We’ve all seen stories about it on television, read about them in our newspapers and magazines. We’ve seen photos and videos. The stories and images of people burning the American Flag or otherwise abusing it. I try to avoid writing about politics here in this blog, but this goes beyond political. This is personal. I love that flag. I love what it represents, what it stands for. Men and women have died for it. Native Americans, The Black, Yellow and White all shed red blood for the Stars and Stripes.* Those and many more have been carried to their final resting place beneath it’s cover. As a veteran, I hope to be honored in the same way.
I’ve heard or read all the arguments, those with a differing point of view. I’ve read and seen the lack of respect, even vitriol given our nation’s most honored symbol. It’s just a piece of cloth some say. I wonder how many of the same were outraged when earlier this year preacher Terry Jones burned a copy of the Quran? Jones’ threat before the act made headlines for months. Burn a flag? No problem. Burn a book? Now, we’ve got a problem.
Hundreds of death threats followed and violent protests were staged in the Muslim world. The FBI reported Hezbollah has a $2.4 million bounty on Jones’ head. But after all I could argue, it’s just paper! Double standards are the norm among some.
I’ve seen our flag worn as a garment, draped on furniture as if it were a rag, touching the ground and other forms of desecration. All violations of the U.S. Flag Code. I know how some claim any symbol of our country is not symbolic of the ideals they hold true. American values as demonstrated by our government are beneath them. So no honor to our flag is given. They have the right to that opinion. I have the right to my own.
Let me say this. I’m a lover, not a fighter but if you want to see the worse in me come out, then just try burning my flag when I’m around. Thankfully, so far I’ve never seen it happen. But if it does, I’ll be the one, no matter how large the crowd, no matter the risk to life or limb, to step up and protect it from abuse and desecration. It’s a button-pusher for me, most definitely. Call me crazy.
Oh I’ll be violating your “rights” I know that for sure… your freedom of speech and all. (Hate speech might be a more accurate description). But what of my freedom of speech? My freedom to express the outrage I would feel if you attempt such a thing? I’ll no doubt go to jail for it, (inciting a riot would likely be the charge) but I’ll do it, and with my head held high. No one will burn an American flag in my presence if I have anything to say or to do about it. That’s a promise.
It is the soldier, who salutes the flag; who serves beneath the flag, and whose coffin is draped by the flag, that allows the protestor to burn the flag.
~~ Father Dennis, O’Brien, U.S. Marine Corp Chaplain
*From “That Ragged Old Flag”, Johnny Cash