Society is two-faced when it comes to violence. Despite copious shedding of crocodile tears over so-called “gun violence”, we find other forms of violence quite acceptable, and even worthy of being institutionalized. Spanking your child for willful disobedience is a no-no, but the destruction of private property is tolerated as long as the perpetrators are demonstrating against some perceived injustice.
In the eyes of many, violent, destructive behavior, including malicious mischief, looting and vandalism, is a valid form of “political” expression, particularly when it comes to demanding one’s “rights”. During the free speech movement of the 60s the practice of burning objects as a means of protest became popular. They burned effigies, draft cards, bras, books, flags — anything to dramatize their cause and capture the public’s attention.
In the process, the domain of free speech and the right to open dissent was expanded to include the symbolic intent of physical demonstrations. No longer was freedom of speech just about words. Society began to accept the violent destruction of symbolic objects as a way to protest. Most often, the object in question was the American flag.
In 1969 (Texas v. Johnson) the supreme court found that flag burning is “free speech”. That same year I returned from the war in Vietnam and felt that the hateful desecration of America’s greatest symbol for freedom had been elevated to the level of reasoned and informed debate. In principle, that’s equivalent to letting a Hell’s Angel biker become the Pope. I felt betrayed.
Since that time, waves of political correctness have eroded the shores of political dissent. Where once stood a great escarpment of scholarship, intellectual integrity, knowledge of history and respect for tradition, now only a sand bar of hate speech lines the shore. Now, dissenters who dare to exercise their right to free speech are called bigots, or worse.
But recently I was reminded that actions do speak louder than words. And I’m not talking about destructive or violent actions. I’m talking about choosing to act and do the right thing when the opportunity arises. Here is a video that’s been around for a while, but I hadn’t seen it until it was forwarded to me in an email. It shows how Rick Monday saved the flag 37 years ago.
confirm thy soul in self control, thy liberty in law
(from the 2nd verse of America The Beautiful)