Of Deep Concern
In a season rife with extreme protest and divisiveness as a result of the recent Presidential elections, policies of the previous Administration and those of the new President, we are bearing witness to a profound display of emotion from many corners of society.
I write today of one particular form of protest that has evoked a deep sense of anger and disgust among many of us, most notably, members of the armed forces, veterans and first responders. That form of expression is the display of the American flag in an upside down manner to protest a particular politician or institution. Flying the American flag upside down is an officially recognized signal of distress (Title 4 § 8(a)). The flag should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property. Though it is considered a legal form of expression protected by the U.S. Constitution, it is does not mean that you should simply do it without considering the ramifications and the impact on your community.
The American flag is a symbol of freedom and liberty representing 240 years of grit and determination of a free and open people to remain as such. It is not a symbol representing a form of government or any one leader, it is raised each day and flie’s for all of us. The flag has flown and persevered over many crises in our history, from the glory of revolution against a tyrannical government, through the dark period of slavery and oppression as we fought to free many of our own from an evil institution, through world wars to free others from despair and destruction to civil strife and beyond. Yet, it still flie’s each day for all of us; reminding us of who we are, what we stand for and who gave the ultimate sacrifice so that we may never forget.
As a veteran of the armed forces, there is perhaps nothing that offends me more on a personal level than to witness the desecration of, or lack of respect for the American flag. The flag to me represents generations of my family on both sides who have served their fellow countrymen and the forces of freedom and liberty for over 200 years. They served and fought for the United States, but to them and to me, the United States is a nation of free peoples, not a faceless entity. When you desecrate the American flag or use it for purposes of anti-governmental protest, you are essentially taking exception to the freedoms liberties of all Americans, not just those in whom you find disgust or difference. When you as a member of the armed forces or as one of our nation’s millions of first responders, or a veteran of either, use the American Flag in an unlawful or disrespectful manner, you cast a shadow of dishonor over your service, your country and your countrymen. If you are angry at the results of an election or disagree with a political leader’s policies or fed up with a particular governmental institution’s lack of action, get involved and work to make a difference. Do not hide behind symbolism; it is a rough and winding road to isolation. Thumbing your nose at your friends, neighbors, countrymen and the millions who serve, or who have served, or laid down their lives for you, by disrespecting the most revered symbol of unity we possess, is the ultimate expression of disunity and discord. We are a battered and tattered nation, but let’s work to heal, not further the divide.