“Wait a minute. A flag is supposed to represent everything that a country does. It doesn’t only represent the good things. If you burn the flag, you’re burning the flag for what you perceive to be the bad things the country has done. It’s only a symbol. It’s only a piece of cloth. I see them as symbols, and I leave symbols to the symbol-minded” – George Carlin.


I’m sorry, but no No. No No. No. No.

You can feel this way personally. You are allowed and well within your rights to dislike flag desecration and people not standing. But by arguing that you’re not an American if you don’t, you desecrate the Constitution and the First Amendment.  You show a profound misunderstanding of the basic principles behind the founding of the United States.

While many of those principles were imperfectly, and even horrifically executed, it does not change the value of those principles. Sitting a the very top of a list of principles is:

Individual Liberty: Each person is born with freedom from arbitrary or unjustified restraint.

I’m a veteran – Army, Navy, and Merchant Marines. Yeah, I couldn’t decide where I wanted to be. In the Cold War, we fought against the Soviet Union and I actually went into combat against Iran during the Tanker War.


USS Hoel, DDG-13
USS Hoel, DDG-13

We resisted other despotic countries, so Americans could enjoy the blessings of liberty. We did everything we could to be John Winthrop’s “Shining City on a Hill.”

It truly feels sometimes that our ultimate defeat of the USSR has resulted in this country respecting its own freedoms less…. That we have lost he fear of losing those freedoms so that now, we listent to any snake oil salesman that promises us….what??? I guess the thing that we all are individually seeking.  That salesman, he won’t deliver. He’s just trying to fatten you up for slaughter. Stop buying his goods.

For that reason, I miss the USSR, how insane is that? Sadly, I’m not the only social scientist who believes that loss of a power able to balance out the U.S. has resulted in the U.S. becoming what it is today.

Soviet Propaganda

These veterans in the propaganda, the ones implied and pictured, and the over 1,000,000 who have given their lives, their blood, and the limbs in wars throughout this country’s history are why you CAN stomp on the flag. This is why you CAN burn the flag in protest. This is why you DON’T have to stand for the Anthem. Because we fought for your LIBERTY to do so.

Because men and women in uniform fought for the liberty of all Americans to decide for themselves.

let me reiterate that;

Because men and women in uniform fought FOR the liberty to do so.

Because of that simple truth, the message of this meme, and all the other flagsturbation memes being bandied about, is actually the polar opposite of what it means to be an American.

They are UN-American.

They are window dressing for faux patriotism.

It is literally expresses a sentiment that is the opposite of patriotism. Demanding obedience is what King George wanted. It is a message that says you must be a slave to the state. You must be a subject. A subject cannot be a citizen. It is the message of the Stalinist, of the Maoist, and yes, of the Fascist and the Nazi. It is the message of every petty dictator in history.  It is not the message of the founding fathers who, in the very document announcing our cessation from the United Kingdom defined among our inalienable rights as Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.


If that’s what we demand now, brainless obedience to the state, then the Sons of Liberty should have just bought that damned Tea and stayed home. Samuel Adams and John Hancock should have just turned themselves in to General Gage and been hanged. George Washington should have surrendered to General Clinton at Saratoga.

Brainless obedience to the state is exactly what these men were fighting against. If brainless obedience is required in the United States of America, then our rights are clearly not inalienable, but are awarded at the whim of… the government? The masses? That one guy who is offended???  Who?

I swore an oath to defend the CONSTITUTION of the United States of America. I did so for nearly ten years before I finally got so damaged I had to leave (they don’t want you on ship when you start having seizures – go figure).

In part: “I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic…”

The Constitution. Not the Flag.

PART of that Constitution is the right to freedom of expression.

1st Amendment: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Without this amendment, without the Bill of Rights, this country would not exist. I’m not saying that to be bombastic. Without a Bill of Rights, the Constitution almost certainly would not have been ratified by enough states. Either we would have developed an entirely different form of government – probably something more along European lines, a limited monarchy no doubt, with no guarantee that all the former colonies would join, or we would have become a Balkanized region (would Balkanized have then been Americanized?) with the former colonies fighting amongst themselves for resources, first with the smaller states being gobbled up by the larger states, and then being sucked up or forced into allegiances with other powers.  New England wanted to be part of Canada anyway, so why the hell not?

We value the right of expression because it is usually the very first thing that despots take away, – No, ladies and gentlemen, guns are NOT the first to go – or, as in the case of British North America, refuse to give. It is one of the reasons, coupled with the increasing recalcitrance of the crown, the colonists eventually rose up against King George.

Veterans do NOT defend the flag over the Constitution. There is nothing in our oath that says “I will defend the flag” – we do have a very long tradition of doing so in battle, and that is just and right. But, that is a tradition, additionally, military personnel do give up some of the rights we protect in the name of efficiency.

But we do NOT abrogate citizen’s rights to free speech, even if it offends us personally. I despise those poeple who stand outside veteran’s funerals spouting hateful doggerel. But it is their right to do so. I don’t particularly like flag desecration, though I do understand it and the impulse behind it.

These rights, and our honoring them are why the KKK and Nazis can march on the street. This is why people like Westboro Baptist Church can preach their hate outside the funerals of veterans.


The Supreme Court in Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397 (1989), including one of the most conservative justices in our history, Antonin Scalia said that flag desecration fell well within the scope of the protections provided by the 1st and 14th Amendment. The SCOTUS had decided much earlier, in 1943 (West Virginia v. Barnette), that mandatory flag appreciation, mandatory swearing of devotion to a national symbol, violated the First Amendment as it is forced political speech.

Justice Scalia, a man who I disagreed with on a regular basis, and a man who I regret never meeting, made it clear in casting the final vote to overturn all flag desecration laws in the United States that he did not approve of the act of desecration itself, but that outlawing it was a grave danger to liberty. He also said, “I am not a king!” In this, Scalia recognized, in spite of his personal revulsion, that the Constitution and its stipulation for freedom of expression was paramount over individual sensitivities.


Now, to be clear, no right is absolute. Every right enumerated in the Bill of Rights (and in the various State’s Bills of Rigts) can be regulated. To start with, the overarching concept is; “your rights end where mine begin.”

As such, those who claim they would attack someone for exercising their rights. I have to ask, how does it honor the Flag if you dishonor the Constituion by trying to violently abbrogate another person’s rights?  The answer is, you insult both. You also insult the public order and likely end up in jail. If, prison showers are your thing, then, well, go for it. But be careful, certain states have looser regulations on the 2nd Amendment than others.

I submit to you for your consideration:

You cannot honor the flag while dishonoring on the Constitution.



Rights are also restricted on basis of public necessity, safety, and along other narrow lines.  Don’t believe me? Walk into a police station and yell “GUN!”  I can recommend a good bail bondsman IF you survive. If the speech is political speech, the right is reviewed under strict scrutiny – a legal term related to the highest level of scrutiny of laws.

BUT, the discussion of regulation of civil rights is another – long – very long – discussion.

There are only a few countries which codify mandatory flag appreciation; India, Russia and North Korea. I don’t want us to be even a little bit like them. Mandatory patriotism is not patriotism. It is merely base nationalism.  That is something that George Washington himself warned us against;

“Guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism.”
George Washington

As a veteran, as someone who has been to war defending the country, I know that the flag is a symbol. The Constitution is the cornerstone. As a veteran, as a patriot, as a lover of liberty, I would fight tooth and nail against mandatory obeisence to any national symbol. I would also protect anyone who was exercising this right.

And I grow weary of veterans being used as stalking horses to promote nationalistic agendas. IT IS NOT ABOUT US. It never has been.  The elevation of false patriotism over actually honoring the principles of the nation is disgusting. It leads to nothing but pain.  The historical examples of what this leads to are obvious.



I would rather burn the flag and honor the Constitution than burn the Constitution and honor the flag.


I’m going to say that again. I want you to spend some time to think about this.

I would rather burn the flag and honor the Constitution

than burn the Constitution and honor the flag.

The first, is  an inconvenience. It is a same you’re offended….  but guess what…. no where in the Bill of Rights does it say that you have the right to be free from offense.  No where.

The second…. well, it leads to….. Stalinist Russia, Maoist China, Nazi German, Fascist Italy, Fascist Spain…. and those are just recent examples.

The burning of a flag is symbolic. As a physical object, it is capable of being destroyed, but that destruction is impermanent. Turn around, there’s another flag.  The Constitution though is an idea. While it may be written on paper, those words, to have any meaning, must live in the minds of the people. When those words are burned, they are burned out of the minds of the people.

THAT is the goal of messages, of propaganda of this nature. To burn the words of the Constitution away in the minds of the people.

We must become patriots honoring LIBERTY, not base nationalists demanding obedience. Otherwise the last 242 years and the blood of over 1,000,000 of my brothers and sisters, has been spilled in vain.

Good Luck.



Signing of the Declaration of Independence
Signing of the Declaration of Independence

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