Friday, January 21, 2005


United, We Stand

It is, now that I think about it, amazing how we as a country can stand through some tough times together. I appreciate that we have the ability to display our displeasures publicly as long as they are not physically harmful to others or violating property or persons.

I watched the Inauguration procession yesterday morning, but I fell asleep before the President gave his speech. (Dad-gammit. It was that Nyquil tablet, I know it. And I tried so hard to stay awake. Why do those processions have to take so darn long? Kind of like when Princess Diana married Prince Charles...that was thee longest wedding procession I have ever witnessed in my lifetime. Ok I'm digressing...) So... where was I?

Oh yeah. So I got stuck with the news stories afterwards. I felt as if I had fallen asleep before Thanksgiving meal and was stuck with cold leftovers because I had not been awake to eat it when it was fresh and still hot. *sigh* So I only got portions of the speech and clips of some of the protests.

That's where I'm going with this: Protests.
But more specifically: Peaceful demonstrations.

The first time I ever witnessed a flag burning was when I was on Capitol Hill in Washington. Umm...not that Capitol Hill and Washington. The one in the Pacific Northwest. (Capitol Hill is a suburb of Seattle.) So I'm the passenger and my atheist, liberal friend is driving and we turn left on Broadway off of Pike when alla sudden I see three bums standing on the corner holding the United States flag and torching it. I was scrambling, trying to unbuckle my belt as I angrily and frustratedly blurted out, "Oh my God!" and the whole time I was fumbling I was saying, "Stop the car!" My non-dramatic friend thought I was the most amusing thing since discovering the Internet. She said calmly but a bit startled, "Why? What's going on?" I frantically answered, "I must stop them! They're burning the flag!"

I was truly incensed - you coulda held a candlewick to me in that moment and it would've lit.

She, in her most calming way that I'd learned to really admire and appreciate to this day, said to me, "They have the right to burn the flag." Woah. Paradigm-shift approaching. I felt as if I had been thrown off a horse. I had nothing to stay, but just stared at her as I soaked in the meaning of her words. Fortunately, she continued explaining, because truly I was dumb-founded and frozen in some kind of mental stupor.

"What do you think America is founded upon? They have just as much right to burn the flag as you have to believe in God. That is what Democracy is all about. They aren't hurting anyone. Do you see anyone else running at them to stop them? The police won't touch them."

I turned away from her and stared out my passenger window at those three b...ums. I was really irritated. And I could do nothing about it. The first thing I thought of was how many men had shed their blood for that flag. Because of that shed blood, it gave these three bums (they looked like homeless, shoddy, unclean guys) the right...the freakin' RIGHT to disgrace what that flag stood for. I thought to myself that nothing is sacred anymore. I truly was wrenched for the rest of that day at what I had witnessed.

Welcome to the outside world. No longer was I sitting in my cold cabin, hibernating with the bears, while watching these things on TV. Nope. This was not TV anymore. These things really happened in this world. What an eye-opener. The most I ever saw that came close to something on TV in good-ole' conservative Alaska was when my dad would drive down 4th Avenue on the way into Anchorage...and then my brother and I would ask him to drive us out of Anchorage via 5th Avenue. The reason being was that all the hookers would hang out on these two streets. They'd stand on the corners all painted up and dressed in ridiculous clothing...just like in the movies! We were little kids so we found it fascinating in a repulsive kind of way...equivalent to staring at a freak-show in a circus. Mostly the thought ran through my mind, "I can't believe there are really hookers." Like who would want to work in that field?

So...yeah. That was a traumatic experience for me: Watching the flag being burned.

But, today -- I'm six years wait...*counts on fingers*...DOH! Eight years older! Well, I've grown much since then. Matured. Mentally. Living in liberal land was an experience all its own. Made me really miss "home". And I embrace my Republican, conservative, traditional values. I appreciate them more. I think absence made my heart grow fonder. Perhaps I think of class when I think of these values. Class in the sense of refinery, civilized behavior, and intellect. Battling involves a challenge of the intellect and wit. So then one must do some research to really study the subject in order to be better armed. When all is done and said, then gracefully the loser shakes the winner's hand thus making the loser also a winner because of this action. Yet that's an aside to my reason of leaning to the right.

So...yeah. But, I have a little bit of taint in me because I do tend to agree on some Democratic issues. (I voted for Clinton...for the second term.) I'm not a bleeding-heart liberal, that's for sure. And I'm not a hard-hearted conservative either. It is just that I embrace traditions and history. I respect certain traditions and I revere the flag as a sacred symbol of our nation. But I also like to think freely for myself and make my own choices. Not get wrapped up in someone's or some group's interests just because...just because I want to belong. I do not have that kind of desperate need to belong. I would prefer intelligence any day. I want to hear what my options are and research for myself, then make my own choice. That is what I want. I don't want to be ruled by some dictating government or leader. I don't want to live in terror or oppression of any kind. I understand the great lengths that the men and women went through who founded our republic. From breaking free of the strong-arm of mother England to battling off the French (giving them Canada); warring with one another (North vs. South) to agreeing in order to form a more perfect Union; then maturing to see that slavery was oppressive and contrary to our beliefs of freedom and liberty; fighting off pirates who attempted to make us pay tribute for use of the oceans...

I look at our current state of affairs and sometimes it appears bleak. But I am glad to know that we, as a whole, are still a civilized nation. That when we disagree, we do not resort to picking up stones and falling into the frenzy of a mob-mentality to assault authorities. (Only those liberal unintelligent idiots in Seattle would do something like that... like during a World Trade Organization conference.)

The news coverage of the Inauguration showed a group of people who came all the way to Washington D.C. just so they could "turn their backs on the President." I thought that was a very mature way of protesting. It was peaceful. It didn't hurt anyone - except maybe the President's feelings. (If he chose to care about that.) It made it's point. I thought it was a pretty loud statement anyway. If a bunch of people turned their back on me, I would get the point.

Then there was that condemning flag burning bit.

But this time, I was okay with it. Because this time, I appreciate that Democracy gives us the freedom to burn the flag in a peaceful protest.

And that's my point: Peaceful demonstrations.

We can have those and we have learned how to make the most of those. To make a point with them.
But more importantly, we have people in authority who care and watch what statements are being made by the public. They listen and even if we do not see things taking action in the forefront, someone is always in the background, behind-the-scenes, trying to make things happen. To make peace.

I guess I'm just feeling a lot more grateful about our country after watching the inauguration yesterday and then waking up to see on the news that a Shiite Muslim mosque was bombed by rebels on a Muslim holy day: Eid Al-Hajj. I find these kind of acts very violating to things sacred. Only an evil person could commit such an irreverent act. Killing children, women, and men. And what for?

Because they are protesting the elections coming up!

I could not imagine living in a country where uncivilized, uncaring, mindless idiots with weapons would be free to run through the streets bombing churches, hospitals, schools, and anyone they thought was a threat to their mentally dysfunctional mindset...terrorizing everyone and making just the simple act of living become an uncomfortable challenge.

I would not want that. I would rather see people burn the flag peacefully. I'm okay with that. A little.
I the light of what I just described above. If I had a choice between the two, then I'd choose to permit flag-burning. I could live with that. And am.

It's the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press.

It's the soldier, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech.

It's the soldier, not the campus organizer, who has given us the freedom to demonstrate.

It's the soldier, not the lawyer, who has given us the right to a fair trial.

It's the soldier who salutes the flag,
serves under the flag
and whose coffin is draped by the flag,
who gives the protestor the right to burn the flag.

Father Dennis Edward O'Brien, USMC

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