The city of Berkeley has had a busy week or so of it. Today the City Council went on record by a 7-2 vote to say that, no, US Marines aren’t really inherently evil, and yes, they can stick around for a while longer in their stupid recruiting station. They couldn’t quite muster the political will to apologize for ever having thought differently however.
The vote gathered an assortment of the usual Code Pink loons and ANSWER goons, who themselves were opposed by pro-troop activists. Apparently Berkeley High School found the event educational enough to suspend classes long enough to let students, variously, sketch the protests or take part in them.
There was an almost charming naivete on the faces of some of the students, especially as contrasted to the perfidious partisans of ANSWER, not to mention the addle-pated and childlike simpletons from Code Pink. The kids you can forgive – they are old enough to know that war is awful of course, but not yet old enough or reflective enough to have fully thought through the consequences of losing one, not for ourselves, nor for those who dared to believe that we were serious about all of that democracy and self-determination guff.
I have to admit that this photo gave me pause however:
Flag burning is, of course, constitutionally protected speech. And it doesn’t anger me so much as it makes me sad: That flag stands for all of us. For you and me.
There are 13 stripes that stand for the 13 original colonies, and the bold citizens thereof who swore their lives, fortunes and sacred honor to throw off the yoke of tyranny in a noble experiment in personal freedom and self-government. The red in those stripes stands for hardiness and valor, while the white testifies to purity and innocence – always a goal, even if not always a destination. The blue canton symbolizes vigilance, perserverence and justice. It carries 50 white stars, themselves symbols of celestial perfection and which in combination with the canton speak to the great union of many several; states, colors, creeds and philosophies.
It stands for mothers who crossed the country to show up in Berkeley to support their soldiers living and dead. It stands for Code Pink and even ANSWER, who have the right to express their opinions. It stands for the truly radical notion of a government of, for and by the people. It stands for the waves of young men and women who have fought and died in wars against slavery, oppression, militarism and fascism, without whose sacrifice the world would be a far poorer and uglier place.
It stands for labor unions that fought against a different form of oppression to ensure that the working class got a fair shake. It stands for immigrants who saw that in that flag the chance to build better lives for themselves and their families. That flag stands for freedom and democracy. In some strange way, it even stands for the constitutionally protected right of porridge-brained high school students who have never known a moment’s hardship, nor an instant’s introspection, to burn it.
There was never anything made by the hand of man so perfect that the evil among us could not turn it to their own uses. Villains have wrapped themselves in that flag to support their base ambitions and petty cruelties. Politicians and soldiers have committed crimes under the color of that flag’s authority. But those that did so usurped the flag without fundamentally changing the fact that the it represents the noblest of human ideals.
And so I’d like to ask that student something: If you burn the flag of the land that gave you birth, little girl, the flag of the community that shelters you, your neighbors’ flag, the flag of those sworn to defend your rights at the cost of their own lives, the flag that generations of your predecessors lived under in individual freedom and common hope against all of mankind’s wretched historical precedents – what then will you raise in its place?
I’ll give you some time.