Many of us often wonder if things have always been this bad politically or whether politicians have always been so corrupt. The fallback position for many is to enact more legislation to prevent the bad behavior of politicians, not recognizing that politicians who lack morals and ethics will simply ignore the law, as a criminal doesn’t care about “Gun Free Zone” signs. Or without consideration for how that law will be wielded by one side over another once they are in power.
Our basic system of government has been turned upside down. We no longer rely on local solutions to local problems, instead we look to the State for a solution and the Feds for a handout. We pay less attention to who is elected to our local council and school boards than who will be the next Governor or President. Why is that? Shouldn’t our local politicians have more influence and impact on our daily lives than an elected despot in the State Capital or a senile man at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
This article is intended for the critical thinker. This is a real situation involving real people and you will ultimately have an inclination of picking one side over the other. That is natural. But the hope is that you will come away with a different perspective. Einstein once said, “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” The same thing applies here.
Who is Ross Brunet?
According to a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Louisiana last month, Ross Brunet is just an average person – a contractor from Cut Off, Louisiana. But it is safe to say he has an interest in politics and a dislike for the Resident and Cheat.
Brunet recently filed suit against the Town of Grand Isle and various elected and appointed government agents for violating his rights. Brunet received four citations for allegedly violating state law (32:378.1). If convicted Brunet would have faced a $100 fine for each infraction. The alleged violations stem from Brunet flying flags on his vehicle which read “F*** BIDEN” and, in small font, “AND F*** YOU FOR VOTING FOR HIM.” Brunet also flies a third flag, a pink ribbon on a black field, calling attention to breast cancer. Brunet took the matters to trial and was found not guilty on November 18, 2021. But, it doesn’t end there.
Brunet was again cited in January, February and March in 2022 for the same alleged infraction. After several court delays Brunet was notified in September of 2022 that the prosecution was dismissed.
Grand Isle Targeted Brunet
If the allegations of Brunet are accepted as true it is pretty clear that he was targeted for his actions. All seven of the citations issued to Brunet were written by a single Grand Isle police officer: James Rockenschuh. Following the acquittal of the first four citations against Brunet, the Town of Grand Isle set out to enact an ordinance which appears to specifically target Brunet’s activities. Ordinance 1012 which was adopted on August 11, 2022 seeks to outlaw “signs on vehicles” only which are larger than a certain size (20” X 30”) or contain language “deemed offensive and vulgar”, “obscene in nature” or “contain language that describes a sex act”. That ordinance provides for up to a $500.00 fine and thirty days in jail for each infraction. The statute also requires “mandatory court appearances.”
Interestingly enough the exclusion is broad enough to outlaw all sorts of signs. If Brunet’s flags are presumed to be “signs” under the ordinance this it would also exclude American flags, Confederate flags, the Louisiana state flag, etc. It is so broad as it could exclude advertisements on vehicle which are “temporary.” Such could include magnetic emblems similar to those affixed to U.S. Postal Service vehicles and other trades.
But it is clear the ordinance only targeted “temporary signs” on vehicles (AKA Brunet’s Biden Flag). You could take the same flag and mount it on your home. You could poke a whole in the sand and display it on a public beach. Similar issues have sprung up in other parts of the state where municipalities seek to limit “political signs” to certain times of year. The intent is to ensure candidate signs are posted and removed during certain periods. However, these types of ordinances don’t take into consideration that there are all sorts of signs about “political issues” that are not limited to election season.
There is also an issue with content based discrimination because a sign of a similar size and shape may be permitted. How can you tell the difference? You have to read the sign and make a determination that one is political and the other isn’t; or one is permitted and the other isn’t solely based on its content.
Should Grand Isle be allowed to adopt an ordinance restricting speech?
This is where most people will have diverging opinions. Whether you believe in natural rights or genuflect to the language of the “First Amendment” you will probably answer “no.” Government is force! Every ordinance just as well carry the penalty of death behind it, because that is what you face when things get out of control. An officer enforcing such an ordinance could easily find himself in a situation where a person resists. Force is required to overcome the resistance. Next thing you know, whether intended or not, death is the outcome. In the words of George Washington, government is “a dangerous servant and a fearful master.”
The fact is, the First Amendment was never intended to prevent actions of local and state governments. It was a prohibition on the central or federal government only. It wasn’t until the mid-twentieth century when people began to use terms like “first amendment rights”. This shift came about as the U.S. Supreme Court became a larger and more influential arm of the central authority than ever imagined. The court gradually “incorporated” certain provisions of the Bills of Rights as applicable to the State and local governments.
The framers were not concerned with the power of individual states. They believed people could maintain control on a local level. They were concerned about concentrating power in a government. There was no need to have such safeguards in place against the individual states as the state constitutions provided for these protections in their own constitutions. Local government (states) were to be a safeguard against the central government getting too big, too powerful and wielding too much influence in our everyday lives. However, many people today look to the central government, and government in general, to solve all of their problems. Whether it be related to health, diet, medical care or even marriage, we shouldn’t be looking to a top-down approach. It is as the local level, and primarily individually (without government intervention), that we should be addressing most items.
The State is now just as much an oppressor as the federal leviathan. The actions of some states in 2019 and since should have been an eye opener to all. This country contains many cities whose populations exceed the entirety of original states signing on to the Constitution. Not only do those cities wield significant influence over the rest of us politically, they also export morals, and social agendas which are not reflective of the values of the vast majority of us.
Community Standards Should Be Determined Locally
“Contemporary community standards” is a term we have become all too familiar with. Library Boards of Control all across the State apply community standards to prevent children from being exposed to obscene materials. But long before that term was spoken into existence by the Supreme Court in 1957 local communities have decided what is best for their communities.
The Town of Grand Isle should be allowed to govern according to the standards of that community. While the ordinance they enacted appears flawed in many respects and can be abused, it is their prerogative to govern the Town through lawful means. But even before the ordinance was enacted, the regime in power was willing to wield its power against Mr. Brunet. The targeting was solely based on the use of one word on a flag taken out of context and not falling within the definition of “hard core sexual conduct” as outlined in state law (LARS 14:106(2)(a)).
In framing the ordinance, Grand Isle indicated that “displaying vulgar and obscene language in areas that are family oriented” was the issue. The ordinance was “both necessary and critical to the preservation of a family atmosphere.” Regardless of the outcome of the case, or the side you align with, community standards are issues of local concern. They should be determined in local communities by people who represent the values of local individuals.
The one size fits all / top-down approach to government is a failure. Many focus all of their attention on Washington DC, or Louisiana, while ignoring local government overreach. Replacing five city councilman is easier than electing multiple Representatives and Senators to State government. It is even harder to have that sort of influence on the national stage. Electing strong local candidates who understand the need to minimize government’s scope and reach are the quickest path to reform.