‘Honor Old Glory, but cherish freedom’

Thursday, June 25, 1998

The issue: Old Glory stands for freedom, and that freedom is under fire.

Old Glory has a birthday on Sunday, but her 221st year might not be one to celebrate for true American patriots.

Our flag is under attack; no, not by the scant handful who choose to burn it in protest, but by congressmen who are sworn to uphold the very values of free speech and expression Old Glory symbolizes. These zealots want to bestow sacred status on Old Glory, and are trying to do so by destroying the constitutional freedoms for which she flies.

This being an election year, the proposed flag-burning amendment will rear its ugly head. Who will be American enough to suppress the emotional rhetoric surrounding the amendment and stand up for the true ideals behind Old Glory when the amendment comes to a vote in the U.S. Senate?

West Virginia’s Jay Rockefeller and Robert C. Byrd are on record as being for the amendment, which would make it a crime to burn the flag. Shame, shame.

What’s next? Will lawmakers make it a crime to protest government policies in newspapers? On the radio? On TV? On street corners? Perish the thought, but Congress is poised to take a big step toward censorship just to protect a symbol.

Ol’ King George III is laughing from the grave at his former colonies. If you listen closely, you can hear him: “I told you so. Oppression is best. Oppression is best. Oppression is best. …”

Meanwhile, true American patriots are rolling over in their graves. You can still hear their passionate pleas. “Lest we forget. Lest we forget. Lest we forget. …”

Americans, proudly display your colors on Sunday. Feel free to get misty-eyed as Old Glory unfurls in the southern West Virginia breeze. But don’t forget, Old Glory is only a symbol of freedom. She’s not the real freedom. The real freedom is in the Constitution.

If a wacko burns Old Glory, we can replace her with another that’s been mass-produced on an assembly line. If Congress burns the Constitution with this ill-advised amendment, there is no replacement.

Happy birthday, Old Glory. Long may you wave but, more importantly, long may the freedoms for which you stand prevail; for without the freedoms, there is no America and Old Glory might as well fly over Hitler’s Germany or Stalin’s Russia.

The proposed flag-burning amendment is a grave mistake.