BY LAURAINE NICHOLLS
I always thought of the United States of America as the home of freedom, dreams, hope, and opportunity. With all the things happening in the world, I am happy to be an American citizen. Unfortunately some of the people who also live here do not have the same beliefs as I do.
Every night at dinner time, my family and I sit and watch the news together. Although there is often so much disturbing news, I am particularly dismayed by reports of angry protesters rioting in the streets and on campuses when a speaker with whom they don’t agree goes to talk. While watching the smashing of property, vehicles, and buildings, what gets me the most is watching American citizens burning their own flag. The flag that represents the nation that they live in. The flag that represents freedom. That very same flag that our veterans have fought for and our soldiers are still fighting for.
Some argue that the American flag is just a piece of fabric and it does not have any meaning. However, many people have lost their lives fighting for this “piece of fabric” in order for Americans to have freedoms people in other countries do not have. Ironically, one of these freedoms includes having the right to burn the American flag.
Despite the fact that Americans are free to burn the flag, I take offence for the 3.8 million service connected disabled veterans and soldiers, the 1.1 million Americans who have died fighting, the 49,933 homeless veterans, and the soldiers who are still missing. Those servicemen fought for the American flag in different U.S. wars, but many who burn the flag do not take that into consideration.
I feel for the veterans who are back home and take offence to the flag burning as well. In his testimony against the flag burning amendment before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Gary May, a Vietnam war veteran who lost both of his legs while fighting stated that he is offended whenever he sees the flag burned or treated disrespectfully, stating how painful it is to watch the flag’s desecration.
The flag is not just a piece of fabric. Charles Thomson, Secretary of the Continental Congress, spoke about the significance of the flag’s design in 1782: ” White signifies purity and innocence, Red, hardiness & valour, and Blue, the color of the Chief (the broad band above the stripes) signifies vigilance, perseverance & justice.”
Typically, the desecration of a flag means that someone wants to protest their government or insult the people of the country who are represented by the flag. In other countries, the desecration of the flag results in huge penalties. For instance, in Israel, flag desecration is a criminal offence and comes with a fine of $15,000 or three years in jail. In addition to that consequence, the criminals can be denied of scholarships and of health benefits for up to six years.
However in the United States, flag desecration is protected under the First Amendment as freedom of speech. Although there have been different attempts in making flag desecration illegal, they were not successful. The most recent attempt was June 27, 2006 when the fight for flag amendment failed by one vote.
I disagree with the burning of the American flag because I believe that it holds so much meaning to my nation and to me. The American flag is not just a flag; it represents our country and our values.