After breathing a sigh of relief in being “cleared” from wrongdoing in the Valerie Plame case Rove and Company began breathing fire again when they trotted out the hits from their “oldies but goodies” collection- gay marriage (see post about the NY Supreme Court decision) and flag burning to name just a few. Leni Riefenstahl and other propagandists were the masters of taking iconography and elevating symbols to deified levels. If you mess with those symbols- you are a traitor and labeled as those who are not with us and therefore against us!
The anti flag burning rhetoric is up there with Ms. Riefenstahl’s genius. Is flag burning repugnant? Yes. Is it an affront to the United States? Yes. Should it be banned? Hell no! I tell people that I think what makes the flag a symbol evoking pride is the sheer fact that we have the freedom to burn it. Doesn’t that make the flag the most elegant symbol of freedom in the world? When a symbol becomes more important than the reasons that it is a symbol we are on the verge of turning into a country steeped in Joseph Goebbels inspired propaganda and über jingoism.
I find it fascinating that many of the very people who are on the anti flag burning bandwagon are the yahoos that sport the stars and stripes in the fabric of their clothing, who wrap it around their hats, wear it as a scarf – turning the flag into clothing and fly the flag from their homes 24/7. Now I was a cub scout and then a boy scout as a kid and I remember learning all the etiquette around the flag. I learned it was disrespectful- an affront and inappropriate- to wear the flag. I learned that the flag should be raised at sunrise and should be brought down before dusk- it is not supposed to fly at night unless properly lit. The flag should not touch the ground and there is a very specific way in which it should be folded. Do most of those yelling the most about the obscenity of flag burning know anything about flag etiquette? While I haven’t seen a poll about it – I somehow doubt that they do. Do I respect the flag? Yes. Even with that respect do I think that there should be a ban on burning the flag? No.
Most often flag burning is used as a protest when those protesting feel that the government has trod on their freedoms, rights or liberties. Why is it such a powerful statement that evokes such a visceral reaction of shock? Because the protester is taking that essential symbol of our nation’s freedoms and saying that, in their view, it is meaningless because the government has threatened those very freedoms. Ironically by being allowed to burn the flag- these protesters are in fact countering their own argument- their freedom to do so is protected! Yes the flag is burned by those who hate the United States. But don’t they have the right to hate the government and express their views when they are on our soil? Most of those who hate the United Stated would be arrested for similar actions against their countries in their homelands. Shouldn’t everyone experience the beauty of freedom- even the freedom to speak against the government? That is precisely why our government and our society work!
Our nation is one that ensures that someone who disagrees with us has the ability to express that disagreement and that we defend the right of that person to express their opinion even when we are most offended by that opinion. Freedom of speech and expression is one of our most sacred rights. Without it, without the ability to decry the actions of our government, we are on the road to tyranny, despotism and totalitarianism. Hearken back to the founding fathers- they were molded by the tyranny of English Kings and they assured a society that would not tolerate tyranny and that would not stifle criticism of the government or the individual right of self expression.
The flag is a powerful symbol precisely because we have the right to burn it in protest.