Boomer Opinion: Here We Go Again

“Never a dull moment” is too trite to characterize the recent days of chaos in America. In this Boomer Opinion piece from his home in Glendale, California, Bill Cushing, who served in the United States Navy for the first half of his career, then became a college level instructor of critical thinking for the second half, bemoans the emphasis the president has put on an issue that might only kindle the chaos further.

Well, it’s politickin’ time again!

On the heels of almost three months consumed with the coronavirus crisis— June opened with President Trump imploring governors to help him push through laws criminalizing flag burning. The impetus for this came from the protests over the death of George Floyd in Minnesota.

Once again a stupid bipartisan idea has raised its ugly head— just in time for the 2020 election. I call it stupid because it’s counterintuitive and counterproductive. I call it “bipartisan” because that is exactly what it is.

Fifteen years ago, then-Senator Hillary Clinton co-sponsored such a bill. Before her, President George H. W. Bush tried this routine in 1989, and God knows how many minor names have trotted it out between and since.

Protecting the flag from matches has become a go-to gimmick for politicians of all stripes. And each time it’s gotten any traction, the Supreme Court has kicked it to the curb. I expect (and really, really hope) that this latest edition goes as far as the previous attempts have: nowhere.

There are more than enough reasons to protect us from protectors of the flag, but let me present the main one. It takes a bit to explain, but hang with me here.

What is a flag?

Let’s start there. Well, there are two definitions germane to this issue, and the first is literal. A flag is a visual representation of a group (nation, state, school, sports team, whatever) that is predetermined to be of a certain color pattern and design adhering to a specific shape.

Then, there is its symbolic significance, which is what cuts to the heart of the matter here. And what is a symbol? A symbol is an object that is both what it is itself but also takes on a special meaning— usually spiritual, ideological, or emotional. In the case of a nation, the flag represents the core value of the nation that utilizes it as a symbol. The hammer and sickle design of the Soviet Union was not happenstance.

Bill Cushing

How about the United States of America? What does this nation represent? I’d recommend talking to people not born here but who came from elsewhere to become part of the country. Probably the most popular responses could likely be narrowed down to two basic words: “opportunity” and “liberty.”

One can easily argue that they are interrelated, but for the moment, I focus on the specifics of liberty. So, whenever a politician goes public waving the grand banner of “We must protect the flag,” it means we must pass a law forbidding people from causing that flag any damage. What the argument boils down to is, we will remove a freedom in order to protect freedom. It’s a line of reasoning that makes no sense.

Now, if anyone is comfortable with that rationale, I submit that the symbolic significance of the American flag has already been destroyed, so we may as well burn it anyway.

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Bill’s book of poems is, “A Former Life.”

3 Comments

  1. This brand of “Patriotism” is used because it is a marketing ploy that means whatever the recipient of the message wants it to mean, until it is co-opted and takes on new meaning and connotations. Somewhere along the way the flag began to stand for “troops”.

    A blue wave is coming. The undercurrents are strong.

  2. I’m in my 60’s, & I have never liked to see the American flag burned or ripped because of anger or frustration— it IS a symbol of our United States, & I think we should Respect the Flag, just as we should respect each American!

  3. I have a full length wooden leg in my closet that weighs about about 15 lbs. It was my father’s.

    He lost the real flesh and blood one when it was blown off on Iwo Jima, February 19th, 1945. He used a prosthetic for 5 decades to walk. That was not easy. Essentially, each step is a process of stumbling. Then, athletically, re-balancing, like a ballerina, at the last moment before falling down to take the next step. He did though. Fall. Almost everyday of his crippled life as a veteran. Eventually, his war wounds took his life.

    One of his flags sits on my mantle piece. He never talked about the war, the medals he received (including the Bronze and Silver Star), or the battles he was in.

    All he said was, “freedom is never free”. The flag and national anthem, intertwined, are the essence of that very thought.

    Only adjunct idiots believe it symbolizes a nationalistic pride that this nation is perfect or without cultural sin. That’s mythology served up by revisionists, antagonists, and anarchists who feed on a contrarian viewpoints 24/7.

    I’ve never believed this nation is perfect. Neither did my father. My Lord. The 60’s and 70’s, transformed us, together. Realization and metamorphosis. Always room for changing course and a new direction. But through it all. Freedom. The flag and national anthem represent for me those who shed their blood and paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. Whether it was on the battlefield in the blink of an eye or 50 years later.

    That’s why I stand and place my hand over my heart. No mob mentality or reactionary “groupthink” is going to dissuade me. That’s not freedom. When the choice to respect the flag is far more riskier, then to kneel out of fear, then we all lose. There’s a good reason why part of the color of the flag is red. Because the cost of the freedom to honor the flag was paid for in blood. That’s why freedom isn’t free.

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