red, white, blue ... and black?
When The One famously said, “I decided I won’t wear that pin in on my chest. Instead, I’m going to try to tell the American people what I believe will make this country great, and hopefully that will be a testament to my patriotism,” he decided that his kind of patriotism did not involve displaying the American flag on his lapel.
Of course, within days, he had that pesky little bugger back on his jacket. (Political Expedience 101).
But that was the traditional, everyday, run-of-the-mill American flag – the kind with 13 red and white stripes and fifty stars. (Ho hum). It wasn’t the new American flag – or should I say, the flag of the Obama-Nation – as displayed at a recent rally for Obama in Baltimore. Oh, sure it looked the American flag in many ways. Indeed, it had the stripes, the stars and the familiar red, white and blue color scheme, but it also had the Messiah’s face on it, along with the “O” that has become his trademark symbol. It also had the words “44th president” on it and his inauguration date.
The problem is … it is a violation of US Code to desecrate the American flag, and that is precisely what these enthusiastic supporters have done by adding pictures and words to it. They’ve defaced the flag of their own country. (I’m guessing most didn’t even know it. More’s the pity).
Specifically, it violates Title 36 of the US Code:
§176. Respect for flag.
No disrespect should be shown to the flag of the United States of America; the flag should not be dipped to any person or thing. Regimental colors, State flags, and organization or institutional flags are to be dipped as a mark of honor …
(g) The flag should never have placed upon it, nor on any part of it, nor attached to it any mark, insignia, letter, word, figure, design, picture, or drawing of any nature.
This isn’t capital murder, obviously.
Can people be prosecuted for it?
Is there a mechanism prescribed by law that allows for the “enforcement” of such violations?
Did I feel the same way when President George W. Bush did the same thing by signing his autograph on American flags?
I did. (Although a case could probably be made that asking the President to sign a hand-held flag is not quite the same as having people willfully and deliberately desecrate the flag with symbols and writing).
But simply because one cannot be arrested for desecrating the American flag does not mean the act is acceptable or should be ignored. Children, for example, cannot be hauled away for cursing at their parents. Adults cannot be locked up for infidelity to their spouses. Both acts, however, are examples of non-arrestable actions that are unacceptable.
But what of the greater issue here?
The American flag is the symbol of our nation … and symbolism matters. It is how we pay tribute and show respect to the values and traditions we hold dear. Having reverence for the symbols that represent our most cherished customs and institutions is a sign of strength and identity. Symbolism matters not just on a personal level – photographs, trinkets, heirlooms – but they matter just as much, if not more, at the national level. To cheapen the symbols of America cheapens our very character, our oneness, our personality, our uniqueness.
These things do matter.
Why desecrate a symbol is you are not intending to desecrate what the symbol represents?
(If that is your intention, so be it. That’s a separate issue. But if the intent is not to demean what the symbol stands for, then how does one justify it? What does that say of the character of the one doing it?)
The idea of respecting symbols is seen by many as just another way of preserving the crotchety antiquated past. It is also seen as a barrier to those who think “freedom of expression” should always trump the need to respect those things most meaningful to the society as a whole. “It’s how I feel, so I’m gonna do it!”
Thank you, Age of Narcissism.
Symbols simply mean nothing to many.
I’ve read comments on other blogs that reflect this kind of sad attitude:
“It’s just a flag. Get over it.”
“The flag is not America, idiots.”
“This somehow bothers you when innocents are dying in Iraq?”
Comments like these are disappointing – but expected. There are things that should – I say, should – transcend politics.
My point, by the way, is not to imply in any way that the next President had anything to do with these exuberant rally-goers in Baltimore. I don’t think it for a moment.
There are simply many of us who take the desecration of flag seriously … and wish others did too, regardless of what political stripes they wear.