I love history — all of it.
I’m proud of Texas’ Confederate heritage, and I’m proud that Texas is where the Juneteenth holiday (June 19, 1865, the date Texas slaves were actually freed) originated.
As a member of the Texas Senate, I sponsored legislation establishing the Juneteenth Commission for the purpose of placing a monument on the Texas Capitol grounds.
On Monday the Supreme Court of the United States heard arguments on whether the Texas should issue specialty license plates bearing a Confederate Battle flag. The liberty of all Americans is in the balance.
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In 2010, as commissioner of the Texas General Land Office, I sponsored before the Texas Division of Motor Vehicles two specialty plates.
One was to honor Buffalo Soldiers and one was for the Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV). I have also sponsored plates for the Texas Daughters of the American Revolution.
I only had one plate denied, the SCV plate, which the Texas DMV board denied after a raucous anti-Confederate hatefest hearing. The Buffalo Soldier plate was approved.
It is ironic that approval was granted for the Buffalo soldiers’ service in a genocidal war against an entire race of people, the American Plains Indians, resulting in their enslavement on reservations.
Why is the Buffalo soldier’s legacy less controversial than what the politically correct crowd think about Confederate symbolism?
One of the reasons that descendants of Native Americans don’t raise much objection is that there just aren’t very many of them. In other words, our genocidal war was extremely effective!
There is no doubt that the Buffalo Soldiers served honorably and are deserving of honor and recognition. The problem arises when we view their actions (or the actions of Confederate soldiers) through the “enlightened” or “politically correct” (pick one) lens of 21st century America.
Therein lies one of the two salient issues in this debate. Is it right to do a retrospective review using today’s standards of all historical characters that have been heretofore revered and honored, and if so, how many would fall woefully short?
Today, Abraham Lincoln the white supremacist (read the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858 and the amendment Lincoln supported in 1861 to enshrine slavery forever into the U.S. Constitution) is everywhere praised, while Lee the Confederate (who wrote his wife in 1856: “slavery is a moral and political evil”) is reviled as a traitor in many quarters.
A Lincoln specialty plate would sail through approval, while Lee’s would be disapproved as offensive.
Finally, if someone claims they will be offended, is that sufficient reason to restrict free speech? Offended?
Bills have been filed in the Texas Legislature to allow those who have a concealed handgun license to carry openly, and one of the major objections comes from those who are offended by the mere sight of a firearm.
Is there a constitutional right to go through life un-offended?
In my view, we have a constitutional right to be offended, because without that freedom the First Amendment guarantee of free expression is gutted.
What does offend me is that, if Texas gets it way, a little more freedom will die that cannot be restored to “we the people.”
A little more freedom, whether you love or hate the Confederate flag, will be lost to us all!
Jerry Patterson is the immediate past Texas General Land Office commissioner, a former state senator, member of SCV, Marine Vietnam vet, retired lieutenant colonel USMCR.