June 1999
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Angry Dan's Column

Flag Burning Revisited

by Daniel Strohl

This is the text of an actual letter I sent to Ohio Sen. George Voinovich, who has stated publicly he'll vote for the anti-flag burning amendment.

Mr. Voinovich--

I know it's a form letter I'm responding to, the same as you responded to my form letter. You probably never saw my name on that first letter and you'll probably never see my name on this letter; you just have some intern handling all this. But this shouldn't be a battle of the form letters, rather a thoughtful discussion between two thinkin' fellers.

First of all, I've never really heard of or read your reasoning for taking your position concerning flag burning. Why exactly do you "feel strongly that our flag is the one national symbol that should be treated with respect by all Americans?" Do you not want to anger veterans? Well, that's threadbare because our good buddy John Glenn, a veteran himself, has taken a stance in opposition to yours. So have quite a number of veterans. Surely you can't be behind forced respect. I mean, you probably didn't mean for "should" to be interpreted that way, did you? And I'm guessing with all the Tianamen Square protests going on overseas, you're well aware of the consequences of forcing a mindset.

With this whole debate, the word "symbol" has been frequently tossed around. Now, is the flag a symbol of the American people, of America itself, of American values? And wouldn't a big value of ours be of freedom to hold our own views and to speak our minds? Freedom to perhaps even reject American philosophies, mindsets and culture? Freedom to act so long as it doesn't harm others? So why defend a symbol that (allow some personification here) permits itself to be destroyed for those freedoms? You said you are "a firm believer in our First Amendment rights to free speech." Reconcile your beliefs, please.

And to go on a tangent, why protect a symbol after all? Shouldn't we all be more concerned with protecting what that symbol stands for? A symbol is just that. It means nothing if what it stands for has been gutted or made irrelevant.

Ooh, no, I've got it. You think you know your constituency as good Heartland people who have good family values (as irrelevant a term in itself as any) and won't stand for any flag burning in their country. Well, I don't know the polls like you do, but if that's the case, then I'm severely disappointed I have a senator who cares more about reelections than what he might think is right.

I'm not likely to burn a flag. Nor are about 95% of the people I know. But I do like the security of knowing that option is there for me should I ever get a wild hare. Quite frankly, I find the opposite situation a bit frightening; I always find it frightening when a form of expression is outlawed, either in this country or elsewhere. Did you know they arrested a man in China just the other day for opening an umbrella with slogans against the Tianamen Square massacre? Police just whisked him away in a black van.

Thank you for your time, Mr. Voinovich.

Daniel Strohl

Hey kids!

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