Flag burning

Somebody at an Occupy location in Maine burned an American flag on his way out the door today. I’m glad. But my joy has nothing to do with the Occupy movement.

I’m all for flag burning. It irritates me to no end that we’re suppose to pledge allegiance to some piece of fabric in grade school, to show it respect before sporting events, and that everyone gets all up in arms when someone sets it ablaze. It’s an abstract symbol with which some people are going to disagree, whether in part or whole. The fact that they want to express that disagreement via theatrical means shouldn’t draw anyone’s attention any more than a person standing on the street corner gets anyone’s attention (except insofar as it may be prudent to not stand close to burning fabric).

As much as PZ likes to Maloney-censor, I still agree with him on the Catholic cracker ‘incident’. There is no good reason to pretend as if anything is really all that sacred. Of course we are going to place value on various things, whether ideas or material, and we should want to defend those things – but in proportion. Vehement disagreement with ideals one holds should garner the same response no matter how that disagreement is expressed, bar violence. I have read epic disagreements which make flag burning look like nothing special, yet high-end prose rarely inflames passions like symbolic fabric in flames.

I find all this devotion to flags downright absurd. The only way I can see a person being offended by its destruction is if they have values which border on nationalism – values which are themselves almost always arbitrary. Who doesn’t believe that the average flag-totting American wouldn’t gladly tote the ol’ green, white, and orange if he was from Ireland instead of the U.S.? It’s as happenstance as the majority of religious beliefs.

People don’t hold their particular flag in high honor for very many rational reasons, if any. They hold it in high honor for the same infantile reason people think their daddy is better than your daddy.

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