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Unflagging faith in freedom

I’ve unintentionally run over a few dozen American flags over the last month. I could not help it. The little pitiful banners lay on the asphalt, their begrimed colors shredded and draped around their little broken plastic staves by their fall from grace as a patriotic adornment to some SUV, Mercedes or Mac truck.

From symbol of a united America to patriotic road kill, these little star-mangled banners are representative of some of the shallowness of the new-found American patriotism.

Even more disgraceful is the origin of the epidemic of cheap flags. Purchased like shoddy carnival novelties from roadside fly-by-night hawkers, or as inducements to purchase gasoline–fill your tank, get a flag! Is this what this great banner has been reduced to?

Let’s instead look at what the flag represents. Are we so fettered by the word freedom that we forget the very spirit behind the word? Have we allowed the terrorists to triumph by responding with the removal of freedoms as our reaction to their attack on freedom?

We are repeating the tragic mistake that we inflicted upon Japanese Americans in World War II, by now racially profiling Arab Americans. We are stifling dissent of anti-war protests by denouncing these people as un-American. Scratch the surface of our modern pretensions, and a little McCarthyism can be seen emerging in all its ugly forms. “Have you now or ever been against war?” “Have you now or ever been a Muslim?” Instead of representing and being a shield for freedom, the flag is now being wielded as a bludgeon to freedom.

Old Glory should be flown high, and she should wave proudly, and most importantly, we should never forget that this great flag stands for tolerance, for rational understanding, for the rule of law, and for all those values that so many have fought and died for over two hundred years to defend.

It amazes me that people who would call for imprisonment for anyone who would burn the flag in protest, now support this insulting and despicable utilization of Old Glory as Patriotic Road Kill.

Let’s get the flags off the cars, and off our highways and place it where it can be honored and respected –on a pole, reaching for the stars, flying proudly in the breeze. But, most importantly, we should never forget that the flag is only a symbol of a spirit that represents democracy and freedom.

Perhaps if we change our strategy to promoting democracy in other nations instead of supporting the dictators who oppose and deny democracy, we can be more effective. Perhaps if we truly stand for the ideals of the Constitution, we can stand like a beacon of hope for all those of other nations that yearn for the freedom that we so often take for granted.

Unfortunately, many in the rest of the world now look at us and they see hypocrisy, they see fear, and they see power and power abused. These are not visions that inspire anything but hate, anger, resentment and the desire for revenge.

In return we answer hate with hate, anger with anger, resentment with resentment and revenge with revenge. Are we not better than that? Why not answer hate with love, anger with tolerance, resentment with understanding, and revenge with solutions.

Why be like them? We have the potential to be so much more. We have the potential to take this planet into a future of peace–not with bombs and missiles but with education, medicine, food, and the championing of human rights for all human beings even if it means angering the oil companies by not supporting their favorite despot.

The shadow of the Star Spangled Banner must fall upon a free world, not just our free nation, if we are ever to conquer the hate that inspires terrorism.

Paul Watson

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The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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