O Say, Can You See: Protecting Old Glory

by on June 28th, 2006

Students of history will recall the crucial importance of a nation’s flag in battle. Beginning with the Roman army whose legions displayed their colors in advance of their redoubtable onslaughts and continuing through to the breathtaking image of U.S. Marines triumphantly raising our flag on Mt. Suribachi over Iwo Jima in 1945, the symbolic power associated with flags cannot be overestimated.

Although most Americans and overwhelming majorities of veterans support an amendment outlawing the desecration of our flag, others fervently believe that since our flag has survived savage attacks in wars across the globe it can certainly withstand the inane and intellectually vacuous assaults by a handful of Americans.

A prefatory cultural observation is that although there have always been citizens who protest against their own country, there is no question but that we’ve sustained a chronic fraying of our civic fabric over the past 45 years. A corollary of that phenomenon is that so many of America’s hallowed traditions, and in some cases patriotism itself, have been depreciated, in large measure because they are inextricably intertwined with so much of our nation’s history that is also under attack by our academic elites and their foot soldiers in the media.

Therefore, although amending the Constitution to protect Old Glory may appear to be a disproportionate response to a relatively minor problem, it’s similarly clear that most Americans feel it’s justified as an antidote to the nascent anti-American sentiment that is culturally afoot.

Perhaps the least persuasive argument against such an amendment is that it flies in the face of our First Amendment, that the act of desecrating our flag is a form of protected speech. Without going through the rigorous exercise of adducing case law, an even cursory review would demonstrate that the Supreme Court is all over the legal map when it comes to the circumstances under which “speech” is protected. Further, there are innumerable well-established limitations on free speech as well as our other Constitutional rights.

Another variable that carries an inevitably powerful cultural weight is our modern sensibility to protect every imaginable minority opinion regardless of how insulting it may be to the majority. This instinct reflects our deeply engrained cultural disdain for judging one another and our equally potent, if patently specious collective assertion concerning the alleged moral equivalency of all nations and cultures.

As such, the only reason the Senate bill received 66 votes is due to the politically charged nature of this issue–it’s easily the safest statement a Senator could make and only those in politically safe–read liberal–states voted against it.

That our nation’s sense of identity has been so profoundly depreciated that a majority of its citizens feels the need to protect its flag by recourse to our Constitution ought to be a civic shock to all Americans. Yet in reading many editorials, newspaper accounts, and blogs, we seem to be preoccupied with counter-arguments that obfuscate the deeper issues and are themselves symptomatic of the reflex to support an amendment.

Despite our self-inflicted cultural wounds, Americans ought not apologize for their desire to defend the symbol of this great Republic. Those who are serving our nation in our armed services and those who have are arguably best qualified to testify to the honor and sense of pride they feel when standing before our flag, because it’s their service, as well as the service of untold thousands buried in a multitude of graveyards around the world, that has preserved our way of life in this, the greatest nation on earth.

Mella is the Founder and Editor of ClearCommentary.com.

Philip Mella