Only a handful of countries in the world do not punish by fine, jail time, or both the willful destruction of that nation’s flag.
America is one of them.
Not that there has never been a law for up to a year in prison for defacing the American flag, including fines, in 48 states at one point, but the United States Supreme Court in 1989 upheld the rights of protesters to burn the flag in a First Amendment, 5-4, landmark decision.
Right now, there is a proposal with U.S. Senate and House support that calls for a constitutional amendment to allow Congress to have authority to ban the desecration of the United States flag.
As we approach the Fourth of July in 2020, the flag quickly brings to mind the scenes of recent violence and protests over systemic racial injustices —American flags torn down, set afire with the flames of unrest and disgust of many who want some type of justice and redemption that simply will never, ever come at the mere destruction of Old Glory.
Use this as a contrast to the disciplined, honorable burning of old, tattered flags this past weekend by the Wake Forest American Legion, Post 187. The symbolic respect and handling at the processional flag burning ceremony by veterans and many different ages, teens included, was a respite in the shadow of recent darkened days and nights. These Americans, embracing the flag, are equally unlikely to change the ideals being touted to destroy, loot and rip to shreds the red, the white and the blue by their demonstration of tradition, loyalty and the due recognition of the price of freedom for us all.
The dichotomy can send a committed man from either perspective into passionate professions of his rights, his country’s rights and the rights that have and should have existed in the past and the rights that we will have in America when the dust of unrest settles in some unforeseeable future.
Today’s rights, however, seem to find no place in so much division. For whatever the rationale, a side must be taken, but no matter the grey areas, we must protect not only the physical flag on multiple levels but also within the spirit it lends to an American.
The American flag is our national symbol, and it’s a damn good one. We need the unity it can instill.
In as much as saluting it, speaking The Pledge of Allegiance to it and holding it in reverence down to the core of its visual presence, it is a symbol that holds dear to most — many a message, many emotions, embedded in morality and cemented by our differences as much as our agreements as a people.
It is flown half-mast when we mourn as a nation.
It is the symbol that has given every American soldier in combat a glimpse for victory, unity, hope and freedom.
In 1909, Robert Peary placed an American flag, sewn by his wife, at the North Pole.
In 1963, Barry Bishop placed the American flag on top of Mount Everest.
In July 1969, the American flag was “flown” in space when Neil Armstrong placed it on the moon. Flags were placed on the lunar surface on each of six manned landings during the Apollo program.
The American flag is always flown, 24 hours a day, at:
• Fort McHenry, National Monument and Historic Shrine, Baltimore.
• The United States Marine Corps Memorial (Iwo Jima), Arlington, Virginia
• The White House, Washington, D.C.
• United States customs ports of entry.
• Grounds of the National Memorial Arch in Valley Forge State Park, Valley Forge, Pennsylvania
It has inspired the writing of the National Anthem and The Pledge of Allegiance.
From sunrise to sunset, it waves us on at schools, hospitals, government buildings, polling places, parades.
It remains a symbol of peace for the day — which gives it irrefutable power to stand and absorb any beatings or stripping by its own under the U.S. Constitution.
With 13 horizontal stripes, seven red alternating with six white, the stripes represent the original 13 colonies and the stars represent the 50 states of the Union.
These colors paint the USA — past, present and future — red, white and blue.
Red represents hardiness and valor.
White symbolizes purity and innocence.
And, blue represents vigilance, perseverance and, above all, justice.