal officials
who have mediated the strike so far
have recommended that Bush appoint
the board. However, Bush and influ-
ential members of Congress, both
Democrat and Republican, have balked
at intervening, apparently out of con-
cern that they could not get away with
publicly siding with Lorenzo. So for
now, the strike drags on as Lorenzo

at least in part, why the government
has taken the role it has. The number of
government big shots on Lorenzo's
dole, and the sums they have received,
is truly astonishing.
To begin with, Eastern President
Philip Bakes and top outside counsel to
Eastern David Boies are former aides to
Ted Kennedy. Claiming that he sees no
problem with a revolving door between
large corporations involved in labor
disputes and the government, Boies
states that, "The Democratic Party is a
wide umbrella."
Other powerful Dems in Lorenzo's
hip pocket include former Carter cabi-
net member Joseph Califano, Jr. and
former Democratic National Committee
Chair Robert Strauss, both of whom
head law firms that have been on re-
tainer for Lorenzo, representing him in
labor disputes.
Lorenzo's friends occupy top posts
in the Republican party as well. Fred-
erick McClure, who made $132,000 a
year as a Texas Air executive, is now
Bush's assistant for legislative affairs
and top lobbyist. (Texas Air is the
Lorenzo-controlled holding company
for Eastern.) His replacement at Texas
Air is Rebecca Range, Reagan's assis-
tant for public liaison. Casting a wide
net to capture the favor of officials
throughout out the Republican party,
Lorenzo doled out over $100,000 to
the party last year. An Eastern baggage
handler can't afford the influence of
McClure, Range and the like, or come
up with the six figure contributions
needed to help corrupt major political
parties.
While it may be shocking to find so
many government officials involved
with Lorenzo, this relationship is un-
fortunately the general rule, not the ex-
ception to it. Any businessperson with
a few million bucks to spread around
can put top government officials on

As shown above, the American flag is desecrated in many ways: by unscrupulous politi-
clans who use it to justify murder; by the U.S. Postal Service cancellation of flag
stamps; and by protesters objecting to U.S. aggression against other nations. Only the
latter, however, has been prohibited by law.
Letters to the editor

Issue is
artistic
freedom
Editor's note: the following
letter was incorrectly edited
when it ran on Thursday,
March 16.The Daily apolo-
gizes for this. The letter is
reprinted here in full.
To the Daily:
In the February 23 issue of
the Daily, I was misquoted in
the lead article, which covered a
gathering held at Rackham on
Feb. 22 in support of Salman
Rushdie and artistic freedom in
this country.
The issue, for me, is this. A
head of state in Iran has directed
Muslims everywhere to kill a
novelist who is a citizen of
another country. Make this
distinction: this is not a "death
threat." Salman Rushdie is
living under an execution order.
There is a difference. Individu-
als "threaten" to kill other in-
dividuals all the time, but for a
national and religious leader in
Iran to "command" millions of
people all over the world to
hunt down a British citizen and
murder him is unique and un-
precedented, and is having a
staggeringly wide spread effect
around the world. What artist

canvas or film).
There is no easy response to
this unprecedented act. In the
days immediately following
Khomeini's outrageous edict,
some critics perceived writers
(including poets, novelists,
scholars, journalists, and
essayists) as responding
slowly, and thus being "too
quiet," or "cowardly." But I
didn't. How could anyone have
responded quickly to this
situation? Who was prepared
for it? I did not say that our
gathering was a "stand against
cowardice," because it wasn't.
Our gathering was an expres-
sion of solidarity with Rushdie
and an assertion of our right to
think, write, buy, and read
what we want.
I don't remember anybody
using the word "cowardice" on
Feb. 22. I am not even sure the
Waldenbooks' now famous re-
sponse -directing that all
copies of The SatanicVerses
be pulled from the shelves of
its many storesh- is
"cowardly." I thought it was
rather prudent: the executives
of that company seemed to be
taking responsibility for the
safety of their employees.
When was the last time any-
body complained about that?
There can be any number of
reasons for a person's saying
nothing and taking no action
(disinterest and indecision
among them), to I would not

edict. We must continue to
write and to speak in an atmo-
sphere free of repression and
terrorism. Let us protect our
freedoms, and assert them at
every opportunity.
-William Holinger
February 23
Free Free
Press is right
To the Daily:
Over the last few days a me-
dia storm has been raging over
a war in El Salvador, and a
piece of journalism saying the
"Detriot Free Free Press."
Saturday, March 18, the Ann
Arbor News printed a article by
Will Stewart in which I was
quoted. Although the quote was
acccurate, its context was mis-
leading and false. It read: "the
first thing I thought was that I
might have to go to war...
Then I realized the whole thing
was a big lie."
Now I said these things to
Mr. Stewart, but there is
more.., there is a war going
on in El Savidor, that paper
wrapped around the Free Press
may have been bogus as Stew-
art's headline asserted, but it
also contained a lot of truth.
And, it had even more merit
thain truth becaus~e it made me

Travel to El
Salvador
To the Daily:
The Peace and Justice Com-
mittee of the Michigan Student
Assembly will be sending four
students to El Salvador this
summer to visit our sister uni-
versity, the University of El
Salvador.
Participants will meet with
members of the university
community, as well as gov-
ernment officials and members
of various popular organiza-

A

tions. 4
There will be an informa-
tional meeting for those inter-
ested in going to El Salvador
on Monday, March 27 at 7:30
p.m. in the chambers of the
Michigan Student Assembly,
3909 Michigan Union. Persons
unable to attend the meeting
should contact the chair of the
Peace and Justice Committee,
Pam Galpern, through the
MSA office.
-Pam Galpern
February 25

Due to the volume of mail,
the Daily cannot print all

Back to Top

© 2020 Regents of the University of Michigan