The Las Cruces Tea Party declared itself independent of the theme of the City’s Fourth of July parade, of state history, and of America’s core values.
The Fourth of July Committee set the theme for parade floats: New Mexico statehood, which began on 6 January 1912. Before this date, no state existed, so no state history existed, only pre-territorial and, from 1850 to 1912, territorial history. Moreover, the territory encompassed areas outside current state borders, including, until 1863, parts of Arizona. The parade theme set clear limits to celebrate the state’s centennial as part of the national observance of American independence.
Disrespecting the Committee and disregarding the limits of the theme, the LCTP secretly decided to make a float displaying all flags of “state history” since the arrival of the Spanish in the area. Its biased selection disguised its real purpose: to fly the rebel flag and thereby make its partisan statement expressing opposition to the federal government.
Departing from state history, the LCTP perpetrated its fraud with a bogus claim. A rebel flag did fly over the Palace of Governors for two weeks. But it was a military flag of a small unit of rebel troops, not the official flag of a legitimate territorial government. After Union forces ousted this small unit from Santa Fe and routed a larger unit at the Battle of Glorieta Pass in 1862, rebel flags still flew over rebel-occupied areas in the southern part of the territory. However, their flags never were government flags and never had legitimacy in the territory (or, technically speaking, anywhere else).
Despite its limit-breaking, theme-violating, history-faking float, the LCTP has the freedom of speech to express its loathing for the federal government, which, ironically, guarantees all citizens the right to free speech under the First Amendment of the Constitution. But having the right to free speech does not mean that the free speech is right. In exercising its free-speech right, the LCTP, which pretends to patriotism, displays its subversive inclinations.
In response to the prominent display of the rebel flag in the city’s parade, City Council should investigate this smear on the city and the offense to most of its citizens. For its Fourth of July Committee, through its parade judges, acted suspiciously by disregarding both fair play and its theme, to honor the LCTP float as best in the parade. The City should have the award and prize revoked, and the judges rebuked. Its report to its citizens should note the important differences between core American values and contrary core rebel values symbolized by the rebel flag.
Independence Day celebrates, not independence from Britain, but the Declaration of Independence. Issued when the success of the rebellion was in grave doubt, it boldly declares America’s core values. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” The first truth is the equality of all people. The second truth is the equal endowment of each man and woman with those “unalienable Rights.”
The rebel flag represents none of these values or rights. Despite its different symbolic meanings to many people, it has one inherent and inescapable symbolic meaning: a way of life imbued with racism, embodied in slavery, and defended by the doctrine of states’ rights. Generally and always, the doctrine of states’ rights excuses discriminatory state abuse or neglect of its residents.
From the beginning, states wanting to expand individual rights and benefits have done so without invoking the doctrine of states’ rights, but states wanting to restrict or prohibit them have invoked it, first to preserve slavery, then to resist civil rights for minorities, women, and others. For the Tea Party, states’ rights is a rallying cry for limiting, denying, or suppressing the rights of, and benefits for, millions of people, particularly pregnant or pregnancy-prone women, non-heterosexually inclined people, and the unemployed, impoverished, or unhealthy.
Thus, in all states in which the Tea Party has achieved political influence since 2010, it has sought, on bogus or trivial claims of voter fraud, to disenfranchise thousands of citizens, mostly minorities, the poor, seniors, and students. Yet it claims—its hypocrisy is egregious—that the federal government is destructive of the ends of government: the security of individual rights, and everyone’s “Safety and Happiness.” In truth, the Tea Party is loud only about an abstract liberty (or freedom) disconnected from those ends; quiet about equality, life, or the pursuit of happiness; and mute in its disregard of the “consent of the governed.”
The particular inappropriateness of flying the rebel flag in a Fourth of July parade is its inherent repudiation of the equality asserted in the Declaration of Independence. By parading the rebel flag on its float, the Las Cruces Tea Party declared its independence in favor of an apartheid America.