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Protecting the flag with fire

Right now, I believe the greatest threat to America, the American way of life and the freedoms this country was founded on, does not come from Iraq, Iran or even North Korea.

Yes, terrorist attacks are possible, and sadly maybe even inevitable, but in reality our greatest danger comes from within. Freedom in America is under siege and the attack is coming from Americans themselves.

This point was driven home on Wednesday morning while I was listening to the radio. Morning KYSL personality Tom Fricke – who by the way is probably the best DJ to work in Summit County in the 10 years I’ve been here – was holding an open discussion on the destruction of the American flag recently placed on Peak 1 as a memorial to the 9-11 victims.



Fricke, as you might guess, was appalled that anyone would actually go out of his or her way to slash and burn the flag in protest. He also said he did not feel that flag burning fit into the category of freedom of speech.

It appears most of Summit County agrees with him, because no one called to argue the point.



So, it is with a heavy heart, and a deep and sad sigh that I am once again put into the position of defending the rights of scum like the Ku Klux Klan, the American Nazi Party and, yes, even the bozo who torched the American flag on Peak 1.

Flag burning is a form of free speech and therefore a guaranteed right under our Constitution, and we, as a country, cannot afford to give up this or any freedom.

Luckily for me, however, the Peak 1 protester acted in such a way that I can condemn his actions.

First off, the flag the protester burned was not his or her property. The arsonist did not purchase the flag, carry it to the summit of Peak 1 or plant it there. It was not on his property. Therefore, this person, who maybe thought he or she was protesting the war, was in reality just vandalizing someone else’s memorial.

Secondly, because the protester decided to destroy someone else’s property, he or she in fact violated the flag owner’s freedom of speech. Which, in my opinion, is worse than destroying the flag itself.

If, however, the protester had carried a flag to the top of Peak 1, planted it next to the flag already in place, and then lit it on fire, I believe he or she would have been in his or her rights and protected under the Constitution.

Americans are quickly and almost willingly giving up their hard-won freedom out of fear or a kind of misguided patriotism, and it seems that every day another freedom becomes just a few sentences in a history book.

In the future, maybe five or 10 years from now, what happens when the political party in power gets tired of Jay Leno’s monologues and decides the office of the president is also, like the flag, a sacred symbol of our country and should be protected from desecration?

And then maybe congressmen feel that they should also be protected. After all, don’t they deserve the same recognition as the flag and the president? And then maybe our military leaders begin to feel the same way and they have the muscle to back up their feelings.

The flag is just a symbol, but the ideas it represents are world shattering. It is the freedoms behind the flag that make this country good and strong, and not a piece of cloth easily destroyed by wind, sunlight or fire.

If we begin to lose those ideals, then the symbol, the flag itself, will eventually become a symbol symbolizing nothing at all.

Andrew Gmerek writes a regular Friday column in the Summit Daily News. He can be reached at agmerek@hotmailcom.


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