Wednesday, June 28, 2006


Dang. They missed it - and just by one little vote. The Senate, on that Constitutional amendment we so desperately need. And just in time for the good ol’ 4th of July. What amendment? Why, the important one. What? – a change in the anchor-baby loophole, where illegals sneak across our border to have their babies, which are then US citizens? No, not that amendment, silly. A sensible and necessary one. Just like Prohibition was. What this country needs, aside from a good nickel cigar (so I have been reliably informed), is a ban on flag burning. American flag burning. Maybe I’m not being clear. A ban on the burning of the flag of the United States of America.

It is true that every other flag is protected, somehow, from burning. If I burn a Mexican flag or the gay pride flag or a cross, that’s racism and hate speech and ethnic intimidation and inciting to riot and a bunch of other stuff. But so far, for some reason, our grand black-robed dragomen of the law have exempted the US flag from the protection afforded all these other symbols. Something to do with free speech or something. One of those older amendments. I guess nobody feels intimidated or outraged when the US flag is burned.

All this is true. But you might discern, from my sarcastic tone, that I’m not fully in accord with this movement. It is my belief that we do not race about amending the Constitution because someone’s feelings might otherwise be hurt. The law does not recognize the concept of fighting words. I, however, do. And some stringy-haired punk who thinks it would be a hoot to burn the flag as a sign of his disrespect may very well get his lights punched out. A trial would rightly follow – we must preserves the forms of law, after all – and the accused lights-punch-outer would be acquitted ... if I were on the jury. But not everyone is me, so perhaps the patriot would be convicted. Patriotism has a price. Otherwise it’s jingoism. So protecting the flag is a gamble.

Does the flag need protecting? I am of two minds. We react with outrage not at the burning, but at the disrespect for something that deserves respect. But the burner feels disrespect, and shows it thus. Or he’s just a petty provocateur – an empty fool who’s taken time out from his pot-smoking and masturbating to try to make people angry. What does flag-burning really stand for? Disrespect. As I see it, there is some latitude, in showing disrespect. There may come a time when I wish to display my emotion through street theatre, by burning some symbol. I’d like to think I’d be able to do that. It works both ways.

The flag is as sacred a secular symbol as we have. It is a sort of national monument in cloth – mass produced, in China mostly, but always ours, and dear to us. It is to be honored and protected, because it stands for something noble and worthy. In the face of ill-breeding, or profound ingratitude, or impotent alien mob blustering, however, we must ask ourselves how much power we will choose to give these characters. Yes, it requires a certain emotional distance – a certain sense of self-assurance and irony. But the alternative is to give the whip to the clowns, that they may scourge us. This will not stand.

If we ban flag burning, more flags will be burned. Every Islamist will be issued on a daily basis his American flag, that he may perform the new Islamist ritual – the Sixth Pillar of Islamism – of US flag burning. And how they will delight in our supposed discomfiture. And oh the Lefty martyrs – how they will shudder with an agony of delight as they put the Bic to the banner - they might almost achieve an erection – it’s so forbidden!

Let’s ignore the impracticalities of such an amendment. Burning a flag with fifty-one stars. Burning a flag with eleven stripes. Burning a flag with altered proportions. Burning a red, egg shell, and blue flag. This would be the out, for the cowards who delight in being outrageous but would not be unduly inconvenience by the exigencies of law enforcement. We’ll ignore all this. As we might ignore them – the powerless protesters who vent their frustration like incendiary mimes – displaying their angers, their rages, as if we ought to be intimidated by such play acting. Sometimes we have to ignore the naughty children who say booger and ­peepee and then giggle at how daring and bad they are. Sometimes we have to ignore the angry shouting of children, who have no maturity to aid them in tempering their conduct with patience and courtesy. Sometimes we have to wait, that the child might learn a larger lesson, in a more appropriate way.

Most of all, I think, is that we have to be the masters of our own emotions, and in the face of rudeness, and stupidity, and vulgarity, sometimes we have to reframe the issue not in terms of our feelings verses their feelings – Oh, he thinks he’s mad? I’ll show him what mad is! - but rather step back, and feel sad for their weakness, and glad that we have been so blessed. Not everything is a game. It’s not always about keeping score – he’s been insulting … let’s get him! Sometimes it’s about character. And character understands restraint. The flag stands for the American spirit. And the American spirit is what we make it. The pride that stirs in us when we see that heroic emblem waving against the blue of the sky, is the pride we feel in ourselves. Pride has its cost, though. We must be worthy of it. And it starts with self-control.

Self-control. Sort of the opposite of gay pride. Respect - sort of the opposite of being a scofflaw. Courtesy - a virtue rightly extended even to those who display ignorance and ingratitude.

And is there no more pressing issue confronting this nation, than the four instances this year of flag burning?


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