The American flag made news last week, as people soiled the crisp red, white and blue with their dirtied shoes and disrespect. No, this wasn’t ISIS. It wasn’t in the Middle East somewhere, or even in North Korea.
It was right here. In the state of Georgia. About two hours and 40 minutes from our dear old Milledgeville.
Valdosta State University faced controversy last Friday when a group of people decided it was within their rights to spread the American flag out on the ground like it was just a piece of fabric placed to protect their entitled shoes from dirt.
Not only did they lay the flag on the ground, but they proceeded to walk across it like a carpet to make some kind of statement, I assume.
You can only imagine I was pretty glad I had scratched that university off my list my senior year of high school.
But the story didn’t stop there.
A veteran apparently shared mine and many others’ opinions about this group’s exercision of their “rights” and took the flag away from them. Refusing to give the flag back, she was then detained by police.
Yes, that’s right. A veteran.
A brave woman who was willing to sacrifice her life for our country, was detained trying to do exactly what she went through basic training to do — defend the flag.
But I’m not here to discuss the merits of the arrest or women involved. I’m here to talk to those who thought it was in their rights to deface the symbol of the greatest country in the world.
First of all, it’s not in your rights to do whatever you want to the flag. Under the Flag Protection Act of 1968, “whoever knowingly mutilates, defaces, physically defiles, burns, maintains on the floor or ground, or tramples upon any flag of the United States shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for not more than one year, or both.”
News flash. This isn’t the 1960s where you can raise all the kinds of hell you want without consequence.
Not only are these acts unlawful, they are disrespectful. Since before I even knew other free countries existed in the world, my family taught me how to respect the flag and all it stands for.
My family on my dad’s side were Hungarian immigrants who endured Ellis Island legalities to find a better place to live. My great-uncle even gave his life in Italy during World War II, fighting fascism and promoting democracy.
My great-great-granddad on my mom’s side risked his life as a Union soldier in the Civil War, protecting the rights of his family and all Americans. And another grandfather survived Valley Forge in Washington’s army of the Revolutionary War.
Not to mention my father’s own 21 years of service in the United States Army.
You probably think you’re just protesting some injustice you see by walking across that flag. You probably see it as just a bunch of colors stitched together that represent a police state or whatever nonsense you’ve come up with.
But in reality, you’ve stomped on the names of the Vietnam Memorial. You’ve spat on the graves at Arlington National Cemetery. You’ve urinated in the memorial pools at Ground Zero. And you’ve disrespected me, my veteran father and my late great-uncle.
You can protest in ways that don’t destroy the symbol of the free world. You can make a statement without committing what are, in my mind, blatant acts against the nation. If you hate it here so much, you can leave. We don’t have a separate police force to keep people from leaving the country, because, you know, we’re kind of free.