Destroying the flag disregards the liberties this country provides

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I am writing in response to the individuals who find it appropriate to cut up an American flag at the Lipic Clock Tower. I do not write this editorial in an attempt to reargue an issue already decided by the Supreme Court of the United States. My objective in this piece is to publicly notify you of how distasteful your actions appear. Your protest stands as a slap in the face to the very freedoms that protect your right to do so. In the vicinity of soldiers and first responders, who ensure your liberties, you choose to disrespect the very system that provides the framework for your outcry.

In protest, you show a gross disdain for the freedoms you take for granted. I am not convinced you realize this simple truth. Furthermore, I am not sure you understand that the very system you seek to change provides you with the means to change it. While protesting the result of an election is not likely to produce a different outcome (try amending Article II of the Constitution), you retain the freedom to do so. This freedom, one I hold so dearly, is guaranteed in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. Allow me to recount this sacred Amendment for you:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” Amendment I, United States Constitution

It is important to revisit Supreme Court Case Texas v. Johnson (1989) to validate the Constitutionality of flag desecration. In the majority opinion, Justice Brennan expressed flag desecration to be a form of symbolic speech, much like the wearing of black armbands in protest of the Vietnam War. The opinion was joined by four other Justices, including the late Justice Antonin Scalia. I do not write to question the legality of your actions. I write to express the great disrespect and division they exhibit.

At the same time you slashed an American flag, a deployment ceremony for the Missouri Army National Guard was taking place in the Center for Global Citizenship. In the presence of soldiers stationed along West Pine, you mocked the work they do to ensure your freedoms. In the face of the soldiers who lay their lives on the line to protect your petulant actions, you disrespected their value. I firmly believe it is helpful to understand the sacrifice of those who wear that flag you destroyed on their shoulder as a symbol of honor.

By cutting up the American flag in a low-turnout protest, you are detrimental to true progress. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality…I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.” The vast difference in tone should be noted. Dr. King did not tout a pessimistic rhetoric but rather a message of optimism and hope. Please know this kind of message has a better track record.

Through destructive means, you weaken the standing of your position. Those who use the system to effect change are having to answer for the tetchy actions of the few. To quote noted author and leadership expert John C. Maxwell, “In America, we believe everyone has the right to speak. But even in a free society, you have to earn the right to be heard.” I suggest you gain more pride in the country that provides you the freedom to protest as you do. Similar actions in other countries would likely not be met with police officers to protect your right, as they were here.

We all acknowledge that the United States of America is not perfect. However, lest you forget that you attend an institution which many do not have the luxury of affording; lest you forget that you hold the right to vote which I hope you exercised on November 8 of last year; lest you forget that this country grants you the ability to protest; when will you begin to appreciate the liberties the United States of America affords you?