Esrati sues Dayton Metro Library over public records

I’ll remember the date for the rest of my life: August 18th, 2016. My father died. My father who was the consummate journalist. The man who taught me the meaning of the Constitution. The man who wrote a book to me as a child, to help guide me in my decision on my American Citizenship when I would turn 18 (we were living in Canada and dual citizenship wasn’t allowed back in 1968).

It was a day and a year after his death that I decided to take a Saturday off from work, politics, family, friends- to just be by myself and remember Dad. I’d not had time to really grieve, or put things in perspective due to life going into overdrive the previous 365 days. I went over to the office, picked up about $5000 worth of pro-camera gear and set out to walk downtown and take some photos. I started with photography when my grandfather gave me a Topcon 35mm camera at age 12. By 15, I’d built a darkroom in the basement, and had graduated to an Olympus OM-1 (now in the loving hands of my friend, Larry C. Price, Olympus visionary, and 2x Pulitzer Prize winner for Photojournalism). I was the photo editor of my high school yearbook my junior year. There are a bunch of people who used to call me “Mr. Photographer.”

I’d not been to the new Downtown Main Library yet, and it was my first stop. As someone who grew up with an uncle and 2 cousins who are architects- and in a home that was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, architecture had always been another part of the conversations with my father. Literally, every trip we made, architecture was a part of the exploration, coupled with history and politics.

Library Guards working hard at the Dayton Metro Library

Library Guards working hard at the Dayton Metro Library

As I entered the library, with its tall three story grand stairway entrance, the first thing you do is look up, to the skylights and the Terry Welker mobile of crystal trapezoids. Then as I looked to my right- I saw a large empty space, a big lobby, with a little table with 2 guards chatting. Snap.

I wandered over to the Eichelberger auditorium- and was taking pictures then, when a young girl was playing on the stage. Her mother asked if she was ruining my photo- and of course, I said no. She was adorable. Snap, Snap, Snap, Snap, Snap. Then to the Children’s section, where I talked to my friend and neighbor Tonya Cross who was working. I saw kids on play stations and x-boxes, I saw an art space that was locked. Kids clambering over a little bridge in a bubble- which made me wonder who fit through that to clean it?

On the second floor, I saw the “green screen room.” There were two kids in their huddled over the computer, I knocked and went in. I looked at all the equipment, and asked what they were working on. They were using Garage Band- but didn’t know it. The room was really too small to use the green screen effectively. The equipment was all pro-sumer grade- and nice. I saw people in small group huddle spaces with white boards and pin boards. I saw more guards. I made my way to the third floor, and found my way out to the roof deck overlooking third street. More pix. Admired the big conference rooms. Saw an eccentric guy who reminded me of Kurt Vonnegut sitting there- but didn’t see a good shot with him in it. Took a shot of the lobby from the top of the stairs, a shot of the Welker glass. Sat down, changed lenses, and then swiveled around and took a photo of a patron actually reading a book. She’d been the only one reading in our new library. It has seemed like reading is no longer what we do in libraries.

She was pristinely still. No headphones, no one else in the shot, because, frankly, there weren’t many people there. It was a beautiful day out. And, I have to say, the views from the third floor over Cooper Park are very beautiful, and I’d planned to go sit  and read in the corner of the 2nd floor area after taking a few more shots. I had a book tucked away in my photo bag. I too, like to read. Snap.

Woman reading a book in a library, 2017

Woman reading a book in a library, 2017  ©david esrati

I’ve taken tens of thousands of photos. Many of people in public places. And, as most of you know, I know a little bit about the First Amendment. What happened next took me by surprise. This oversized, balding, red-headed rent-a-cop started to question me immediately if I had her permission to take her photo. I responded calmly- “this is a public place, a public space. There are no guarantees of privacy, and it’s perfectly legal to take pictures.” What he and I said next- I don’t really recall- other than I said “leave me alone” and I started to walk over to the space where the roof was leaking. One of the rules when taking “street photos” is not to call attention to yourself- or make a commotion. The guard was doing his best to do that.

I came back around, still with the long lens on the camera- to try to take a photo of the Welker sculpture. As I’m focusing on the one crystal catching the light, I feel the presence of someone entering my personal space. Meet, Sgt. Donovan, who first begins by asking me who I’m with. Which is none of his business, as if being affiliated with the library or the news media changes the law.

Then, after I tell him it’s none of his business and to leave me alone, he starts reading me the riot act about taking photos of people in a public place. I’m thinking to myself, of all the people to pick on- he’s screwing with one of a very few people who’s won a first amendment case in Dayton. I realize this isn’t going away. He has a second guard behind him, and Big Bald Red Head is standing behind me. I take out my iphone and start recording video. You see Big Red who started this shitshow- striking a pose as we round the corner to go to the stairs.

He’s telling me it’s against the law to take photos, citing Ohio Revised Code. You can watch the rest. Warning, I use the word Fuck. He suggests I’m a sexual predator, I call him a Nazi, after he starts telling me the sidewalk is part of the library too. Am I proud of how I treated this douche bag? Nope. I lowered myself. He’s calling on his radio for police- he’s threatening me with arrest. All I wanted to do was spend a day taking photos and thinking about Dad.

Taking photos in public is not a crime. This has been tested over and over in the courts.

At the end, he bans me from the Library for 30 days.

I call Tim Kambitsch, the library director. I have his cell. I used to consider him a friend. I have a crush on his sister, who I met ages ago in a pilates class at the Y. I leave a message.

I head over to Riverscape. I’ve got an 8mm fisheye lens I want to play with. I want to try to chill out. I’m still pissed and upset from the library episode. I see Metroparks guards giving me the eye. I’m pretty sure my description was broadcast by Sgt Nazi.

On the way home, as I crossed the Oregon/South Park Pedestrian Bridge, Kambitsch called me back. I told him what happened, and asked him to remove the ban, retrain his guards, and for an apology. He told me he’d done his research and that I was in the wrong. I warned him then, that I knew what happened, I knew my rights and that we’d go to court.  He said fine. Scratch a friend.

My attorney is a fellow Veteran. He’s also a public defender. He reads this blog. He takes the case. Sends them another letter, requesting the video. We also ask for information about the guards, their reports, etc. I could go into a ton of details, but know this- Dayton Metro Library spent $1.2M on guards like Big Red and Sgt. Nazi in 2017 from G4S Security out of Miami Florida. So much for buy local. They were up for bid in November- and now another firm has the contract for $1.1M. Probably hired the same losers- and they all had to sew new patches on their brown shirts.

After much back and fourth, Kambitsch and his attorney’s want a meeting with me and my attorney. We meet at the Library. Kambitsch starts with an apology. Apparently, the guard, Big Red had lied in his account of our interaction. They knew this because they saw watched the video. The one we requested over and over.

In typical Dayton fashion, this meeting is almost funny. Kambitsch has Adam Laugle from the Prosecutors office and another attorney. I hadn’t caught his name. Turns out, he’s the attorney for the Libraries insurance company- slick hair, expensive suit, nice tan. Insurance work is great if you can get it- get paid big bucks per hour- to decide if you give away someone else’s money. He’s also the husband of former Dayton Acting City Manager Maureen Pero. I say “Acting,” because that’s what she was when Mayor Mike Turner had me arrested at the Dayton City Commission meeting for wearing a black mask to protest their illegal secret meetings. She not only testified in the depositions, but, she hung around for the whole morning, sucking up to Turner who also testified. Small world.

So the only question was settlement. I made a few requests:

Note, no money to me. They ask what “sizeable donation means”- to which I respond, last time, the check was six figures, but, I’ll leave it up to you to decide. They did tell me Big Red had been sent packing, never to be a Dayton Metro Library rent-a-cop again.

Btw- all three reports were similar. I’m now, shorter, younger and….  well, they weren’t very good observers (or liars) to begin with.

Several communications go back and fourth. They admit their failings. They are willing to pay to retrain the guards. They are willing to pay legal fees. No public apology and no offer to fund a program that has proven to increase literacy in my name or at all.

I think the board ought to know what their director and bad legal advice is telling them. Remember, the insurance lawyer works for the insurance company- not the library. As to the guy from the Prosecutors office, let’s just say he has no say in anything.

I’d sent my videographer to the meeting immediately after my ejection to record their session, and now he was with me to record me telling them that they might want to consider a settlement and the reasons why. I speak a lot with three minute time limits. (Some would say I’m the reason for three minute time limits at the Dayton City Commission). I know three minutes, and I know the speaking rules, I’d filled out a request well in advance, I’d signed in with their form to speak- both of which have their rules. So when Ms. Pruneface asked me if I knew their rules, I immediately  quipped back in full Esrati fashion, “Yes, I can read.” The expression on Kambitsch’s face is priceless. Needless to say, I was cut off at 2:30. Needless to say, I have a video, complete with a guy who talks for over 5 minutes- waving his arms around and shouting from the meeting the month before. The board doesn’t want to be educated, they don’t want to learn from past mistakes. This is arrogance. It’s what I hate most in people who are supposed to represent us- be it school board members, city commissioners, congressmen or library board members who were given $187M of our tax dollars to spend, and yet, don’t care to listen to a community voice who is trying to settle things fairly.

You watch the video.

Today, as promised, would come, we filed a mandamus complaint to force the library to release the video, claiming they are in violation of Ohio Open Records laws. It’s a first volley. We need to see what the evidence is, before we file the suit for the ejection. We need to see what they saw, which made them change their minds and sort of apologize. It would be available in discovery, but, if you are going to go to war, by all means, make sure you have all your plans in place up front. At least, that’s how the professionals do it.

thumbnail of Mandamus Complaint – Esrati Public Records

The complaint, filed against Dayton Metro Library for withholding surveillance video in the case of David Esrati’s ejection from the library

The filing is clear. The privacy concerns the library is using to protect the video are unfounded.

From the filing:

48. Section l 49.432(A)(2) defines “library record” as “a record in any form that is maintained by a library and that contains any of the following types of information:
(a) Information that the library requires an individual to provide in order to be eligible to use library services or borrow materials;
(b) Information that identifies an individual as having requested or obtained specific materials or materials on a particular subject;
( c) Information that is provided by an individual to assist a library staff member to answer a specific question or provide information on a particular subject.”
49. “Patron information” means “personally identifiable information about an individual who has used any library service or brorrowed any library materials. R.C. 149.432(A)(3).
50. Because of the nature of video recordings, and the nature of library records and patron information, the recordings sought in the Requests cannot contain library records or patron information.

We’ll see what the courts decide.

Next suit- against the Dayton Public Schools to stop them from providing private tours as an excuse to have the “task force” meet in private to discuss the closure of schools.

Here are some supporting documents.

The letter from the libraries insurance company lawyer which admits the guards were wrong, the incident reports, and the Contract with G4S

 

thumbnail of Contract with G4S

Dayton Metro Library Contract with G4S Security

thumbnail of Incident Reports 8.19.2017

Dayton Metro Library security guard incident reports about the ejection of David Esrati

thumbnail of Ltr Durocher 10-25-17 Meeting

Letter from Library lawyer admitting that the guard lied about what happened,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arresting teachers at school board meetings? DPS did that last century.

On Wed. Feb 28, 1996 I went to the Dayton City Commission meeting to protest their illegal secret meetings on Mondays (they called them “work sessions” and did them using the “emergency media notification” system of faxing to the media outlets on Friday evenings). The previous Monday, they had discussed ways to limit citizens from speaking, or at least being on camera, so they could make sure that I didn’t show how AFSCME trash collectors were getting paid for 56 hours while actually working around 30. I had shown up the previous week with my giant time card, and it was too clear how screwed up things were.

Since they didn’t want to see the face of the people they represent, I donned a black balaclava as the meeting started. The rest is history- and I ended up in the Montgomery County Jail that morning. The same place where Charles Alexander Wade was pepper sprayed while in a restraining chair.

But as I went to get my mug shot taken, I heard a voice call out “Mr. Esrati, Mr. Esrati” -and I look over, and there is Loretta Cephus, sitting in the mugshot area. She had been arrested the previous night while she was questioning the school board under Superintendent James Williams.

So when I was writing on Tuesday morning about how I’d shut down the illegal meeting of the school closure task force by protesting and refusing to leave or shut of my camera- because they were violating the Ohio Sunshine Laws, it was far from my first rodeo. And considering there were more than a few people who should know the Sunshine laws inside out- like Commissioner Jeff Mims, or City Manager Shelly Dickstein, or former county Administrator Deb Feldman or even Mr. Lawyer/school board member to be Mohamed Al-Hamdani- it’s pretty amazing that this collection of highly paid “leaders” didn’t know that what they were trying to do wasn’t legal.

When a reader sent me the link to the school teacher who was taken out of the school board meeting in Vermillion LA, and then cuffed- I did a quick facebook post thinking it was Vermillion Ohio (later corrected) as more and more people picked up the story in outrage. When I had viewed the video at noonish- it was at 250K views- it now has 2.7m views and counting:

The difference? Social media. What the DPS board got away with in its persecution of Loretta, wouldn’t have happened today. Her claims of #MeToo against Williams would have been taken seriously. People would have had first hand evidence of the horrible way the board handled things.

Loretta struggled for years, and was constantly pushed into a corner. Many have tried to do the same to me- “Esrati is crazy” – “Esrati is just a troublemaker”- “Esrati…”

It’s easy for them to do- to make themselves feel more comfortable with their ignorance of the laws that are there to protect them. It’s hard in a town that feels so strongly about putting the square pegs in the square holes and the round pegs in the round holes- that we often forget that pegs don’t have to go into holes at all…. in other words- we don’t have to be victimized by a system of laws and order that has been perverted for a long time. Back room deals on who should run, who should be on the ballot, and who should be allowed to talk or not talk for more than three minutes.

No, Vermillion LA, you putting a teacher in cuffs is nothing to this old hand of Dayton Ohio politics- you chickened out by not hauling her off to jail and charging her. In Dayton- we were doing that 22 years ago… and now, we’ve even upped the bar, by pepper spraying inmates in restraints, throwing old ladies to the floor and breaking their shoulder- and even letting people in medical distress die in the jail because, well, our Sheriff is beyond reproach and now running for State rep.

To all my supporters who called or wrote to thank me for standing up to the powers that think they can break the law, thank you. If you really want to help, consider making a donation to support my efforts to keep this blog as the source for the informed of Dayton. And, last but not least- run for precinct captain to stop these political power hungry members of the monarchy of Montgomery County from continuing to fail us in protecting our rights.

 

Acting Dayton Public Superintendent feels need to single out Esrati.com

Before I started video recording board meetings- other than the business meeting, being able to review what happened at a board meeting was a hit/miss affair. The board would record, not livestream, and post to a wonky video hosting service days later that cost them big bucks.

Now, they video some of the review meetings, livestream all business meetings and post to YouTube– which doesn’t cost anything at all.

They even started using microphones at the stupid extra meetings they hold in the room outside the board room- so we can actually hear (and so Board member Sheila Taylor can hear as well).

What they don’t do well, is follow their agenda, which they have a hard time posting on time (again, using expensive proprietary board docs software) in a mostly non-ADA compliant fashion.  Sometimes, they try to pull a fast one- like when board attorney Jyllian Bradshaw outright lied to the board about their rights to review a marketing contract- and I had to correct her- risking being thrown out.

So, here is another non-ADA compliant document (the copy I downloaded and am posting, I did text recognition on so it would be compliant), being snuck in with other policy- outlining board policy on “BROADCASTING AND TAPING OF BOARD MEETINGS”

thumbnail of video policy dps

Converted DPS document into a proper ADA compliant format. Video Policy

Photographic and electronic audio and video broadcasting and recording devices may be used at regular and special Board meetings legally open to the public according to the following guidelines.
1. Persons interested in taking photographs, broadcasting or recording board meetings should notify the Board of their interest in doing so.
2. Persons operating cameras, broadcasting and/or recording devices must do so with a minimum of disruption to those present at the meeting. Specifically, the view between Board members and the audience must not be obstructed, interviews must not be conducted during the meeting and no commentary is to be given in a manner that distracts Board members or the audience.
3. The Board has the right to halt any recording that interrupts or disturbs the meeting. The Board may make the necessary arrangements to make audio and/or video recordings of all regular meetings and any special meeting that it deems appropriate.
(Approval date: January 17, 2017)
[ Anticipated re-approval date: January 16, 2018] LEGAL REFS.: U.S. Const. Amend. I
ORC 121.22
2911.21 (criminal trespass)
2917.12 (disturbing a lawful meeting)
2921.31 (obstructing official business)
3313.20(A) (3313.20 Rules – locker search policy – professional meetings.) ie((A) The board of education of a school district or the governing board of an educational service center shall make any rules that are necessary for its government and the government of its employees, pupils of its schools, and all other persons entering upon its school grounds or premises. Rules regarding entry of persons other than students, staff, and faculty upon school grounds or premises shall be posted conspicuously at or near the entrance to the school grounds or premises, or near the perimeter of the school grounds or premises, if there are no formal entrances, and at the main entrance to each school building. CROSS REFS.: BD, School Board Meetings
BDDH, Public Participation at Board Meetings (Also KD)

Frankly, we can call number 2 and 3 the “David Esrati” rules- because, 1) No one else other than the press records their meetings. 2) the press doesn’t care if they say or do stupid things and break the law.

Again, timing of this issue is suspect, considering the new board may not even opt to keep the acting superintendent.

As to “disturbing a lawful meeting- I’d say their claim to that went out the window after April 5, 2017 when they failed to act upon information I produced showing Dr. Adil Baguirov didn’t live in the district.

See ORC 3301.03  Board members to be qualified electors

Unfortunately for the schools, while the right to hold meetings without interruption may be codified by law- so is the right of free speech, which is in the constitution. When you want to break your own rules, lie or cheat- and expect people to just sit and be quiet, you don’t really understand how messy democracy can and was meant to be.

An apology, and who really gave Westwood the finger

A bit of time has passed since I gave the single finger salute, yelled an expletive and left a West side church with an escort.

That night, I went and composed a letter of apology to the pastor at Wayman Chapel AME and sent it. It was copied to a few people who also know the pastor,  to make sure he got wind of it.

Here it is:

From: David Esrati <[email protected]>
Date: May 9, 2016 at 9:34 PM
To: [email protected]
CC: …..
Subject: My sincere apologies

Pastor Cooper,
I owe you, and the good people of Wayman Chapel a deep apology. There is no excuse for what came out of my mouth in your church.
I’ve been to Wayman many times- and have almost always felt welcome.
The reason I say almost, is I’ve been told several times at candidates events not to video the event- which I find curious, because I thought we held these events to inform the public.
What happened tonight was something that’s never been done to me in 26 odd years of being in local politics.
I’ve spoken in chambers, I’ve spoken in churches, in neighborhood meetings.
I’ve handled hecklers. I’ve been called names. I’ve even been arrested- because I stood up when no one else would- but, I’ve never had a microphone cut off- and been given such a smug response.
That is an issue I have with Pastor Johnson. I would welcome your guidance in mediation on this matter.
Churches are special places-
places where people come to heal, to come together- not to censor and disrespect.
I had no business saying what I said-
I should have been a bigger man-
but, I wasn’t.
For that I’m deeply sorry.
I hope you can accept my apology.

my cell is 937-

To this day, no response at all.

An email on official City of Dayton letterhead from Nan Whaley to a public political meeting about the defunct regionalization meetingAt the third meeting, held in a Trotwood church on June 6th, I was met in the parking lot by a lot of the same people who surrounded me at Wayman- sporting new “Wayman Security Team” t-shirts. They wouldn’t let me into the public meeting with my camera to hear the speeches of the politicians explaining why they had held two meetings about a regionalization plan that they had already managed to subvert- long before the meetings. The invite on city letterhead from Mayor Nan Whaley is at right. I stood outside and held my cell phone to record it. I pointed out to many public officials as they entered that this wasn’t a legal public meeting. Right up until three Trotwood police cruisers showed up, and I was told to leave the “private property.”

And, btw, if I wasn’t white, I’m sure I wouldn’t get away to talking to these officers the way I did, even though I was totally within my rights.

Using churches for political meetings is a violation of the Johnson amendment.

Organizations recognized under Section 501(c)(3) of the U.S. tax code are subject to limits or absolute prohibitions on engaging in political activities and risk loss of tax exempt status if violated.[3] Specifically, they are prohibited from conducting political campaign activities to intervene in elections to public office.[4][5]

This was clearly a political meeting and an attempt to intervene in elections, especially when a member of the press is banned. For years, we’ve let the Black Ministerial Alliance be a part of the political process in Dayton when we shouldn’t. And, if one looks at the conditions of the West Side, the people of West Dayton should be asking themselves twice why these men of the cloth are the ones driving the late model Benz’s while their flock is living next to a drug, whore or vacant and dilapidated house.

My neighborhood has seen steady improvements in property values over the 30 years I’ve lived here and been a part of my community, South Park. Pastor Cooper had yet another shooting outside his  church’s front door last night on Leland Avenue in Westwood- recently called  out in the Dayton Daily news as the most troubled neighborhood in the city and where property values have plummeted.

The difference between Pastor Cooper and Pastor Johnson and me? I actually know and go to their neighborhoods. I believe actions speak louder than words.

The real question is what are the political geniuses of Dayton who sponsored this meeting up to? Why did they hold three meetings when they knew this plan was already toast? What was their goal in stirring the pot?

Regionalization is a very serious subject and one that needs to be addressed. These meetings, which I put on Youtube, were all about what they were against, not what they are for. They have no plan, other than to stick their heads in the mud and reject any change. The status quo is fine by them.

I went to the meetings so that the public would have full unfettered access to what was said.

Why haven’t the organizers posted video? Where is their website with a discussion of the issues? What are their plans to improve conditions in the very neighborhood where they stood and preached at will about the evils of the only regional plan on the table.

And, why would they have meetings in churches, run by pastors, if this is publicized on official city letterhead?

If you ask me, the people who lead these meetings should be the ones apologizing for their failures to the people of Westwood, for letting the community rot, while proclaiming that they are fit to lead this community.

And in the end, I’m the bad guy…

 

 

 

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Misplaced angst over symbolic protests

When Facebook gives me more news than the Dayton Daily news, we’re all in trouble. Never mind the fact that I’m paying $9.95 a month for their newspaper-on-crutches, but now they are offering it for $19.95 for a full year of digital access. Nothing says desperate like knocking your price down to next to nothing. Click bait is their “new strategy” posting tidbits on Facebook, hoping to get you to hit their paywall. Exactly the behavior Facebook is trying to minimize. But, that’s all moot.

Photo of a protester at Wright State University standing on the American Flag

An unknown patriot stirring the pot.

In today’s Facebook feeds, friends are arguing about the veteran who protested at WSU by standing on an American flag. As someone who has actually been arrested and had to win 5 court cases protecting your right to symbolic protest, I can guarantee you he was within his rights- and had he just stood their protesting with a sign, no one would be talking about it.

His sign- according to WDTN:

“I stand…-With Eric Shappard (SIC- should be Sheppard) and the preservation of 1st Amendment rights
-For all men and woman in service to this country
-For the accountability of media and other social institutions
-Justice, equity, tolerance, and diversity
-Upon the belief higher learning should provoke students to question social norms, mainstream values, and power structures
-The ‘American” spirit, is a revolutionary spirit- On the American flag because there’s nothing more American than that!

Source: Wright State Flag Protest Draws Crowd – WKEF-TV ABC 22 News :: News – Top Stories

Unbelievably, not a single local “news source” had either the protester’s name, or even were able to verify his status as a WSU student. If my Facebook friends are to be believed, yes, he’s a WSU student.

His first mistake was thinking that WSU students would know who Eric Sheppard is- and what that has to do with the American flag. Sheppard was protesting at Valdosta State University – standing on a flag to make a statement about the treatment of black men in this nation who are being gunned down. A publicity seeking veteran, Michelle Manhart, decided to do something about it- going to campus with her daughter filming- and stealing the flag. Amazingly, the cops did the right thing and arrested her and returned the flag. The video pushes buttons and the right wing nut jobs had a field day praising the veteran for her actions, albeit it turns out she had posed in Playboy on active duty and even posed nude later for PETA with… wait… an American flag.

Symbolic speech is powerful stuff. The Nazis understood it well. So did the Ku Klux Klan. Burning books, burning flags, burnings of effigies, ISIS is justifying its atrocities by using orange jump suits for its victims- to symbolize our detaining “their people” in Guantanamo bay. I actually had to explain to one person on Facebook why symbolic speech can be more effective than a standard protest, which in this country is usually measured by numbers- hence we have things like “the million man march.” Usually, in America, you need a herd to be heard in public. Of course, in private, you just need a lot of money and I guarantee you access to anyone you want in Washington, D.C.

The problem with symbols is they don’t always mean the same thing to everybody. Maybe that’s why early religions had such an issue with idolatry. And you have to remember, when the religions started out, most of this wasn’t written- it was spoken, since universal literacy and the printing press were far off in the future. I still find the symbol of Christianity being a cross to be odd- to celebrate Jesus, memorialize the brutal way that he died. Do we, as Americans use guns as a symbol to memorialize and remember Abraham Lincoln, JFK or Martin Luther King? No.

Another post on Facebook had this image going around- another view of what the American Flag stands for today:

American exceptionalism illustration on an American FlagThe article it linked to, was about how other countries don’t understand America, or how Americans don’t seem to understand what living in a “free society” really means. The reactions to these flag protests, full of vitriol, the grandstanding- over a symbol, taking over the conversation, when most Americans are living on the edge of survival- paycheck to paycheck, with a safety net that’s constantly being withdrawn inch by inch. We prefer the dream of success to the reality we live in. Thinking that we can all become an NBA star, a millionaire if we only work hard, or President of the United States, is so far from reality- if we weren’t all so seduced by this fantasy, any right minded psychologist would call us delusional.

There is a lot to protest about in this country. A few years back the Occupy movement tried to bring a focus to the wrongs of the wizards of Wall Street who have robbed our country blind and brought the “world’s strongest economy” to its knees, yet, the Dow continues to climb beyond any recognizable relevance, the Fed continues to print money like candy- and the richest Americans are getting richer at a record pace, while the rest of us are being asked to “pay more of our share” to keep this house of cards from falling.

To add insult to injury, we take more interest in one aging former Olympian’s transgender celebrity story than we do of the countless millions who aren’t able to feed their children, schools that aren’t preparing our children for colleges that are pricing themselves out of the reach of those who get there (if they aren’t shot by a cop for playing cops and robbers on a playground), so that they can get their panties in a twist over standing on a piece of cloth.

The flag, which we pledge allegiance to so easily, is a symbol. Symbols mean different things to different people. Our country is supposed to be one where different people can have free discussions over issues- my only request is, let’s start having the discussion about ones that matter. I agree and support the actions of the Wright State protester- and you should too, if you truly believe in what our country’s founders said when they declared our independence in 1776.