Currently viewing the tag: "Pennsylvania"

1024px-Map_of_USA_showing_state_namesThe most Montana thing I have ever done is be carried across a raging creek by a Missouri rancher who left the state on a bus when he was a teenager in the 1940s.

The most Tennessee thing I have ever done was eat Prince’s Hot Chicken, black-eyed peas, and potato soup on the same day I had moonshine and listened to a fiddle.

The most Virginia thing I have ever done is know my friend S.T. at all, and also to visit Confederate graves with him.

The most Maryland thing I have ever done is visit somewhere in Baltimore that wasn’t the Inner Harbor.

The most Nevada thing I have ever done is accidentally walk outside of a Vegas motel room while on the phone, then stare in horrified fascination at my instantly blackened feet.

The most Nebraska thing I have ever done is be bored by Nebraska and Kansas.

The most Colorado thing I have ever done is listen to “Hot for Teacher” while driving through the majestic Rocky Mountains and experiencing snow, rain, and sunshine in alarmingly rapid succession.

The most Texas and Georgia things I have ever done are both go to the airport. (That is also the most Germany thing I have ever done.)

The most West Virginia thing I have ever done is visit a yard sale being put on by fierce, mean-eyed folks who seem to have come straight down from the holler. They had nothing to say to our kind, and no salesman or woman politeness to offer. When mom and I finally left, an old man sitting on a nearby porch gave us a curt, yet strangely sympathetic nod and wave.

The most Kentucky thing I have ever done is buy Everclear for $7.99.

The most California thing I have ever done is be born in Hollywood Memorial Hospital.

The most Ohio thing I have ever done is be an asshole.

The most North Dakota thing I have ever done is be cold as hell in Fargo on a bus.

The most Wyoming thing I have ever done is be unable to find a place to sleep.

The most Utah thing I have ever done is listen to my sister complain about some Mormons

The most North Carolina thing I have ever done is shoot a semi-automatic with Calvin T., after visiting a promisingly off-putting Army Surplus store.

The most Washington, DC thing I have ever done is see Al Franken walking by through the window of the taxi I was taking to the RT studio. Second place, go to brunch one time or another.

The most New York City thing I have ever done is tied between being in the same bar as Andrew Kirell and Anthony L. Fisher and not having any interest in anything in the state besides the city of New York.

The most Pennsylvania thing I have ever done is walk Pickett’s Charge.

The most Pittsburgh thing I have ever done is accidentally slip into a Pittsburgh accent when I say “Howler’s” (it’s a bar). Second place is swear to leave soon.

upside_down_us_flagA Blair County, Pennsylvania, resident named Joshua Brubaker got into some trouble last weekafter he hung an American flag upside down and painted “AIM” on it. Brubaker, who is part American Indian, was trying to make a statement after learning that the site of the infamous 1890 Wounded Knee massacre—and a 1973 conflict between the American Indian Movement and the FBI—was going up for sale. A graffitied flag is the kind of routine artistic protest often made by 19-year-olds who have just heard of Noam Chomsky, but it really pissed off L.J. Berg, an assistant chief with the Allegheny Township police. Berg—who says a woman who was in the military was offended by it as well—took it upon himself to take the icon down and charge Brubaker with desecration and insults to the American flag.

According to Flag Code, an upside-down flag is a distress signal, and some protesters have, like Brubaker, used it as a symbol for metaphorical or political distress. In 2012, a West Virginia McDonald’s flew an upside-down American flag at half-mast either in protest of Obama’s reelection, or, as the franchise owner later said, because a cable broke. Also that year a veteran in Spokane, Washington, had his upside-down flag stolen from his yard about two weeks after he first put it up to protest “a lot of political things.”

Malcontents from across the political spectrum turn flags upside-down, but there are plenty of people who wish all these damn hippies would get locked up or whatever—as headlines like“Desecration or Free Speech?” reflect. In fact, the right to burn or deface the stars and stripes was only officially affirmed 25 years ago, in the Supreme Court case Texas vs. Johnson. That dealt with a communist named Gregory Johnson, who in 1984 burned an American flag outside the Republican National Convention in Texas and was subsequently arrested for vandalizing a respected object. He was sentenced to a year in prison under the 1968 Federal Flag Desecration Law, but in 1989 his conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court, which held that burning the flag was “symbolic” and protected free speech. Part of the court’s reasoning was that since burning a flag is a proper way to “retire” it, the prosecution of Johnson was based on his political motivations, not the actual action of burning, and you can’t arrest people for their beliefs in the US.

Subsequent federal laws to protect the flag have been either overturned or gotten stuck in a legislative quagmire, usually in the House. State restrictions on burning or defacing the flag have been overturned since as unconstitutional, but not without a fight—in Missouri, a judge overturned one such law in 2012 after a man successfully sued after his arrest for burning and tearing a flag in 2009, but that fight has continued in other courts. Freedom of speech aside, many Americans still think flag burning should be illegal—a 2006 Gallup poll found that a majority of respondents favored a Constitutional amendment that would allow legislatures to ban flag burning. (Fortunately, America is not ruled by opinion polls yet.)

But hold on—doesn’t all that mean the cops were clearly in the wrong when they arrested Brubaker? Not necessarily. He’s been charged with a third-degree misdemeanor under a 2010 Pennsylvania law that prohibits various desecrations of the flag that makes exceptions for “patriotic or political demonstration.” The legal director of the Pennsylvania American Civil Liberties Uniontold the media that Brubaker’s flag absolutely qualifies as political, and thereby protected, speech. The cops can argue that Brubaker’s actions aren’t political and attempt to make the charges stick—they’d just be very, very wrong. As Brubaker said, “If I don’t have a right to fly that flag upside down, which means a sign of distress, which this country is in so much distress right now, then what’s the point of having it?”

The rest of this week’s bad cops over here

Western Pennsylvania, 2010

Western Pennsylvania, 2010