Gregory G. H. Rihn (milwaukeesfs) wrote,
Gregory G. H. Rihn

"Touch not your country's flag," she said.

Today's argument in the Supreme Court on the Constitutionality of the "Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag," prompts me to write on a couple of philosophical points. First, does the addition of the words "under God" to the pledge constitute an establishment of religion contrary to the First Amendment? The historical context of the addition makes it clear that the answer is yes. The two words were added to the Pledge at the height of the McCarthyist Red Scare when "Godless Communism" was America's chief enemy. When Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the act into law, he said: "From this day forward, the millions of our school children will daily proclaim in every city and town, every village and rural schoolhouse, the dedication of our Nation and our people to the Almighty." That makes it pretty clear.

The second issue I have is the whole "Flag" thing, which is also related to the recurrent push to amend the Constitution to except "flag desecration" from the protection of the First Amendment. While I have the greatest respect for the feelings of those to whom our flag is a holy icon, it is, in fact, no such thing. At bottom, any flag is just a piece of colored cloth. My allegiance is not pledged to any gaudy rag: my allegiance belongs to the Republic of the United States of America. The days are gone when carrying a standard into battle had a practical value, and bearing it was a post of both honor and danger. In those days, dozens of men could be killed in the field for the honor of rescuing or capturing the colors. In those days, such valor often had very tangible rewards as well, but no more. I believe that if you called up the ghost of any American soldier killed in battle and asked him, "did you die for the Flag?" He or she would say, "Hell, no! I died fighting for my freedom, my home, my family and my friends, my own life and my way of life." I think the Flag intrinsically would be way down the list. It is only as the symbol of freedom that our flag has any value. The American Flag is the symbol of our democratic Republic. The Constitution is the substance of that Republic. To weaken the substance in order to protect the symbol makes no sense to me.
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