It’s all fun and games until someone gets charred.

When I consider all the news stories to which I pay little or no attention, this despite the fact that I claim to “keep up with the news,” I can understand why so many people accept Twitter as the voice of God, and view Facebook as just a logical addendum to the Qur’an, the Talmud, the Bible, the Vedas, etc.

Yesterday when minority President-elect Trump tweeted that flag-burners should be expatriated, he was of course displaying once again his complete ignorance of the Constitution. That this man would defend the Second Amendment to the death and so readily trample on the First is comical, but it’s also frightening. And it goes to a much larger issue—a world issue that comprises several other similarly disturbing events.

1. François Fillon’s center-right party in France recently won a primary over a more moderate candidate and now appears ready to confront Marine Le Pen, already president of the National Front, a far-right faction advocating a return to glory. It’s unclear if she means the glory days when France surrendered to Germany in 1940 or when the allies liberated the country later in the war. Either way, lots of people died in that glory: over 200,000 French soldiers, but Ms. Le Pen wants to make France great again! (It’ll look nice on a beret.) When Trump won the election she tweeted “Congratulations to the new President of the US, Donald Trump, and the American people – free!” Her father, not to be outdone added “Today, the United States, tomorrow, France. Bravo!”

2. Among other oddities, Le Pen is okay with kissing up to Vladimir Putin. She’s not alone: throughout Europe there has been a drift toward the acceptance of Putin’s method and philosophy. He is being viewed by many as possessing the kind of nationalist spirit that the EU has drained from the continent—the symbol of conservative values who opposes gay marriage, immigration, and Islam. We thought Donald Trump was the outlier with his Putin admiration, but he was ahead of the curve, whatever you may think of it.

How does all this tie into that asinine flag burning tweet?

The first right that someone like Putin or Trump would like to squelch is freedom of expression, and flag burning is such a right—defensible as a protest in the same manner as American “patriots” burning the Qur’an after 9/11, or draft-age boys in the sixties burning their Selective Service cards. You can do it and still live here.

But please don’t.

A tweet like Trump’s threatening expatriation indicates such ignorance that it will disgust people even more. Their anger will effect more protests…which will result in more flag burnings…which will result in more inflammatory tweets and a dogwhistle-to-arms aimed at every gun-toting dimwit. Then the violence…and the National Guard…and emergency powers to restore order. When it’s over we’ll have one less freedom to defend.

We anti-Trump people are going to lose a lot of battles in the coming months—freedom of speech does not have to be one of them. Feel like protesting? Wave the flag at your next sit-in or street march or impromptu seminar. After all, it does symbolize the country you’re trying to protect from authoritarian rule, doesn’t it? Seems that not setting fire to it is a small price to pay.

 

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Chuck Radda

I'm a former high school English teacher, currently a literacy volunteer and novelist. I invite your responses right here or to chuckradda@gmail.com. You can also follow me on Facebook and on Twitter—where I tweet annually at @chuckrad45.

2 thoughts on “It’s all fun and games until someone gets charred.”

  1. I have a WordPress Blog titled “Nothing Sacred” but so far it is just a placeholder for some thoughts, to be put into words at a future date, about what we hold sacred or not. Personally I’ve never understood why a piece of cloth is to be treated with anything more than ordinary care or why burning such a cloth would be considered so horrendous a crime.

    It seems like idolatry to me to hold such an object sacred. I even cringe at the words “I pledge allegiance to the flag…” especially when recited in a group — where one feels pressured to conform like so many unquestioning comrades.

    The American flag, if it represents the country we have become, perhaps should be burned in protest. Thankfully, I don’t own one, so I probably won’t be burning one. But I suspect that many will be in flames on January 20th. I wonder what they do to protest in France.

    1. I agree wholeheartedly about the idolatry of the flag, especially when it becomes the shibboleth of a nation bent on undoing the liberties the flag is supposed to embody. (Who hasn’t cringed when watching a stadium full of drunks—fresh from a tailgating spree—stop their rowdy drunkenness to honor the anthem and the flag?) Your question about France will constitute more research for you—I don’t know—but I know that the custom of honoring the anthem and the flag before every public event is pretty much American.
      As for burning the flag, Trump will use it against us. I know we run the risk here of crying wolf when we constantly compare his activities to Hitler’s, but the scapegoating of the Jews in the thirties has been his standard throughout the campaign—and since patriotism is always the last refuge of the scoundrel, I fear we would be scapegoating ourselves (the traitorous rabble) and setting us up for even more draconian laws. (For what it’s worth, I own three flags—all about 8×12″ that stick out of the cemetery ground every Veteran’s Day. Even if they burst into flame, nobody will notice.”

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