Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Sign Says "Obama Half-Breed Muslin" - Freedom of Speech, Politics, Spelling, and Race

The sign in a Barefoot Bay, Florida, front yard reads, "Obama Half-Breed Muslin," and that's not a typo. The sign says that Obama is half-cloth, half-man.

I think the sign is a trivial thing by itself: outside Barefoot Bay. But, it does bring up some important issues.

The Story, So Far

Andy Lacasse, who put the sign up, is a Korean War vet and was a Democrat until Obama was nominated. Now he's stopped being a Democrat. He also likes his sign, and is ready to defend it: " 'If I see anybody touching that sign, I got a club sitting right over there.' " (Central Florida 13 News)

At least some people living in the neighborhood aren't too happy about the sign. " 'When you use words in that nature, people tend to discount anything you have to say,' said Steve Rice, who lives a couple streets away from Lacasse.

" 'If you're going to attract attention, at least make sure your spelling is right," Rice added, referring to Lacasse's misspelling of the word 'Muslim.'

"Rice said everyone is talking about the sign. He added he has no problem with free speech, but he does not think it is appropriate to bring race into the issue.

"Rice also said the sign was wrong, and that Obama is a Christian, despite many people thinking he is Muslim." (Channel 13 News)

Small Sign, Big Issues

Mind you, I don't think the sign, or the neighborhood controversy in Barfoot Bay, Florida, is of national significance. But, that "Obama Half-Breed Muslin" sign, and what one of the neighbors said, brings up some important issues.

Freedom of Speech

Freedom of Speech is fine, and Mr. Lacasse may have a legal right to keep his sign there. Offhand, I'd say that this isn't so much a matter of Constitutional rights as local zoning ordinances.

The town I live in lets people display plastic flamingos, why not that sign?

Besides, as a parent, I can see the message as a sort of 'teachable moment' for the kids.


As I've said before: "When elections shake the tree of liberty, quite a few loose nuts fall out."

With Sarah Palin on one ticket, and Barack Obama on the other, we've already seen some pretty wacky warnings:
  • "Anybody toting guns and stripping moose don't care too much about what they do with Jews and blacks. So, you just think this through."
  • Saran Palin is a radical right-wing religious warmonger
  • Barack Obama is a Muslim: and you know what they're like
  • Barack Obama is the Antichrist
Silly? I think so, but some people don't.


Ouch. In a country where "Employee's Only" signs abound, I'm not surprised to see that someone spelled "Muslim," "Muslin." At least he got the capitalization right.

This is a good example of why spelling counts. One wrong letter, and instead of saying that Barack Obama is a Muslim, which some people might believe, you're saying that he's half cloth. Even front-page coverage on supermarket tabloids probably wouldn't sell people on that idea.

And there's the chance that someone who knows how to spell will see the sign, and assume that your ideas are as accurate as your spelling. Like it or not, howlers like that send the message, 'a ignernt purrsin lives heer.'


I think Mr, Rice, the neighbor who was quoted in the news, was on the right track when he said:
  • He doesn't think it's appropriate to bring race into the issue
  • The sign is wrong
  • Obama is a Christian
  • Even though many think he is a Muslim
Channel 13 News almost made the point that race and/or ethnicity is one thing, religion is something else.

And that's important.

I've gotten the very strong impression that quite a few people think that Muslims are all Arabs, and that all Arabs are Muslims. Also, that Christians all have pale skin and pointy noses. Except for Catholics, who are all Italian and Irish, and aren't Christian anyway.

Not true? Of course. Being European or Arabic or whatever is determined by who your ancestors were. Whether you follow Islam or Christianity, something else, or your own musings, is a matter of choice.

I'm rather passionate about getting facts straight. Quite a few people who aren't Arabs are Muslims. A great many people whose ancestors weren't from Europe are Christians.

Besides, as I said in " Presidential Candidate Named Hussein? Get a Grip!" (February 28, 2008), where someone's ancestors came from isn't - or shouldn't be - an job qualification for being president.

Neither should the candidate's religious beliefs.

Unless a candidate is, say, a Lithuanian who really believes that his mission is to make America a Lithuanian protectorate, and make Americans work in grybai mines. Someone with goals like that wouldn't make a good president: or get many votes, for that matter.

It's Going to be a Long Month

We've got all of October, and a few days in November, before the American presidential election.

Until then, I'm pretty sure that more, and loonier, crackpot ideas will come up. If the stakes weren't so great, I'd enjoy the show a lot more.

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