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An United States Marine takes the American flag into his hands before folding it with the flag detail at the POW/MIA rememberance day retreat ceremony on September 16, 2011, Joint Base Charleston, S.C. Joint Base Charleston honored POW/MIA rememberance day with a 24-hour run that ended at the retreat ceremony followed by a wreath laying and a fly-over. Former POW's as well as members of Joint Base Charleston were in attendance. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Staff Sgt. Nicole Mickle) (RELEASED)

Photo by Staff Sgt. Nicole Mickle

Honoring the flag: remember what it symbolizes

27 Aug 2015 | 2nd Lt. Adam B. Miller Marine Corps Base Quantico

I am not a dispassionate person. I stand up for my beliefs and chief among them is treating others and their views with respect and dignity. I am not often bothered by much; I don’t get riled-up, or carry extreme views, but idiocy and ignorance, especially when socially weaponized, is troubling.

Prompted with the question: why is it important to respect and honor the American flag, I looked for examples of contempt toward the national symbol. What I found was exactly that —idiocy and ignorance being used as a social weapon.

In the news as of late, there have been several examples of people who are exercising their rights, but flirting with destructive behavior—retrogression. Dignity and respect have slipped away. There was an article recently about an organization that planned to burn an American flag in protest to the response of a monster who murdered nine people. There is a photo of that same murderer burning an American flag himself. What was this organization actually trying to accomplish by committing this act? Did they see the paradox? Certainly any human being with a heart feels sympathetic for the loss of another life and the spread of hatred, but organizing a social response to these requires us to take the higher moral and ethical road in order to advocate change.

The United States Flag Code states, “The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing.” If it is wrong to violate a human being then, by this code’s logic, it is wrong to desecrate the flag. However, it is not illegal. It is protected by the First Amendment.

The American flag has evolved over the past 240 years, taking on numerous changes, but has always symbolized freedom. Our country has taken on a lot of changes as well, some for the better and some for the worse. Either way, it is a continuum of advancing American society. The flag is a living symbol of the progress our country makes.

There is a dilemma here; a perceivable contradiction. The flag symbolizes our country’s freedom, but the freedoms afforded come with limitations, laws and responsibilities. There isn’t a be-all and and-all solution, but something can be done to help. Take pride in America; exercise your constitutional rights; maintain dignity and respect for yourself and your fellow humans.

When you are frustrated and distraught with perceived societal fumbles, remember, you have rights and you can take action. Rights earned by people who came before us and fought, bled and died to protect. It is your right to protest, but do it with dignity and respect and don’t lose sight of what is important, and morally and ethically sound. I had a mentor who often said, “Set the line, walk the line, and enforce the line.” This was said in the context of leadership and integrity —doing the right thing even when nobody is watching. You don’t have to be a leader of a thousand men, just a leader of yourself. If you follow this then others will naturally follow you and from there you can effect change and continue progress in America.
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