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Pahrump, Nevada, sticks it to Sorkin and the US Constitution

I wouldn't normally post about this because in the scheme of things it's not a huge deal (just, perhaps a shamefully typical one), but the timing demands it.

In an ironic turn you wouldn't believe if it happened on TV, Pahrump has just confirmed every redneck, narrow-minded stereotype that Sorkin tried to repudiate only days ago in "Nevada Day".

The Pahrump Town Board voted to make it illegal to fly a foreign (read: Mexican) flag unless an American flag is flown above it, and has also legislated English as the official language of the town.

Typically, despicably, the ordinance was wrapped in false patriotism as the Pahrump Valley Times reports (italics mine):

"I make a motion, for all the servicemen and women that died for our country, that we pass PTO 54, the English Language and Patriot Reaffirmation Ordinance," Miraglia said.

The motivation for Mr Miraglia's motion? San Diego journalist Ruben Navarrette Jr writes:

Pahrump resident Michael Miraglia proposed the ban because, he said, he got upset when he saw immigrant activists marching through U.S. cities last spring, waving Mexican flags. Mr. Miraglia told USA Today that he was especially miffed that "we had Mexican restaurants closed that day." So that's what started all this -- the fact that some guy couldn't get his burrito fix.

And in Miraglia's own words, as reported by the Las Vegas Review-Journal:

Town Board member Michael Miraglia said he proposed the English Language and Patriot Reaffirmation ordinance after getting tired of encountering people who do not speak English. "When you are trying to get something done or trying to ask for some simple thing, they tell you they don't speak English," he said.

It gets worse:

The measure is unconstitutional and exclusionist, said Lee Rowland, staff attorney for the ACLU of Nevada.

The section of the proposal that says that any display of a foreign flag must be accompanied by a U.S. flag and that the U.S. flag must be above it or otherwise in a position of prominence is "radically inappropriate," Rowland said.

"Your favorite Italian deli can't put up the Italian flag on the roof to indicate they are an Italian deli," Rowland said. "That doesn't even bear discussion, it is so plainly unconstitutional. Flying a flag on your own property is clearly well within your freedom of expression."

So what happens when Rowland tries to defend the American Constitution at the town meeting?

Lee Rowland, a representative of the ACLU, was booed and shouted out by the audience almost immediately upon announcing her name and organization.

I don't understand the blind hate that some people have towards the ACLU. Yes, they've argued on behalf of some despicable people, but only to stand up for those liberties that the USA is supposed to stand for in best Voltarian fashion. A Sorkin quote just begs to be copied and pasted:

This is an organization whose sole purpose is to defend the Bill of Rights, so it naturally begs the question: Why would a senator, his party's most powerful spokesman and a candidate for President, choose to reject upholding the Constitution? If you can answer that question, folks, then you're smarter than I am, because I didn't understand it until a couple of minutes ago. America isn't easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, 'cause it's gonna put up a fight. It's gonna say "You want free speech? Let's see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who's standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours. You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country can't just be a flag; the symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest.
Words to live by (I've often wondered why the Democratic Party hasn't recruited Sorkin as a speech writer), and in this case we're not even talking about burning the American flag, but just displaying another.

Mind, the votes certainly weren't unanimous and there are officials and citizens who argued against these measures, and these should be commended. But the result paints Pahrump in sad, frightened, insular and pathetic colours.

And this after the town was portrayed in such a charming light that there are calls for the Pahrump of "Nevada Day" to be turned into a series.

I'd love it if Sorkin now followed up on "Nevada Day" in a future episode based on this sad development. Maybe John Goodman's Judge Bebe can blast the Town Board in the same way that the Bartlet West Wing fired broadsides at the "third way" Clinton administration. Yes, you campaign in poetry (and make TV shows in the same idealised fashion) and govern in prose, but this is legislating in bile.

Navarrette sums it up best in a way that even someone who's not American can applaud:

At moments like this, I barely recognize my own country. Americans confronted slavery, the Great Depression, the Third Reich, and racial injustice here at home. Now some of us tremble at the sight of a piece of cloth. How sad. We're a bigger people than that. Even if some of us, now and then, tend to forget it.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on November 21, 2006 2:27 PM.

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