Flag Desecration

Oklahoma Gazette | June 11, 2006
I live in a very patriotic neighborhood full of very patriotic people. On the Fourth of July, the flags were everywhere, on everything and being used for every conceivable purpose. The flag was even being desecrated.

Every year, a local real estate agent sees to it that we all have a flag in our yard, whether we want one or not. I happen to think that you should not put something in someone’s yard without permission, but that’s another issue. It's what was on the flag that is offensive -- deeply offensive.

On each and every one of these yard flags, hundreds of them, there is a very special addition -- an accessory if you will, that defines patriotism in our time. Slipped onto each wooden pole, like a paper shish kebab, is a business card advertising the real estate agent. There's even a head-to-toe photo of the agent in a dark suit, looking dapper, and very patriotic. So, should you want to sell your house, or buy one, you will know which real estate agent in town really loves Bush, the Lord and the U.S.A.

I won't reveal his name, of course, because flag desecration is a serious matter, and folks in my neighborhood don’t take kindly to it. I wonder what on earth he could be thinking, because he does this every year. Well, I take it back -- I know exactly what he's thinking. That if you don't burn the flag, you aren’t desecrating it.

Now that the U.S. House of Representatives has passed yet another anti-flag burning amendment (whose real purpose is to make Democrats look as if they favor flag burning), lawmakers might want to expand the definition of desecration to include using the flag as an advertisement. Countless Americans have indeed given their lives in order that the flag might serve as a symbol of freedom -- even the freedom to do something as stupid and emotionally incendiary as burning it. But not a single one of them died so that the flag could become a marketing tool.

I'm so hopelessly old-fashioned that I don't even think you should wear the flag. I don't think the flag should be made into a bikini for Jessica Simpson. I don't think it should be made into a wind sock, or underpants or a gauzy mural for the back window of your pickup truck.

But in the case of the real estate agent who uses the flag to advertise himself, the corruption of patriotism is complete. The powerful emotions that are stirred by the flag are channeled toward commerce, toward sales, toward private ambition. Surely this is what Samuel Johnson meant when he said, "patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel."

Look at the expanding sea of flags that surrounds us, and ask whether you think that a symbol can't finally be corrupted by excess, and become oppressive. A woman visiting from Great Britain recently noted all the flags and said, "Have Americans forgotten what country they live in?"

If you fly a flag the size of a football field above your car dealership, can the buyers assume that you are honest, self-sacrificing and ready to send your sons and daughters to die in Iraq? Or can they just assume that you are a scoundrel?

Come to think of it, giant flags are like giant crosses -- outward displays of inward emotions will invariably corrupt them, marking their proprietors as manipulators. That's why Congress might want to consider expanding the definition of flag desecration to include the flag as a tool of commerce, an article of clothing or part of a potential wardrobe malfunction. This would put Congress itself in a bind, of course, but it's high time we stop this nonsense. As for the flag desecration going on in my neighborhood, there is a simple way to stop it, and it's much more civilized than a firing squad. Boycott the real estate agent.Power to the patriotic people!

Oklahoma Gazette

In its inaugural issue of Oct. 15, 1979, Oklahoma Gazette, at that time an upstart, bimonthly publication with a mere 2,000 circulation, featured a page-one story about the Oklahoma City Council’s recent passage of an urban conservation district. Hardly sexy...
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