Random Lengths News

The Day After the Fourth Some laws are just unenforcea­ble for better or worse but insurrecti­on must be prosecuted

- By James Preston Allen, Publisher

They say that the amount of air pollution after the July 4th fireworks extravagan­za all across Los Angeles is about three to four times as bad as the air quality would be normally. The South Coast Air Quality Management District has issued advisories for increased particulat­es in the air for the days following Independen­ce Day.

The amateur pyrotechni­cs aren’t relegated to just my part of the metropolis as it seems to be everywhere no matter how many times city leaders proclaim they’re “illegal.” From a vantage point looking north from Cabrillo Beach towards the rest of San Pedro and beyond, the spectacula­r display of explosives is quite astounding. I wonder if the Los Angeles Police Department or Los Angeles Fire Department responded to anything other than calls from people mishandlin­g sparklers and firecracke­rs or improperly disposing of the explosive pyrotechni­c materials. It seems a bit delusional that on one singular day and the weeks leading up to and after are filled with loud explosions, setting off car alarms, scaring dogs and cats and perhaps rattling war veterans struggling with post traumatic stress. It’s damn annoying any way you look at it to have otherwise placid neighborho­ods abruptly attacked by juvenile explosions. It is a rebellious outpouring and a prime example of a law that can’t be enforced.

As long as it’s legal to import fireworks and as long as some Southern California cities allow for legal sales there’s probably little that other cities like Los Angeles can do to stem the tide. Years ago I contemplat­ed just having the fire department set up free fire zones where the fire fighters might monitor and contain a certain amount of the activity and be on hand to supervise the event. That might contain some of it, but there’s something more beneath the exuberant July 4 lawlessnes­s that’s akin to the American attachment to guns or women’s desire to exercise their right to an abortion despite what SCOTUS, their state government, or what they claim their position is on the issue. People are going to do what they need or want to do because they feel they have a right to do it!

Laws can only go so far if people don’t believe that those laws are fundamenta­lly just and fair. We clearly have a nation divided on guns on one side and female autonomy on the other. However, both gun control and legal abortion seem to have overwhelmi­ng public support no matter what the rightwing majority on the Supreme Court opines. And their recent rulings taking away states’ right to control concealed weapons while giving all states the right to control womens’ reproducti­ve health in a whiplash of hypocrisy. Both seem suspicious­ly related to fundamenta­list religious beliefs that should be separated by the church and state doctrine, which the court now seems primed to do away with entirely by allowing religious prayer on a Washington state football field.

People are not going to obey or respect these court decisions and I predict that just like the runaway slave laws of the 19th century there will be a new abolitioni­st undergroun­d railroad for women seeking abortions. Some are already calling these anti-abortion laws “Jane Crow Laws.” There will continue to be mass protests against gun violence and mass shootings, as the mass shootings continue. And it may just come down to private businesses and entertainm­ent venues simply banning guns from their premises. No guns will accompany no shoes, no shirts and no service signs either!

The contradict­ions of all of this have vexed our nation from the very beginning — the conflict between freedom and liberty — asks the question “whose liberty and freedom from what and at whose expense?” Guns, like fireworks, are held onto by some in this country with a kind of religious ferocity that can only be viewed obscurely. It is best explained in the 2008 book by Joe Bageant, Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America’s Class War. We are experienci­ng both a class and culture war that is exacerbate­d by Donald Trump’s appointmen­ts to the Supreme Court, Fox News and the Big Lie of the stolen election.

So as the gunpowder in the Southern California air begins to clear from the exuberant display of rockets and their red glare in a celebrator­y display of lawlessnes­s, just remember it could be worse, far worse — Trump could still be president and the fascist mob could have been successful in attacking Congress. At least for now their defeat is something to celebrate this Independen­ce Day. But it’s a sobering thought the day after to realize how close we came to losing this republic to a tyrant.

At this point, only the conviction of Donald J. Trump for insurrecti­on and adding three more liberal judges to the Supreme Court will clear the air regarding our national conflicts and the toxic nature of our politics. But fireworks are probably here to stay.

The right-wing majority ruled 6-3 in favor of a Washington high school football coach who led student prayers on the field, which the majority opinion described as a private exercise of his religious liberty, but Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s dissent described the ruling in Kennedy v. Bremerton as “no victory for religious liberty.”

“Today, the Court once again weakens the backstop,” Sotomayor wrote. “It elevates one individual’s interest in personal religious exercise, in the exact time and place of that individual’s choosing, over society’s interest in protecting the separation between church and state, eroding the protection­s for religious liberty for all.”

“Today’s decision is particular­ly misguided because it elevates the religious rights of a school official, who voluntaril­y accepted public employment and the limits that public employment entails, over those of his students, who are required to attend school and who this Court has long recognized are particular­ly vulnerable and deserving of protection,” she added.

Joe Kennedy, a coach for Bremerton High School in Washington state, began a ritual in 2008 where he would pray on the field at the final whistle.

But the school told the Christian military veteran to bring an end to the custom in 2015 after players began joining in -- arguing that he was violating its ban on staff encouragin­g students to pray.

He was placed on administra­tive leave when he defied the order and did not reapply for his job after his contract ended soon after, opting instead to sue the school district.

The Supreme Court is being asked to rule on whether the public official’s prayers amounted to government speech, or private expression protected by the Constituti­on.

Education officials say they supported Kennedy’s religious rights — offering him private places for prayer — but could not allow his post-game ritual, which could be perceived as the school endorsing religion.

Kennedy lost the case and a subsequent appeal in which a three-judge panel said he was “not engaging in private prayer, but was instead engaging in public speech of an overtly religious nature while performing his job duties.”

But the Supreme Court’s conservati­ve justices backed Kennedy’s claims.

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