Freedom of speech is a demanding concept

Sept. 27, 2017 | G. Michael Dobbs

My Facebook feed was jammed with messages about two subjects this morning: reviews of the new “Star Trek” TV series and discussions about standing or kneeling during the performance of the National Anthem and flag etiquette.

As far as the showing of respect and patriotism, I just don’t understand why people cannot see that standing or kneeling or not reciting the Pledge of Allegiance or reciting it is part of our freedom of speech.

Members of the military have fought to maintain this freedom. Activists have protested to keep this freedom alive. Media outlets have challenged politicians to help maintain it.

All of those folks and more recognized the cruel beauty of the First Amendment. People can say almost anything and the rest of us have to accept their ability to say it. We don’t have to agree, but we have to take it.

In the past several weeks, some people have become obsessed with the idea that if you don’t stand during the National Anthem that you’re not a “patriot,” whatever that means.

President Donald Trump, seeing an opportunity to whip up his base, stated at a rally in Alabama, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, you’d say, ‘Get that son of a b---- off the field right now. Out! He's fired.’”

Respecting the flag is another issue that has emerged at a time when real issues require our attention. What is more important at this time? I vote for the escalating war of words with North Korea or the ongoing health insurance crisis or how the DACA program is going to be abandoned or saved. How about the natural disasters in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico?

All of these issues are far more important to me as they involve people’s lives.

As far as how people treat the flag, here are some of the rules from the Flag Code:
• The flag should not be used as a drapery, or for covering a speakers desk, draping a platform, or for any decoration in general. Bunting of blue, white and red stripes is available for these purposes. The blue stripe of the bunting should be on the top.
• The flag should never be used for any advertising purpose. It should not be embroidered, printed or otherwise impressed on such articles as cushions, handkerchiefs, napkins, boxes, or anything intended to be discarded after temporary use. Advertising signs should not be attached to the staff or halyard
• The flag should not be used as part of a costume or athletic uniform, except that a flag patch may be used on the uniform of military personnel, fireman, policeman and members of patriotic organizations.
• The flag should never have placed on it, or attached to it, any mark, insignia, letter, word, number, figure, or drawing of any kind.
• The flag should never be used as a receptacle for receiving, holding, carrying, or delivering anything.

So those flag bikinis I’ve seen or when a winning athlete drapes a flag over his or her shoulders are all violations of how the flag should be displayed. I’ve not seen any protest about those uses.

Rather than addressing why people are protesting during the National Anthem, some people are simply looking at the protest with exaggerated outrage. The reasons behind the protests are the stories that deserve attention.

These times are fraught with huge issues that demand action and discussions that hopefully should lead us to solutions.

By the way, the new “Star Trek” was quite entertaining. I’ll spring for the streaming service to watch the whole series.

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