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Flag on the field 

To: Kay C. James, president, The Heritage Foundation

Dear Ms. James,

Thank you for offering me a "Don't Tread on Me" Gadsden Flag in exchange for a donation of $35 or more to the Heritage Foundation.

Your offer made me recall the Supreme Court case Minnesota Voters Alliance v. Mansky, which came about when a Mr. Mansky wore a "Please I.D. Me" button and a "Don't Tread on Me" Gadsden Flag T-shirt to his Minnesota polling place.

In 2018, the court declared on a 7-2 vote that it was unconstitutional to prohibit that kind of political speech at a polling place. When MVA v. Mansky was before the court, the Heritage Foundation jumped in to declare that it was all well and good for states to have "reasonable measures intended to safeguard the integrity of elections, allow voters to cast their ballots without being intimidated or pressured to support a particular side, and ensure peace and order at polling places," but neither you nor the court majority could fathom how the battle cry of voter suppression and the adopted emblem of the Tea Party could make voters feel "intimidated or pressured." Heritage argued that "neither his button nor his T-shirt bore any relation to a candidate or issue on the ballot that year. And the Gadsden Flag is a historically significant symbol of the American Revolution that was first used by the fledgling American Navy and the Continental Marines."

But now, per your letter to me, the Heritage Foundation is selling the Gadsden Flag to those who want to "advance conservative policies" and oppose "the leftist agenda of tax hikes, open borders, and political correctness;" also "socialized health care," "leftist judges," and "unchecked spending." In short, the usual rote incantations, with no apparent updates since, say, 1982 (the word "pandemic" does not appear), now tied to acquiring a Gadsden Flag, which is about "rejecting the leftist's ruinous policy platform." And you tell me I must act now, because "with a renewed sense of determination sweeping the land after 2020's political battles, demand for this flag has intensified" (emphasis yours in the letter), and its message is one "taxpayers must send in 2021, with leftists claiming a mandate for Big Government and seeking to undermine liberty and prosperity." And this is part of "Washington's freedom-killing cronyism and corruption." (In view of the Heritage Foundation's role as the Trump administration's virtual HR department, I'd be interested to know your timeline on that last one.)

Do you think the fledgling American Navy and the Continental Marines would be surprised to hear about all the things their flag now represents? And can you think of a ballot where none of those things would pertain and to which this heavily freighted flag would "bear no relation," whether in the context of a specific ballot measure or the political philosophies of opposing candidates? Are you retroactively revoking your 2018 argument to the Supreme Court?

I suppose it's a moot point. The Jan. 6 insurrection in Washington took place a week before your offer arrived in my mailbox. The seditionists who flew the Gadsden Flag as they breached the Capitol and attempted to overthrow our democracy have forever branded that flag with that event. Per MSNBC News, they also took along "a crossbow, 11 Molotov cocktails ... brass knuckles and pocket knives, stun guns and 'stinger whips' ... an assault-style Tavor X95 rifle with a telescopic sight, a Glock 9 mm with high-capacity magazines and more than 2,500 rounds of ammunition, including at least 320 rounds of 'armor-piercing bullets,' according to federal prosecutors."

It was nice to see that on Jan. 7, you blogged, "Violence should not be used as a tool to bring about change, and those who stormed the Capitol on Wednesday should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law." You affirmed that "as this horrible act is investigated, it will be determined exactly who they were, and they must be held accountable."

As Charles Pierce observed in Esquire, "I believe that a lot of these people did arm themselves for self-defense, except that they were 'defending' themselves against the Washington in their heads, the one that had been carefully constructed there by their favorite radio and TV stars, and by a lot of the politicians inside the Capitol."

Ms. James, if you'd like to take a break from constructing the Washington in their heads and stand up for accountability and your vision of America as "a nation where freedom, opportunity, prosperity, and civil society flourish," I invite you to join with me and the Sierra Club in urging the impeachment of the man who encouraged the deadly attack on our country that had the sole purpose of overturning the results of a fair election. Text CONVICT to 69866 to be connected to one or both of your senators. Tell them to convict Trump and then vote to disqualify him from ever holding office again.

Then you might want to rethink your marketing plan. Δ

Andrew Christie is the director of the Santa Lucia Chapter of the Sierra Club. Send a response for publication to [email protected].

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