Saturday, December 10, 2005

Conversations Around the Net Part V:

Honor the Flag

If you read here regularly, you already know that I believe that burning the flag is a protected form of free speech and I argued that here. I argued that the rights of the individual, protected by the Constitution and its amendments, outweigh the symbolism of a flag, even if that flag represents those ideas.

I still believe it. At the same time, I believe, since the flag stands for those ideas and I believe in them so strongly, the reason we pay respect to the flag is for those ideas, not the piece of cloth, it's shape or those who carry it.

In the Lawrence World Journal, a woman wrote a letter talking about how times have changed and people no longer stand or salute the flag. She also noted that a bystander yelled at her and said some rude things because, when the flag came, she stood up and blocked their view. Also noted, her son was in Iraq.

As you can assume, having written the letter in a university town, the responses were less than stellar from the citizens. However, one in particular I felt was rather compelling and decided to answer it. He wrote:

always wondered during my days of active duty why saluting was so important. Hitler expected the same response as do many Communist or other violent leaders. The president in a white shirt and tie being saluted by those in uniform seems a bit strange. The military taught you only salute if in uniform.

As for the flag in my years of active duty and boy scouts standing up and or saluting it each time it came before me was never discussed. Not only that we were taught the flag goes up at sunrise and down at sunset.

The fact is there is no one person anymore patriotic that someone else although some do imply otherwise.

Since this above all others seemed to define the very reason the letter was written, I decided to respond.

Want to read more?

What does the flag stand for?

Is it simply a piece of cloth that anyone and everyone can apply their own interpretation, too? Is the constitution simply a piece of paper with ink on it? The Bill of Rights meaningless drivel that no longer applies in our modern world?

Each of these things are nothing and everything. They are on one hand symbols that can be discarded at will as have symbols of ideas been discarded through out history and on the other hand symbols of the eternal idea that men were created equal (however much we struggle to make it so even here); that man kind was not granted his right of freedom by a government, by other men, not even by right of arms, but by nature and an intangible Creator (whomever or whatever one may believe that Creator is), those rights being unalienable (ie, not taken away because a man said so, but inherent to man as a being with free will; capable of thinking for himself and granted it by a higher power than any law or man). Those rights being the simplest outlined in a piece of paper called "The Declaration of Independence" as "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness".

The act of honoring the flag is not about honoring a piece of cloth, nor a single office of government, nor the military as much as it may carry it before it. It does not represent a political party nor is it simply a decoration for national holidays. The flag is the symbol of an idea; the idea of "We the people...", however flawed we the people might be; however flawed the laws and leaders we the people with our varying ideas about government and leaders might be; the idea remains unchanged.

When we stand to honor the flag, we do not honor a person, office or piece of cloth, but the idea that it symbolizes.

Some here believe that the idea is dead and that the flag no longer represents it. Surely, that is your perogative as is protected, not just by the first amendment guaranteeing free speech, but by the very concept of free will as indicated in the words "endowed by our Creator" and "unalienable rights" and by men and women who have lived and died in service to it. Yet, at the same time, those who believe it still exists and is still symbolized by the flag, have the same right to their ideas and certainly, in a public space, have the right to voice them, unmolested in body, though it may not stop someone from complaining or voicing opposition.

Posted by kat_missouri (anonymous) on December 10, 2005 at 2:02 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Lori, in writing her letter about the lack of respect shown for the flag is actually asking if respect for or belief in the idea which it stands for is dead. Some here would certainly agree. From the comments of those who have chosen to comment rather stridently on her letter, I get the impression that they may still believe in the idea, but have in their minds that this perfect idea is ill represented by the government and our current laws, imagining what they believe would be the perfect leader, the perfect government and the perfect laws that represent this perfect idea.

They will never attain this perfection because it is not available under a system that is chosen and governed by "we the people", we being imperfect. Frankly, I for one hope fervently that we never have a perfect leader, the perfect government or the perfect laws, because perfection is the unasailable pinnacle, unchangeable and unmoving. Whenever man has decided that he has achieved this perfect utopia, through out history, he has done some terrible things in order to maintain it.

Certainly, in our imperfection, we the people have done some things that can be questioned and may be terrible in their own right, but, because we the people have not ensconsed any leader, government or law in perfection, we continually have the ability to change course, reel in our worst impulses and, inevitably, move forward a changed nation, sometimes better and sometimes worse, but moving and not moribund in a perfect utopia where free will, free thought, free speech and freedom itself inevitably dies.

To Lori, please thank your son for his service and you for enduring his absence. Without those yesterday, today or tomorrow who have taken an oath to defend the constitution, not a flag or a person, the imperfect freedom we have, persuing a perfect idea, would have died long ago.

May we live forever in imperfect freedom.

So, you see, even though I believe the flag is just a symbol, a piece of cloth and can be burned in protest if I or anyone else feel the need, because it is a symbol of the best of our ideas, I believe that we should honor it when it goes by and I always will. But, if the day ever comes that a force of tyranny claims that flag and hoists it in its name (and, no, I don't mean when it flies over a Democrat White House; I mean real tyranny and oppression), I will, with all sadness and reluctance, tear that flag down and burn it to ashes.

You hear that, Senator Clinton?

To ashes.

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