Jun 25, 2005

The Air of Freedom Is What Makes Our Flag Aflutter

Drawing by Ted Rall

The hot summer has arrived here in the northeast. In a few days, Americans will celebrate the 4th of July. Some people will seek the thrills of the summer, some of our lawmakers, though, are seeking cheap thrills! The House passed a "Flag Desecration Amendment" by a vote of 286-130. It now moves on to the Senate where it has to pass by a 2/3 majority, and then submitted to the 50 states before it becomes part of our Constitution. It probably won't come to that, but make sure you contact your senators and tell them that the flag means freedom which includes dissent.

The flag is a symbol of our nation and what we stand for. It should be respected. Yet, despite the attacks on our freedoms, we are still a country that allows dissent and the freedom of speech. Isn't this what we're supposedly trying to promote all over the world? Flag burning, for example, is rare, but it should be allowed as a form or political protest even if it's upsetting to most of us. Everyone should be able to choose his own interpretation of what the flag represents. Being patriotic cannot be enforced by law, and no law can make you a patriot. Respect for the flag should come from within yourself.

Another problem with the desecration amendment is the practical application of the law. Who's to decide when a desecration of the flag takes place? It's much like pornography--in the eye of the beholder. As the 4th of July nears, I see the flag everywhere: on paper napkins that will wipe snouts & dirty hands and then promptly thrown into the garbage; on clothing that covers breasts, buttocks, and other sweaty private parts; on shoes, on chairs, and on funny hats at the Jersey shore. At the end of next week's celebrations, our streets, parks, and beaches will be strewn with plastic flags, and other disposable items decorated with our flag that will be trampled by millions of American feet!

By the way, I want to remind those of you who are shopping for a car that this coming extended holiday weekend, the car dealerships--the most patriotic of all Americans since they fly the biggest flags--will be running sales aided by our past presidents in caricature! Do you think this is a degrading of our national symbols? Maybe, someone should remind those Senators who are ardent supporters of unbridled capitalism that this proposed amendment may have adverse effects on rampant commercialism! That would seal the fate of this amendment in the Republican-controlled Congress, don't you think? We'd be big hypocrites if we allowed our flag to be used & abused for any other reason except for political protest!

Unfortunately, the flag has been used often by those who trade on the emotional side, suppressing reason and free speech. The flag has been used as a distraction by those who ask us to sacrifice while they do no sacrificing themselves. It seems to me that respecting the flag requires a bit more that flying it, pinning it on the lapel, and talking big. America the beautiful, land of the free and home of the brave, should remain an open society, tolerant of dissent and a promoter of free speech--even if this speech is disliked by the majority. In the end, we will win more converts to freedom and our way of life than by imitating those regimes that forcefully dictate how their people behave politically. The flag's powerful image and symbolism derive from what it represents. You choose the meaning and act your conscience.


Anonymous said...

Andros, you nailed it again. Short and very articulate to the point! We shouldn't change our First Amendment: freedom of speech.... Even if speech is repugnant to most of us. It's a matter of principle.
Beth, PA

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure what to make about your reference to the Jersey shore!.... But you're right, the flag has been used and abused for anything commercial in this country. Free speech should be included.

John Klein, DC

PS. Should I avoid the Jersey shore and head to MD? or VA instead?

Anonymous said...

Did you hear that recently a Vietnam veteran was arrested in Montana(?) for flying the American flag upside down? He was protesting the war in Iraq.

Anonymous said...

Cheap thrills for sure. Most who voted for the Flag Amendment in the House did so because they're confident the Senate doesn't have the 2/3 majority to pass it as well. Yet, this is not a good reason to pass anything hoping that someone else will save you from your stupidity.
They're trying to earn cheap political points I guess.


Anonymous said...

You're right, we've used caricatures of Lincoln, Washington, Rosevelt and other great Americans to sell anything under the sun.... We've put the flag on everything, in good and bad taste. We shouldn't become a country that persecutes political dissent, even if it involves burning of the flag.
Thanks for the post.

Anne, NY

Anonymous said...

Ha! Great cartoon by Ted Rall!!!! Maybe we should have such an amendment after all.... (just kidding)
Ronald, DC

Anonymous said...

yeah, Ted Rall makes an excellent point... i laughed so hard that i alsmost soiled my red/white & blue panties (feeling patriotic these days)

Daedalus said...

the car dealerships--the most patriotic of all Americans since they fly the biggest flags


I saw a photo of Bush signing an autograph on a flag- is this not desecration? On the night of the election, I stuck cut-outs of the states under pictures of the candidates as they were called. Is this desecration? No, of course not, because desecration relates to holy objects, and the flag is not a holy object. It has not been touched by God like a thorn of Christ or the Eucharist cup. (according to believers)

Pissing on a Quran is desecration. Why were Muslims not allowed to be outraged at Quran abuse, yet rightwingers are up-in-arms about flag abuse? (And if you check out some of those rightwing blogs, you will find many are willing to put a bullet through the head of someone who is burning a flag.)

Gothamimage said...

Instead of banning flag burning, why don't these GOP tough guys try cutting it by 30 percent over a two year period. Good campaign slogan.j/k