I was reading an editorial written by Daniel S. Wheeler, executive director of the American Legion. It was about why we need laws to criminalize flag desecration.
He related a story about how, at a baseball game in the 1970s, a man from the crowd jumped on the field to rip the flag from a protester who was burning it. The crowd spontaneously burst into a rendition of “God Bless America.”
Why would they do that, he wondered. They weren’t born with the instinct to be patriotic.
He wrote, "Throughout their lives, (kids had) been taught that America was a good nation, in fact, the greatest nation on earth." And so, people feel compelled to sing its praises and to fight and die for their country.
Yes, many people are taught that America is great as children. But as freethinking adults, sometimes we realize that that is but one opinion among many. Perhaps America is not the "greatest nation on earth."
America is a free country, so to speak. But it is no freer than most Westernized nations of the world, including Canada, the UK, the Scandinavian countries, Japan, and in fact, most countries other than the remaining communist nations and those that have a theocracy in place.
America is the greatest nation on earth only because most Americans say it is. And by making it a crime to burn the flag, a symbol of the nation, not the nation itself, we lose one more of those freedoms that make us one of the great nations.
We have already lost a number of freedoms. Thanks to the knee-jerk reaction of the present administration, we have been under increased government scrutiny since 2002. The Department of Homeland Security sees to that, as Congress moves to extend the powers of that department into the future.
On top of that, the scruples of our president, which he has seen fit to force upon the masses, have hindered this nation’s scientific progress in the fields of medicine and genetics. So our freedoms have already been abridged.
I certainly believe that America’s weapons technology is far superior to any other country’s. So if that makes us the greatest nation on earth, so be it. It certainly makes us the strongest.
But the whole concept of nationality is archaic. It does nothing but promote divisiveness among nations.
In this day and age of instant communication and global markets, we need to start eliminating national boundaries altogether. That's what Europe is trying to do, and when they succeed, it may be the Europeans who can claim to have the "greatest nation on earth."
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not anti-American. And I believe the sacrifices that have been made by patriots past and present are commendable.
But realistically, there is little threat from any nation. Who would invade us? Yes, terrorists might, so fighting a war on terrorism is necessary. But that’s a war that should be fought by all nations, since all nations are vulnerable.
The “patriotic” wars of the past are over. We are simply a member of the world of nations. We have taken on a leading role, but that doesn’t make us any better.
At any rate, we have far more important things to worry about than passing laws or constitutional amendments against those few protesters who burn the flag.
Wheeler’s point in his editorial was that if we don’t pass such laws, our children might grow up with the notion that the flag is just another symbol among many.
Well, what’s wrong with that? It’s a more realistic view than the bloated idealistic notion that we are the greatest nation on earth.