Archive for March, 2008

Upside Down

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The Desmoines Register

Lately I have noticed a lot of stories in the news about people flying the US flag upside down to protest the war in Iraq. There is Terri Jones who was flying the flag the whole time her son, army reservist Jason Cooper was fighting in Iraq but after he came home, suffering from post traumatic stress disorder and committed suicide she turned her flag upside down. A few months later someone came over, when she was gone, and turned her flag right side up and about a week after that she received an anonymous note.

“I’ve noticed for quite some time now that you fly your American flag upside down . . .. Please don’t disrespect those who have fought and died on our soil preserving your very freedom and mine. . . . Let’s rally behind our troops and if they don’t believe in what they’re doing, let them voice it. Every single person in the armed forces today signed on the dotted line. . . . I know your flag is sending out a message that you might not have though it was sending. So I felt compelled to tell you what I thought.”
It was signed, “An extremely sincere fellow American citizen and proud of it.”
And in the P.S., the person added: “If it truly is that you hate living in this country and are ashamed of our freedom, then by all means, sir, why do you live here?”

Then there is Corydon Iowa farmer Dale Klyn who had been flying the flag right side up for 6 years before he turned it upside down, partly to show solidarity for Terri Jones, and was arrested for disorderly conduct. Not only was he arrested but it seems most of his small farming community has turned against him. The local Case equipment dealer told him, “I’ve lost all respect for you. I’ll buy you a one-way ticket anywhere you want to go out of the country,” Klyn recalls.

He faces death threats from a forum on a Marine vets’ website, http://www.leatherneck.com, which calls itself the “Marine Corps Community for USMC Veterans. That forum contained the following remarks from four different Marines:

“Any scout snipers live in Corydon, Iowa???”
“Corn hole ’m.”
“Fly him under it upside down.”
“If the flag is flying upside down, it means he is in trouble, right? I think we Marines should show up and get him ‘out’ of trouble.”

What I continue to find disturbing is the proliferation of flag imagery, on advertising, chatchkees made in China, inexpensive lawn ornaments, etc, items and uses that are explicitly against the US flag code, and no one seems to care while flying the flag upside down brings death threats. We wouldn’t have a country if our forefathers did not question the ruling government. When did it become unpatriotic to stand up for what you believe in and voice your opinion and why are tacky China made chatchkees considered patriotic?

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How Things Change

In October 1968, Activist Abbie Hoffman wearing a shirt, bought at Sears, that resembled the American flag was arrested and jailed for flag desecration. In May of 2005, Joint Chiefs Chairman Air Force Gen. Richard Myers wore a very similar shirt, resembling the American flag, to a Memorial Day rally in Washington DC and he was deemed patriotic.

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In 1968, most states had laws that prohibited flag desecration. In 1989 and 1990 the Supreme Court struck down the flag desecration laws. Although it is not illegal, both shirts go against the U.S. Flag Code, which is a set of guidelines that govern flag usage. Interestingly, the Flag Code was originally written in the 1880’s to protest the use of the flags in advertising.
Click here for a link to All Things Considered on NPR that gives some history of the Flag code.