Point/Counterpoint pt2

Erin Roof Columnist

Patriotic thongs worse than flag burning

There are two widening factions in post Sept. 11 America: those with magnetic flags on their bumpers and those without. In recent years, overzealous patriotism has been visualized by stars and stripes regalia inching onto every open space, from the backdrop of our evening news to lapel pins tacked on every politician.

People have gone flag-crazy. Representatives Duke Cunningham and John Murtha, along with 46 co-sponsors, introduced House Joint Resolution 10 on Jan. 25 that aims to amend the constitution to prohibit defacement of the flag. This is the ninth time such legislation has been proposed since Congress first tried in 1989. With more of our young people coming home in flag-draped caskets every day, legislators say this is their best chance to push the amendment through.

But it is not defacement people should take issue with — it is the gross exploitation of our national symbol that should be stopped. We may hate to admit it, but a lot of savvy businessmen got rich cashing in on the Sept. 11 tragedy and subsequent boost in patriotism.

Chinese factories pump out all the stars and bars nonsense we could shove into our shopping carts, and we happily obliged to purchase anything with an American flag on it — we had to bring ourselves out of that economic slump somehow.

The aisles of every Wal-Mart in the land have been bursting with patriotic fervor. There are red, white and blue napkins, bathrobes, tennis shoes, wart remover, diapers, fingernail files, Frisbees, hypodermic needles and trash bags. Tell me, what is more disrespectful: a young man burning a flag in protest of murderous foreign policy or a woman who didn’t vote in the last election wearing stars and stripes thong underwear? Excuse me, but I want laws to protect me from capitalistic greed over ones that infringe upon my freedom of speech.

The American flag is one of the most polarizing symbols in our world today. Our war-ridden history has left feelings of pride, humility, fear and rejection intertwined with the fabric. Families of American soldiers may conjure up feelings of legacy and liberty upon the sight of Old Glory. Yet, Iraqi men, women and children who bury loved ones may see the flag as a symbol of oppression rather than liberation. Their families, too, die for the American flag.

We can’t expect everyone to share the same opinions of it. On the home front, I can attest to feeling disappointed and ill when our flag waves. To me, the red stripes represent blood spilled in needless wars. Upon the invasion of Iraq, I was so distraught that, in public protest, I defaced a flag. I wanted to show how ashamed I was of our country. It was an extreme act, but it seemed appropriate to my feelings. I also knew I may not have this right of criticism for very long.

If the flag protection amendment passes, it will be a huge progression in the erosion of our rights. Freedom of expression is what separates democracies from dictatorships. We can’t allow the First Amendment to go up in flames.

Erin Roof is a junior magazine journalism major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].