Flag burners insult our veterans

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 29, 2006

&uot;We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.&uot;

Although these words – along with the remainder of the Declaration of Independence document – did not officially become a part of American history until August of 1776 (due to having all the signatures in place), July 4, 1776 was the day that members of the Continental Congress commemorated its formal adoption. Thusly, Independence Day was officially born as the &uot;baby-faced&uot; United States of America cut its umbilical cord from &uot;mother&uot; England.

Two-hundred and thirty years later, we still enjoy the rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, thanks to millions of men and women – many who made the greatest sacrifice, the loss of their lives – who have protected our freedoms through their military service.

While we have Memorial Day and Veterans Day to pause and say thank-you to these brave men and women, the foundation of this great nation, one constructed in Philadelphia on July 4, 1776, would have crumbled long ago without their unyielding sense of duty as well as love and devotion of country.

But for every drop of blood shed on a battlefield in some strange, far-away land and for every widow who has stood weeping over a flag-draped coffin, there are other times when loyal Americans find themselves with a lump in their throat and tears welling-up in their eyes.

Such is the case at the current moment where our leaders in Washington are in the process of debating a constitutional amendment to make it illegal to burn an American flag.

On Tuesday, the vote fell one shy of the 67 needed for a two-thirds majority to write such an amendment. Supporters of the measure vow they will pick-up this fight again.

As the son of a World War II veteran, I personally see burning an American flag as an insult to my father and millions of other men and women who so proudly served this great nation in wartime and peace.

Since 1995, Congress has made four attempts to enact a constitutional amendment banning desecration of the flag. None have passed because our Constitution allows for freedom of speech, which apparently includes the right to burn our flag in protest.

Those choosing to set fire to perhaps the most important symbol of democracy are simply exercising their right to free speech. But what are they saying that a protest sign would fail to suggest. Are they torching a flag just to provoke some sort of reaction?

However, to place a ban on flag burning would erode the very foundation on which this nation was built. What would follow n disallowing any foreign born individual from applying for American citizenship; forcing every U.S. citizen to purchase an American made car?

But yet this is an American symbol of which we hold near and dear to our hearts. It is the only symbol for which we have developed certain guidelines – no part of it should touch the ground or any other object when being lowered; it should be folded neatly and ceremoniously; it cannot be used for drapery or for advertising.

Will there ever be a constitutional amendment prohibiting flag burning? Perhaps not. But one thing is for certain, as a journalist, I’m also covered by freedom of speech and freedom of the press. If you want to burn a flag in my little corner of the state, please call me and I’ll drop what I’m doing and run out and snap your photo. But don’t be surprised if I label you as a traitor, because that’s my right.

To me, burning our flag sinks a dagger straight into the heart of the &uot;Red, White and Blue.&uot; Maybe this debate over a constitutional amendment will shake us back to life as it seems we have become too complacent with life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Remember this as we gather next week in salute to our nation’s 230th birthday. Remember the lives that were sacrificed over the past 200-plus years so we could gather without fear to watch a patriotic parade, listen to a flag-waving speech and take in an eye-pleasing display of fireworks or to just sit back and relax during a day away from the office.