Back in 2005 there was serious discussion in Congress about passing a constitutional amendment that would ban the desecration of the American flag. The language of the amendment read,
“The Congress shall have power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States.”
At first blush I thought this was great. With this amendment we’d be able to arrest those horrible communists who don’t respect the sacrifices of our armed servicemen, and heaven knows, I’d love that. Unfortunately, there is a little more to it than that. After a little more thought, I realized that this amendment curtails free speech, and in a large way, changes the symbol that the American flag embodies.
Speaking against the amendment, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-New York, 8th) stated, “If the flag needs protection at all, it needs protection from members of Congress who value the symbol more than the freedoms that the flag represents.”
You see, desecrating an American flag is putrid and wrong because it represents a total disrespect for freedom and all the good we do across the globe, but as soon as it becomes illegal the flag can no longer represent freedom. How could a flag that is illegal to damage (such a monumentous restriction of free speech that an amendment is needed to overcome it) truly represent freedom? The amendment was not passed and subsequently sent to the states, as it failed by a mere one vote in the Senate.
I only mention that to illuminate the fact that the flag is a symbol for values, values that we love. It is not literally the flag that we love, that’s a third grader’s understanding (although if it’s a Massachusetts third grader, you would have learned from the final debate that they’re the best in the country in math and English). It’s the freedom and opportunity represented by the flag make it what it is…a beacon of hope.
President Reagan said, “America is a shining city upon a hill whose beacon light guides freedom-loving people everywhere.”
I believe that. I believe we are not just another country, but one whose influence should spread and as our it does, so does freedom. Our flag represents that.
When asked about American exceptionalism, President Obama said the following,
“I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.”
If everyone is exceptional, then no one is. I don’t think it is a stretch to hypothesize that our current president does not believe that America is and should be that “shining city upon a hill” (and that doesn’t make him a horrible man. I’ve heard similar sentiment from other good Americans).
Furthermore, in 2008 Michelle Obama said, “For the first time in my adult lifetime, I’m really proud of my country”
She explained that the reason for that wasn’t just because Barack was doing well, but more so because the country was “hungry for change.” With almost the exact opposite sentiment, Vice Presidential candidate, Paul Ryan, has vowed to reapply our founding principles, which makes one wonder how far we have strayed from those principles.
I believe America is a beacon of hope to the world. If you love America and believe it is exceptional for the values it stands for, and not just because it’s your country (i.e., in the same vein that the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism), then you’d be obliged to agree that the disappearance of the very principles that the flag represents would alter the its meaning and leave you unable to love and view it with the same pride that you did when it meant something completely different.
Do you love the flag or what it represents?
To be clear, if we stray from our founding principles there is a path back. However, it is important to note our very special role in the world, and remember that we are not exceptional simply because we are America, but rather because of what we stand for, what we’ve done, and what we continue to do.
Clemson’s annual Military Appreciation Day was this past Saturday against Virginia Tech and I’d like to share some “exceptional,” patriotic pictures of a very, very special day.
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