Thursday, June 05, 2014

The Ghosts of New York

Every single day
Every word you say
Every game you play
Every night you stay
I'll be watching you. - The Police "Every Breath You Take", 1983
freed to talk privately

Me, I romp and stomp
Thankful as I romp
Without freedom of speech
I might be in the swamp - Dylan "Motorpsycho Nightmare", 1964

New Yorkers at the No Mosque Demo 2010
This is a story of two old guys, a basketball team, and a salt ghost.

I'm not much interested in sport, but I find this story interesting in that it pits anti-racism against freedom of speech. And this in a country where freedom of speech is often touted as the corner-stone of what many Americans think is the greatest democracy on earth, EVER.

The two men are accused racist Donald Sterling and American stand-up comedian and anti-racist, Bill Maher.

Sterling owns, or owned, a basketball team in California - the Clippers. At the time of writing I don't know if he still owns the team, but even if he still does, he won't for long because he has been exposed as a racist by his girlfriend who secretly taped a private conversation between herself and Sterling.

Once the tape was made public, the commissioner of the American National Basketball Association banned Donald Sterling from the Association for life. Which means of course, that he can no longer own the Clippers basketball team.

The other old guy is Bill Maher. I don't much like him either. Many of my friends expect me to like him, but I find him a little bit obvious, especially as he is considered, by himself and others, to be a satirist.

The connection between the two old guys is that Bill Maher unexpectedly defended Donald Sterling's right to privacy when the "racist" tape was made public.

"But, you know, the creepy part is when you get taped in your own house and then that goes to the world. Again, no one here is defending Don Sterling, but that's what's creepy to me is that we can't even speak in our own house anymore." (Bill Maher On Sterling)

I completely agree. It is really scary. I am sure I've made some politically incorrect statements, though not racist ones. Well, hang on, what about Polish and Irish jokes told between friends?

Obama commented on the racist tape by saying,"When ignorant folks want to advertise their ignorance, you don't really have to do anything, you just let them talk". But Sterling wasn't advertising anything, he was talking to his girlfriend and to her alone - well that's what he thought.

Freedom of speech in the United States is protected by the First Amendment to its Constitution. According to Wikipedia, "The freedom of speech is not absolute; the Supreme Court of the United States has recognized several categories of speech that are excluded from the freedom, and it has recognized that governments may enact reasonable time, place, or manner restrictions on speech" Restrictions such as making it unlawful to incite racial hatred or yelling out "fire" in a movie theater. But I'd always thought that private conversations between two people, conversations that were not related to conspiracy to commit a crime, were exempt from the exceptions.

While it is true that Donald Sterling has not been accused of a crime, he has never the less been punished economically, and been publically vilified.

And where does a salt ghost come into all this? And what is a salt ghost anyway?

The "Salt Ghost" is no other than the Statue of Liberty - according to a delightful three year old child who came to visit New York City last month.

He saw many statues in his travels around New York. New York is a city of statues - there are 162 in its five boroughs. Including Ludwig von Beethoven, Gertrude Stein, Christopher Columbus, Martin Luther King Jr., Socrates, Marquis de Lafayette, Douglass Frederick, five George Washingtons and four Abraham Lincolns.

Through the eyes of a young child these large, silent, completely stationary men and women were "ghosts". The ghosts of New York. "Statue" was not yet in his vocabulary.

But he was looking for one ghost in in particular - the "salt ghost". And eventually he found her.

"La Liberté éclairant le monde". The defender of freedom on Liberty Island in New York Harbor.

As to why he thought she was the SALT ghost -well that's another story.

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