The Enemy Within

A Gravatar is the nifty little picture you see at some web sites next to the name of the person making a post or a comment. The picture usually reflects something about the person who uses it. There is a web site that allows people to sign up for a Gravatar and then, if a web site is appropriately configured, it will appear when someone comments. Gravatar has a rating system to give ratings to the little pictures so site owners can filter out content they find objectionable.

Anyone who has posted here recently will notice that I started using Gravatars. My default is an American Eagle and it displays if someone does not have a Gravatar of their own or if their rating is not one I allow to be displayed. Recently, Adam decided he needed a Gravatar of his own and he did not like the Eagle. His Gravatar is a picture of someone burning an American Flag. The interesting thing is that the Gravatar was given a G rating which means it is not likely to be offensive. Here is what Adam posted about his symbol:

Well, I recently signed up for my own gravatar. Gravatars are rated for viewer protection. Mine was rated G, of course. According to Gravatar, a G rating means: “Nothing potentially offensive will be given this rating.”

I think some people around might disagree with this, but I’m glad Gravatar sees it my way. There is nothing potentially offensive about burning an American flag. Long live freedom of speech.Questions to Your Answers

Notice that the owner says there is nothing potentially offensive about burning an American Flag. Maybe there is nothing offensive to him but what about the millions of veterans who would disagree with that statement. What about the majority of Americans who support legislation to prevent Flag Desecration? What about past American Presidents who found it offensive. All but one of them changed their mind (Bill Clinton changed his after he was elected). Long live free speech is the cry. I wonder what was going through the minds of the people who rated this a G. I wonder how they would rate a picture of an aborted baby with the caption “Abortion Kills.” Of course, the latter would only offend the liberal left. By giving something like this a G rating Gravatar has forced us to have items we find offensive posted to our sites with no method other than removal of all Gravatars as our only recourse.

There are interesting debates about the Free Speech issue. Any thinking person knows that an action is not speech. If you give someone the finger you made an obscene gesture. Burning a Flag is not speech and our founders made that clear in their writings. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court has added words to the Constitution when they cite the reasons for their rulings. The amazing thing is that I am unaware of any other country where this happens. In most places they burn somebody else’s flag, the flag of the enemy. Here, some left wing kooks burn our flag which is their way of saying our country is their enemy. When it comes to Free Speech here is an excellent point:

“Why is flag burning protected speech and prayer is not? What is said when you burn a flag? If speech can be other than verbal, why isn’t flying the flag speech? And burning the flag an assault on speech?” Major General Patrick H. Brady, USA (Ret.), Medal of Honor Recipient, The American Legion Magazine, May 1999

Why indeed? I could write about this issue for a very long time but that was not my intent. I brought this issue up because undoubtedly there will be people who surf through here and wonder why a site run by a veteran has a picture of a burning flag on it. I could easily remove the Gravatars but I choose not to do so. I made up my mind that this site would be open for the exchange of ideas (though as a private owner I am in no way obligated to allow anyone’s speech) and that I would not remove or censor any content (except the mild censoring to vulgarity, especially vulgar words which are hidden from view until a mouse over occurs). I censor vulgarity to protect younger uses of the web and it is a decent thing to do. But I will not remove the pictures and punish everyone for the inconsiderate action of one. I want it there to remind everyone what the face of enemy ideas looks like. I want America’s children to see the things that people do to disgrace themselves and their country. I want it there as a reminder to everyone who believes that the Constitution gives us specific instructions and that they are not open for amendment by activist judges. I want people to look at that and see that people who oppose war and cry for peace use violent methods (burning a living thing* is violence) to further their cause. And I want it there to show America that as much as we need to be involved in taking care of our enemies abroad, we can never, ever take our eyes off the enemies within.

Here is a very good resource about the Flag.

Here is an interesting piece about the Flag Amendment.

Here is the Flag Code.

*4 USC Section 8j “The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing.”



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23 Responses to “The Enemy Within”

  1. Adam says:

    It’s good to note that prayer is a freedom. You just shouldn’t lead prayer in places like schools any more than you’d burn a flag in the classroom. Of course there is always exceptions…

    It was more sarcasm than anything to say it wasn’t offensive, and it wasn’t my intent to get into an argument about what is and isn’t free speech, along with the whole idea of a solid rock constitution. Without going too much into it, the bottom line is that it doesn’t matter what you think should and shouldn’t be protected under the constitution. Burning the American flag is protected and until some sort of law passes to stop it, it will continue to be.

    Honestly I think it is absurd to place such value on the flag. Your service was to protect Americans, not the flag. Understandably though, our flag is a symbol of what America stands for. How much stronger of a protest against this nation can you have than to burn the symbol of this nation? Service in the military doesn’t give anybody the right to remove my right to wage dissent against this nation. There are some groups of people who still believe “dissent is the highest form of patriotism.” I just happen to belong to one. If that makes me your enemy, then what were you fighting for?

  2. Big Dog says:

    So, on one hand you are saying the flag is a worthless rag and can be burned if you so desire and on the other hand you are saying it has value and represents your freedom. That is an illogical argument. The Constitution already prohibits Flag burning because an act is not speech. The justices who ruled that way entered words into their argument that are not contained in the Constitution. Perhaps you should read some of the cited references.

    As for prayers in school, the Constitution allows that. It says the government shall not make laws prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

    You are correct, my military status does not five me any special privilege. So this should end the Cindy Sheehan quest. Her situation does not curry her any special favor either.

    There probably is no stronger a protest against any nation than the burning of its flag. That is usually done by its enemies, therefore you made my argument for me. Thanks.

    I would not expect you to understand the value placed on the Flag. But answer me this. If it has so little value why is it so important for you to burn it?

  3. Surfside says:

    Jeez, Adam. You make it sound like conservative America invented the whole “the flag is a sacred symbol” idea. Ever since men could wage war, the flag/standard/banner was the embodiment of each faction. The flag could not fall, could not be removed — for these actions meant defeat. As long as your flag/standard/banner flew over your army, you were still had a chance to win the day. It’s an ancient ritual/belief. Throughout history, men have given their lives literally that their flag would not fall. It is the incarnate symbol of one’s country or cause.

  4. Surfside says:

    This is why being the flag bearer has always been consider a high honor. This is why “The Star Spangled Banner” has always held an important place in our country’s history.

  5. Big Dog says:

    This is from one of the cited pieces:

    The word “symbol” is from the Greek word meaning a half-token, which when united with its other half identified the owner. It is meant to recognize something far more elaborate than itself. The other half of the token of the flag is the Constitution and it identifies its owners, the people.

    This kind of puts in perspective as to why so much value is placed upon the symbol. Couple it with Surfside’s comment and it brings a lot to light.

  6. Surfside says:

    Our flag does not stand for a Republican president/government or a Democratic president/government. It stands for the people, for the Constitution, for the enduring beliefs that make us Americans.

    Now I know understand why our own people burn the flag. They really have no idea what it means. They have marginalized its meaning. Thank you for that enlightenment.

  7. Big Dog says:

    More Medals of Honor have been awarded to people who protected the Flag than for any other reason.

  8. Schatz says:

    I have to say that I found this post really interesting. I, too, remembered hearing or reading that the flag is a “living thing” and I can’t see why it’s destruction would not be treated as any other vile, homicidal act. I believe in people’s right to dissent and disagree with anyone and anything (I myself have been contrary at times – no really) as well as their First Amendment Rights SO WRITTEN by our founders (not “interpreted” by someone) but I think that anyone who cannot find a more intelligent, respectful manner in which to express themselves than a pyromaniac’s dream come true is probably never going to be enlightened enough to understand the difference between speech and action much less dissent and disrespect.

  9. Adam says:

    There is no contradiction. I’m not saying the flag is a worthless rag, or that it has no value, as you seem to have taken me. I’m saying it is absurd to have the kind of value that would make men and women fume at the thought of somebody desecrating it. No, it’s not a living thing. No, it doesn’t deserve special protected status. It’s a symbol of, among many things, a country and the ideas that country stands for.

    It’s not a pyromaniac’s dream come true to burn it, it’s a way to show dislike for the matter behind the icon, simple as that. Removing the right to burn the flag is not going to be an act protecting a living thing, or preventing homicide. It’s going to be stripping a right that we as Americans have to protest and something you fought for Big Dog.

    Many fought and have died for the idea of protecting that freedom which you want to strip away because you see the act as offensive. Luckily we let a select bunch of people decide for us what is generally offensive, and it will still be some time before we lose that right.

    Also I spoke of rights in general with the military. I said that service in the military doesn’t give anybody the right to remove my right to wage dissent against this nation. Don’t turn that into a way to bash Sheehan. I won’t even get into her situation.

    No, I’m not trying to act like conservative America invented any of this, but it is conservative America that will take it away, so it’s good that you brought up that subject.

    It’s not a very good argument to say people should find a more intelligent, respectful manner in which to express themselves. I think people should find a more intelligent, respectful manner to solve their differences in the world, but you don’t see anybody jumping on that bandwagon, do you? It is each of our choices of how to show support or to show dissent to this country, as long as we stay inside the law.

    Once again, Big Dog, I didn’t prove any point about any enemy. My only point is that if you see me as an enemy for exercising my freedom of speech, and it is freedom of speech no matter what you think of intent of the founders, then what many people have died for is in vain. What people like you have spent lives doing is in vain.

  10. Adam-

    I disagree with you saying:

    It is absurd to have the kind of value that would make men and women fume at the thought of somebody desecrating it

    Men have been dying for their flag, a symbol of their country, for over 4000 years. Surfside said it well when she said:

    The flag could not fall, could not be removed — for these actions meant defeat. As long as your flag/standard/banner flew over your army, you were still had a chance to win the day.

    When your own country is taking the flag out, it emboldens the enemy. They see the fallen flag as a defeat of their enemy and it fuels their passion to win the war.

  11. Big Dog says:

    Strangely, I did not decide based upon what I think the founders intent was, for intent would mean that I had to make a guess, based upon their writings, as to what was in their minds. Instead, when they put their specific feelings in writing, then I do not need to figure intent.

    “The fraudulent usurpation of our flag [is] an abuse which brings so much embarrassment and loss on the genuine citizen, and so much danger to the nation of being involved in war, that no endeavor should be spared to detect and suppress it.” President Thomas Jefferson, 1st Annual Message, 1801

    The idea that an expression is speech is absurd. While speech is an expression, non-verbal expressions are not speech. Only in the twisted views of an activist court can this even be a debate. What about people who want to run around naked, or put pictures of people engaged in sex acts in school. Every definition of “speech” involves the communication of ideas by the spoken word, not by acts. Here is another point of view:

    “The First Amendment protects freedom of speech, not expression, and, whereas all speech may be expression of a sort, not all expression is speech, and there is good reason why the framers of the First Amendment protected the one and not the other.” Walter Berns, Making Patriots, p.139

    As for Sheehan, I merely pointed out that my service gives me no more special privilege than does her loss. However, I have as much right to oppose Flag burning as a wrongful act as you do to support it. Coming from a party that lives and dies by polls I would think that since around 85% of Americans support an Amendment to stop Flag desecration, you would side with that majority. Of course, you would rather believe that since Congress has not acted they support these vile actions. Unfortunately, they lack the backbone to exercise the will of the majority.
    You have the right to do what you want with this regard at least until we pass an Amendment or get a Supreme Court with people who can interpret the Constitution without legislating.

    Is it OK to burn your car to protest a parking ticket? Is it Free Speech to burn abortion clinics? And regardless of your opinion, the US Code says the Flag is to be considered a living thing. So to throw your words back, it does not matter what YOU think, the government says it is so.

    I guess with your line of thinking it was OK to abuse war prisoners as a protest to terrorism because they are a symbol of the evil that emanates from the terrorist’s actions…..

  12. Surfside says:

    Can anyone please explain to me the rationale which links burning the flag with “freedom of speech?” I agree with Big Dog: Burning of anything is a physical act. It has nothing whatsoever to do with free speech.

    Adam,….anyone?

    And, the far-left Libs wonder why they get labelled as the “hate America first” crowd.

  13. Big Dog says:

    Perhaps when they find an explanation for that they can explain why, if you burn a Flag it is Free Speech and you are just exercising your right to protest and express yourself but if you burn a Cross you are guilty of a hate crime and a hate monger (and can get substantial jail time). If one is Free Speech then certainly the other is. Unless of course pissing off conservatives is free speech and pissing off minorities is a hate crime.

  14. Surfside says:

    . . . or, flush a Koran. Hey, it’s just a symbol. Allah didn’t write each one himself, after all. Yeah, the libs get pretty mad at book burnings also. (Not that I believe in book burnings or flushing. Just making a point.)

  15. Adam says:

    We’ve been over the difference between burning a cross and burning a flag. Both are legal in the right situation. It is just purely divisive to link these things. It’s like linking gay marriage to child molestation. It happens a lot and it’s just as off base.

    The difference between displaying pornography in schools or walking around naked when compared to burning the flag is that burring a flag is not against the law, pure and simple. The Supreme Court has ruled that physically damaging the flag is symbolic and protected speech.

    Don’t try to insult me by thinking I will go with a majority of people just because of polls. I look at polls to see trends in opinion, but not on what we should do. I’ve said before that I would not be surprised at a ban because so many people are for a ban, but do I agree with a ban? No.

  16. Surfside says:

    The point is that burning the flag should be illegal, much like those other items cited by all of us. Who are you to decided that burning a flag should not offend the rest of us? After all, that’s why you can’t burn a cross — it’s a hate crime and offends a “minority” group of people. In essence, all you’re doing is burning wood, and nothing is wrong with that!

    Well, your flag burning offends a large segment of our population. But, that doesn’t bother you. Why? My guess is because your really don’t care what the majority wants. You probably think the only ones that need to have their rights protected is anyone in a minority situation. I say bullshit to that!

  17. Adam says:

    Uh, no I don’t think anything like that, Surfside. As I said many times now, you can burn crosses legally and have it not be a hate crime. If you break the law in order to intimidate or to cause harm to somebody in any way, that is a hate crime, no matter if it’s done to a minority or not. Burning a flag in a legal manner is certainly offensive to people, but the Supreme Court ruled that actions being offensive to certain individuals, even 80% of a population, does not give anybody the right to stop it when it is a protected form of expression covered in the 1st Amendment.

    Don’t attack me like that on this issue, and don’t try to make me look closed minded and stupid because I say it is legal to do something that offends people. It’s legal even if you think it shouldn’t be. I love what the Supreme Court said about it:

    “We do not consecrate the flag by punishing its desecration, for in doing so we dilute the freedom that this cherished emblem represents.”

  18. Surfside says:

    Tell me, then, exactly why you would burn a flag. What would be the reason/rationale? Since the flag is a symbol of our entire country and it’s Constitution/people/belief, what statement do you make? It’s not a symbol for any administration or party. It’s not a banner for our troops only when people approve of a military action. It’s a symbol of democracy and freedom. Actually, you’re creating a paradox by burning the very symbol that exemplifies that freedom.

    Even protesters in other countries realize that burning the difference. They burn the flag to say “We hate America.” And, they burn presidential effigies when they want to say “We hate the administration.” If they can understand the difference, why can’t you? In burning the flag, you are (whether you mean to or not) saying you hate America and all it stands for. Whoever burns the flag/feels that way should leave and reside in a country where they embrace its values. Dissent, try to change — but, you don’t need to burn a flag to do either of those. Usually, those in our own country only burn the Flag because they know how offensive and shocking it is to the rest of us. They don’t care what it actually means and what they’re actually saying to the world.

    Point in fact, I view burning the flag as a hate crime against me, personally. I am extremely offended by it. It threatens me and my beliefs. I believe it also threatens the country that I love. I’m sure you have some “words of wisdom” to diminish how I feel.

    BTW, I’m not attacking you. I’m attacking your beliefs. There’s a big difference.

  19. Surfside says:

    If you’re protesting an administration, do it in an appropriate way. If you’re protesting legislation or a party, let people know with a less generalized expression — make it protest specific. If you hate America, leave and burn the flag in a country you don’t hate. It’s the same idiot reasoning that sends “non-violent” protestors to WBF meetings carrying signs condemning the war in Iraq or the Bush administration.

  20. Surfside says:

    BTW, with your logic, no one should have been up in arms over the flushing the Koran story (even though it proved false). The Koran is just a symbol of the Islamic extremists’ belief system — the one causing them to kill many innocent men, women and children. If a soldier decided to embrace freedom of expression and protest this belief system by tearing and flushing the pages, why would this have been so earthshatteringly wrong? It is his Constitutional right. But, those from the Democratic Party were ready to tear down Gitmo based on this rumor. Interesting.

  21. Adam says:

    How many times do I have to say it? You can think what you want, feel however you want to feel, take offense at whatever, but except in specific circumstances, flag burning is not a hate crime. That isn’t to say that people like you won’t make it a hate crime. You want it to be, so you’ll probably get it, and it will be damn stupid.

    You can’t just say “If flag burning is okay, then [insert action] is okay too under your reasoning.” The Supreme Court rejects the view that “an apparently limitless variety of conduct can be labeled ‘speech’ whenever the person engaging in the conduct intends thereby to express an idea.”

    Flushing the Koran in the situation accused would amount to a form of abuse, the similar to the effect of burning a cross on somebodies lawn.

    What the Supreme Court decided is that the ruling is situational, and all that I’ve seen from both you and Big Dog is you two throwing situations that do not equal the situation where an American would burn the flag in protest. Flag burning is related to Americans burning the Koran in protest if they chose to do such a thing.

    This is not the big issue you are making it but since you take such offense at the idea of burning a flag you are blowing it way out of the bounds of a rational discussion.

    I will remind people again that my original statement about flag burning not being offensive was a joke. I fully understand that it can be offensive. The beauty of freedom is that you do not have the right to tell me not to do something simply because it offends you. Nobody is saying there isn’t a better way to protest. There usually is. The bottom line is that the law says I can burn a flag in protest, and no matter how much that offends you, you have no right to stop me.

    Once I’m told that if I feel a certain way I should go to another country, then that’s when I end the argument. That kind of statement is such a waste of time…

  22. Surfside says:

    You’re taking it too personally — the “you” did not mean you personally. That’s not how it was intended. You still have not addressed the main question/argument of my point: Why burn the Flag? What statement does one make by doing so?

    The only logical statement is one hates America (its freedom and democracy) — because that is the sole symbolism of the Flag. If one hates America, he/she should take make their residence elsewhere. And, once again, a Flag burners is burning his/her own symbol of free speech — the paradox.

    I’m asking you for another logical reason to burn the Flag in protest. Protest of what? The action only makes sense if there is some correlation to an issue. Otherwise, it’s only done to offend and affront.

  23. Big Dog says:

    How many times do I have to say it? Just because you and other misguided malcontents think it is OK does not make it so and it does not negate our argument. There are many laws that the SCOTUS has legislated that are not liked by many. The fact that you “may” do it does not make it right.

    You know, if a person tells a joke and one person is offended by it then the joke telling is considered to be offensive. Many people find Flag burning offensive and all the rants by people who want to draw attention to themselves and show how poor their upbringing was does not change that.

    I hope they pass a law to make all Flags out of fire proof material. Maybe they can make them out of some explosive material and then when some jackass lights one up he will blow his arms off. Nah, then the dipstick would exercise another right and sue the Flag company.