(…and of the republic…for which it stands)

Flag burning, and other marks of disrespect for our national emblem, have been the source of contentious debates almost as fierce as those we have had about the right to bear arms, abortion, and what bathroom someone may or may not be allowed to use because of their choice of gender.

Many of these contentions about our flag go back to the ‘60’s when flag burnings as companion acts to draft card burnings were hailed as symbols of protest against the Vietnam War, and also again, by those protesting the Gulf and Iraqi Wars. In the context of such acts being forms of protest these were deemed to be under the constitutional protection of “free speech.” At least that’s the apparent rationale followed by the courts for overturning any legal actions to prohibit such acts.

The thing that no one seems to have considered about this issue for all these years is a very simple fact…desecration of the flag…is also of the republic…for which it stands. When someone does desecrate or disrespects the flag…they might as well be saying they no longer have any faith in, or want to be part of, this country. That’s a much more serious matter beyond just being an exercise of the right of “free speech” because, by that act, they are effectively renouncing their allegiance to it.

In our view a more appropriate way to use the flag as a form of protest, and “free speech”, would be to simply display it…upside down…an internationally recognized signal for… distress. That is, if someone becomes so worked up about an issue to the point of wanting to “protest” about it that would simply be declaring that they and the country are, indeed, in distress, because of that issue. There would thus be no disrespect or desecration involved with using the flag for such an exercise of “free speech.”

Even so we should note that it’s one of the great ironies of our times that we can all take our flag and publicly burn it, trample it, shred it, or even wrap it around ourselves as some kind of underwear…and that’s okay because…that’s “free speech.” But say anything even mildly derogatory about any kind of religion, race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, or even a particular political perspective, and that is immediately branded as “hate speech.”

What this says about the reality of our society today is that everyone is for “free speech” unless or until they see or hear something they don’t like…and we’re now allowed to be very selective about how and when to accept it as such.