What Does It Mean To Love Old Glory?

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a total disrespect for freedom and all the good we do across the globe, but as soon as it becomes illegal the flag can no longer represent freedom.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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7 thoughts on “What Does It Mean To Love Old Glory?

  1. “I believe we are not just another country, but one whose influence should spread and as our it does, so does freedom.”

    What an odd thing to say. It seems to me that if our influence spreads to other countries, it makes them less free because they have to operate under our terms. If China’s influence spreads to the United States, does that make the United States more free? No. Isn’t that precisely the primary foreign policy argument that both candidates (Mitt Romney more forcefully) are making in this election? And isn’t is also the argument that Wen Jiabao is presenting to his people? Freedom is a zero sum game. If one country is more free, another country will be less free.

    Honestly, it sounds to me like you care about the freedom of the American people, but aren’t truly interested in the freedom of anyone else. That’s a fine opinion to have (and I more or less share it) but I think it’s a little bit morally and ethically dubious. I take some solace in the fact I’m not trying to sugar coat my opinion with nonsense like American Exceptionalism. I don’t think there’s anything inherently greater about America than anyone else, but I sure as hell want us to win.

    This is the hypocrisy inherent in “American Exceptionalism.” We believe in “freedom”, so we are going to make the rest of the world adhere to our brand of freedom, whether they like it or not. Dictating what kind of freedom other people should have is the opposite of spreading freedom.

    The idea of [insert country here] Exceptionalism is used to make a democratic country’s foreign policy actions (especially military action) seem more palatable to the electorate by assuaging its moral and ethical doubts about what the country does. It’s no different than Manifest Destiny. Frankly, it’s surprising to me that any rational person in 2012 actually believes in this stuff. it’s election talk; it’s not real. Every country on Earth makes foreign policy decisions with one thing and one thing only in mind: its own best interests. Everything the United States has ever done or will ever do is solely for the benefit of the United States. If another country benefits, it’s just a positive externality. I’m not making the argument that this is a bad thing. If you are the President of the U.S., your job is to do what’s best for the U.S. To pretend otherwise is just a uselessly naive, child-like way to think about foreign policy.

    Ideally, since we are all citizens of planet Earth, we would all do things that are in the universal interest of everyone on Earth. Unfortunately, this is also a hopelessly naive point of view since we are trapped in a prisoner’s dilemma. Since you have to assume that every other country is acting solely in its best interests, we must always act solely in our best interest. This will never change until we are attacked by aliens. Seriously.

  2. Didn’t we go into Kosovo and Somalia for humanitarian reasons that didn’t really have any impact on America? We did it to help others because we are a beacon of hope around the world? I could be wrong on those two skirmishes in particular, but we have sent troops in for humanitarian causes many times.

  3. I came here to say everything Corey J said.

    If you remain unconvinced that American involvement in foreign affairs is always initiated when there is the perception that there is something in it for us, you need only look at the almost innumerable examples of real, demonstrable human suffering where we’ve turned a blind eye because there wasn’t.

  4. Thank you for commenting Mark! I think it is fair to hypothesize that the reason for that may be related to having a leader that doesn’t believe in American exceptionalism and our special role in the world.

  5. No, it is not fair. There have been, as I’ve stated, almost innumerable examples – of civil wars, genocide, abject poverty, authoritarianism, totalitarianism, suffering, etc – that have been all but ignored by presidents (on both sides of the aisle) throughout our history, precisely because there has been little to gain and too much to lose for our country.

    Suggesting that Barack H. Obama has come along and led us down this path is rewriting history. Badly.

    I found his statement you quoted in this article a refreshing dose of candor in a sea of BS. Prolly a little too honest, seeing as how it’s convinced smart people like yourself that he is some kind of defeatist.

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