Letter: Should town council be deciding our values?

Posted 7/15/21

To the editor:

On Flag Day there was a simple ceremony in front of the Honor Roll at the Town Hall. Lined up also, were all the banners that have been proposed for display in town  and …

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Letter: Should town council be deciding our values?

Posted

To the editor:

On Flag Day there was a simple ceremony in front of the Honor Roll at the Town Hall. Lined up also, were all the banners that have been proposed for display in town  and rejected by the Town Council and the Town Manager.

As quoted on Barrington Patch Online and WPRI, the Town Manager stated that “the town will not fly politically motivated flags. Rather, the flags flown outside the town hall are there to respect people who need to be recognized and protected like the Pride Flag and the Black Lives Matter flag.”  The president of the town council also added that “the town has chosen to fly flags which reflect the values of the town.”

The Barrington Times does not have the space for me or any other writer to go through the entire flag ordinance step by step and explain why it is in direct violation of our First Amendment, regardless of some lower court ruling giving it the shield of “government protected free speech”. Therefore I strongly encourage everyone in town to read it. You can do an internet search by typing in TOWN OF BARRINGTON, RI Ordinance 2020-27 Flag Policy.

It is a chilling read if you believe in one of the basic tenets of American democracy, the First Amendment. As townspeople, you have no say in this flag matter. The officials will say they speak for you but how do we know that they do? Have they surveyed the town or are they basing it on some emails and conversations that likely represent less than 5 percent of the town? 

There are only six people in the entire town who do have a say. That should frighten you, whether you identify as a progressive, a libertarian, a conservative, or anywhere in between.

If not for free speech our country would not exist. Nobody would have been able to challenge the repression of the British as Jefferson and his countrymen did in the Declaration of Independence. Slavery would never have ended if the First Amendment did not grant Americans the voice to challenge elected officials and the status quo. Imagine if “government protected free speech” existed then, a few elected officials professing they knew the values that everyone should abide by? No change would have occurred. 

Any policy such as the current flag ordinance, which places the power to choose “the values of the town” in the hands of six people, should give everyone pause to consider their own freedom.

When you read the flag policy, you will find that much of the language that is used by the Town Manager and the Town Council to defend their actions in rejecting certain banners is not present in the policy. In the policy it does not say “the banners are there to respect people who need to be recognized and protected.” That is not a prerequisite for displaying a banner according to the ordinance. Yet the Council and Manager consistently cite it as a defense.

The town continues to raise the Black Lives Matter flag using that rationale. The difference between believing that black lives matter and the organization that calls itself Black Lives Matter is a case study of its own. The organization was founded by avowed Marxists. It is opposed to the importance of the nuclear family, and it seeks to focus on what divides us rather than what unites us. On the Fourth of July in Utah, a chapter of Black Lives Matter posted that the American flag is “a symbol of hate.” Do you want the Town Council and Town Manager deciding for you that those are the “values of our  town?”  

Read the flag policy. Look at the power that the ordinance gives to six people in Barrington to control the message. Think about whether you want an unelected official and 5 elected officials making value decisions that they say speak for you. 

They don’t speak for me. I can state that unequivocally. 

Abolish the flag ordinance. Instead of the town speaking for the values of all, let each individual who chooses to, display their own values in their own yard, on their own bumper sticker, on their own T shirt, in their own letters to the editor, in their own voice at their town’s public meetings. At least then each person will speak for themselves instead of 6 people believing that they speak for all of us. 

That is the freedom of America. Long may it live.

Mary Teixeira

Barrington

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.