Thursday, September 28, 2017

Pieces of cloth...

Something occurred to me in the wake of the whole NFL kneeling debacle.  Lots of my left leaning friends dismissed the outrage expressed by my right leaning friends by defining the U.S. flag as a "piece of cloth".  They discounted the National Anthem as just "a song".  They diminished the opinions of people who were offended by the conduct of NFL players kneeling as the "Star Spangled Banner" played and the flag was displayed.

And yet, the same left leaning friends were highly pissed off and offended last month when a bunch of angry, rioting, white supremacists hit the streets of Charlottesville with their Confederate battle flags and Nazi flags. Apparently, those flags were not just "pieces of cloth".  They stood for something really bad that needed to be condemned.  And dammit, it was "wrong" for those guys to be carrying those flags, also made of cloth.  I wonder if the Charlottesville riots would have been less offensive if no one was waving any flags.  It would be interesting to find out.

If you read this blog regularly, you might know that while my opinions tend to be left leaning, I actually think it's kind of silly to get too wound up over flags and songs.  Ultimately, they're symbols, and they only have the power, good or bad, that we give them.  Still, I did find it interesting the different viewpoints being expressed.

"God" refers to the American flag and the Star Spangled Banner as "a piece of cloth" and "a song", respectively.

The very same people who refer to the American flag as a "piece of cloth" are usually pretty outraged when someone flies the Confederate battle flag or a Nazi flag.  Aren't they "pieces of cloth" too?

Why is it that the American flag is merely "a piece of cloth" or an "inanimate object" but certain other flags are evil symbols that must be buried and/or banned?  Why are so many people more concerned about honoring or dishonoring symbols than they are about examining the attitudes behind the symbols?

"God" is correct when he points out that the flag is just a piece of cloth.  It symbolizes the United States, though, and many people honor it for that reason.  Other people honor pieces of cloth that symbolize the Confederacy and Naziism, which are popularly considered evil.  But not everyone has negative opinions about the Confederacy or Naziism, just as not everyone has positive feelings about the U.S. flag.  When it comes down to it, the flags that symbolize them literally are "pieces of cloth".

It's easy to condemn people for how they interpret certain symbols.  It's much harder to address attitudes than it is symbols.  It's simpler to shame someone for not responding to a symbol "appropriately", as defined by conventional wisdom, than it is to ignore the symbols and study and try to understand the beliefs that created them.  A flag doesn't have feelings.  A flag can't answer you back when you denounce or admire it.  The people behind the flags should be our main focus, not the flags themselves.

On the other hand, people who are complaining about disrespect toward the American flag don't seem to be too concerned about guys like the ones above...

My own father, who was very much a political conservative and served about 22 years in the Air Force, was known to wear clothes patterned after the American flag.  I remember when I was a teenager, he tried to give me a hideous U.S. flag t-shirt.  I refused to wear it, so he reclaimed it and wore it all the time.  Now, if my dad were still around and lucid today, he'd probably be very upset about the NFL players who chose to kneel instead of standing for the National Anthem.  He'd probably be angry that they disrespected American patriotic symbols such as the flag and the anthem. On the other hand, he'd happily wear a tacky t-shirt made of the flag and see nothing wrong with it.  If I recall correctly, the sleeves had stripes on them, while the torso part was made up of stars.  It probably would have been even uglier if the stars were on the sleeves and the stripes were on the body part.

Please note that I'm not saying people should be waving Confederate or Nazi flags.  I'm simply pointing out what appears to be a double standard.  If you get outraged when someone dares to wave a Nazi flag, but you refer to the U.S. flag as a mere "piece of cloth", you aren't being very logical.  Both flags are "mere pieces of cloth", but they symbolize something far greater.  And really, when it comes down to it, I think the greater "somethings" are what we should focus on, not the symbols.

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