The U.S. Department of Justice has joined the discussions over a controversial float in the Norfolk Independence Day parade.
The department sent a member of its Community Relations Service team, which gets involved in discrimination disputes, to a Thursday meeting about the issue. Also at the meeting were the NAACP, the Norfolk mayor and The Independent Order of Odd Fellows.
The float was created by a Nebraska veteran, Dale Emmerich, and featured a zombified mannequin figure standing in front of an outhouse bearing the sign, “Obama Presidential Library.” Emmerich said the mannequin represented him and other veterans, and the float was a comment on the horrors of the VA scandal. Which, given the level of broken trust, deceit, and death exposed at nearly every level of that corrupt system, I cannot begrudge the man his dissent. It used to be that we valued such things even when— especially when, dare I say— we disagreed personally with such speech or found it problematic.
I describe the content of the float to put us all on the same page but it’s irrelevant because making a parade float that offends people is not in any way against the law. Charles C.W. Cooke on the virtues of the formerly universally understood freedom to mock one’s leaders:
Now for the obvious question: Why? What, exactly, was the problem here? Nobody was killed. Nobody was injured. Nobody had their material or spiritual interests injured, nor were they stripped of their livelihoods. No federal or state laws were broken. Indeed, not even private rules were broken. More to the point, there was no “discrimination dispute” of the sort with which the DOJ likes to concern itself. Instead, a few free people were vexed because a politician that they like was depicted in an unflattering light. One might well ask, “So what?” Once, Americans tackled the Oregon Trail. Are they now in need of their political “discussions” being arbitrated by glorified social workers sent by Uncle Sam?
In a typically risible statement, Nebraska’s state Democratic party described the incident as one of the “worst shows of racism and disrespect for the office of the presidency that Nebraska has ever seen.” That this is almost certainly true demonstrates just how much progress the United States has made in the last 50 years — and, in consequence, how extraordinarily difficult the professionally aggrieved are finding it to fill their quotas. If a fairly standard old saw is among the worst things to have happened to the Cornhusker State in recent memory, the country is in rather good shape, n’est-ce pas?
“The float was political satire and an expression of political disgust. There was no racism involved, no hate for anyone,” Remmich said.
The argument of the offended was, as the statement from Nebraska’s Democrats reveals, rather flimsy. It consisted, as usual, of an assertion of racism. I hate to repeat Cooke too much, whose whole piece you should read, but we have the same outstanding questions about this. I ask them with the full knowledge that it’s racist to even be confused about this. Are zombies racist? Overalls? Outhouses? And, wouldn’t one need to establish that the mannequin, rather casually costumed for a representation of the Leader of the Free World and using a walker, was indeed meant to be Obama to argue that the float was racist? The answer, of course, is no. None of that need be established because bad-faith accusations of one’s countrymen are more politically fruitful than mounting an argument in opposition. Silencing speech is getting increasingly easier than answering it.
Especially with some help from the law enforcement arm of the federal government.