In the spirit of Independence Day, I thought about all the U.S. flags that have been burned since our recent presidential election and before, tracing all the way back to the Vietnam War. The question I have for protestors today is this: What’s the purpose of burning the flag?
“(T)he symbol of the flag isn’t what you’re protesting,” stated Eric Post, former Marine combat engineer. “That’s what gives you the ability to protest. You should cherish that. Not burn it.”
The Supreme Court Case, Texas v. Johnson, ruled burning the U.S. flag is legal due to being considered free symbolic speech on June 21, 1989. Though the court ruled it as lawful, it is made apparent by the concurrence and dissenting opinions the justices didn’t personally approve of the action.
In fact, Justice Rehnquist said our national anthem, The Star Spangled Banner, was written based on the values represented by Old Glory, and “Barbara Frietchie”—an influential poem from the Civil War—captures the influence the flag holds for many in this nation.
Each year, the Young Conservatives of Texas on campus set up a 9/11 memorial at Sewell Park. This memorial includes hundreds of U.S. flags spread across the lawn with a small set of Twin Towers next to them. The flags are used to represent the fallen from the devastating day. Imagine how those families would feel if someone set this memorial on fire. That is what a person does when they burn a flag.
Think about the many fallen—everyone from Pearl Harbor to 9/11 victims—we have lost on our homeland who deserve the respect this flag symbolizes. The flag represents the fallen victims, which is why it is draped over caskets of fallen heroes and given to their loved ones.
With this in mind, it is hard to fathom why a person feels this is a necessary way to protest. Especially in a time of social media, 3-D printing and freedom to wear obscene hats while marching through the street, it is completely irrational to set something on fire when it represents the freedoms we hold dear and the respect the fallen heroes and citizens of our nation deserve.
Old Glory is a powerful symbol of who we are and the pride we have for our nation. Rather than showing dissent through the burning of something meant to represent courage and integrity, I urge readers to think of more logical, diplomatic and effective approaches to protesting something they dislike about our great nation.
– Nellie Perry is a journalism sophomore