Monday, August 11, 2008

Should the USA put Oklahoma on a watch list and invade Louisiana?

Over recent months the blogosphere has seen discussions about freedom of expression and its limits in Canada, where the focus has been especially on the roles of provincial and federal Human Rights Commissions.

There has long been a tendency among conservatives to idealize our great neighbor to the south, and this again illustrated by recent critics of the HRCs.

Ezra Levant, for example, appealed to the United States Congress to put Canada on the watch list of human rights abusers (here) because of his experience with the Alberta Human Rights Commission.

Deborah Gyapong (who once worked for Ezra in Stockwell Day's communication shop) posted the cartoon to the right: a light-hearted call to the Americans to free us (one can only assume) from such limits.

There is no country, however, where speech is completely free, not even the United States.

Take the T-Shirt to the right, which repeats the anti-war jingle "Bush lied". ("They died", as you might have guessed, is on the reverse.) This headline is printed over a list of the names of fallen American soldiers: the deaths that Bush (implies the t-shirt) is responsible for.

Now, this is clearly the kind of political statement that we are used to from the anti-war movement.

The t-shirt, however, has been outlawed in five states: Oklahoma, Louisana, Arizona, Texas, Florida. The problem? Some are offended by its use of the names of America's war-dead.

Here is the story from last year: Commercial use of fallen GIs’ names under fire:
    Incensed by the sale of anti-war T-shirts and other paraphernalia emblazoned with the names and pictures of America's military dead, some states are outlawing the commercial use of the fallen without the permission of their families.

    Despite serious questions of constitutionality, Oklahoma and Louisiana enacted such laws last year, and the governors of Texas and Florida have legislation waiting on their desks. Arizona lawmakers are on the verge of approving a similar measure.
Now, as the story points out, the laws probably will probably be found unconstitutional, and it may well be that an American court will eventually intervene and strike down the laws that prohibit their sale.

While we wait for that to happen, however, we surely cannot expect Ezra to ask the American congress to put Oklahoma, Louisana, Arizona, Texas, and Florida on its watch list, or Gyapong to jokingly urge an invasion of these states.