Our Flag deserves more protection

June 12, 2016


As a certified American history nerd the first week in May to the first week in July is a most special time.

It opens with VE Day on May 8th when good at last conquered Nazi evil.  The solemnity of Memorial Day reminds me just how high freedom’s price and just how much is owed those who paid it.

A week later, June 6th appears and every year I shrink in humility against the courage it took to storm those beaches.

June 14th brings the day commemorating the flag that flies via embassies and exploration from every continent on earth to the surface of the moon.  And it culminates on July 4th, the day a handful of patriots decided it was better to die fighting for freedom than live as serfs to a King.

It was the Second Continental Congress that on June 14, 1777 passed a simple resolution:  “Resolved, That the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation.”

Legend tells of one Betsy Ross sewing the first flag with a circle of white stars on a field of blue based upon a drawing given her by George Washington.  Yet the historical fact of that story can only be traced back to her grandson, William Canby, who first presented it publicly in 1870 while presenting his paper “The History of the Flag of the United States” to the historical society of Pennsylvania.  Sadly, no written record from Washington, Ross or the Continental Congress exists. Canby’s paper and the account of that first flag, was based solely on stories told to him by his grandmother decades earlier.  (Betsy died in 1836)

History records the first official flag of these United States was flown in battle on August 3, 1777.  Writing on the Fort Stanwix website Park Ranger Kelly Cardwell notes that the day before: “The British commander, General Barry St. Leger, offered the Americans escape in exchange for unconditional surrender. By August 3, Gansevoort and his officers gave their response to this offer, as recorded by a young lieutenant: Early this Morning a Continental Flag made by the Officers of Col. Gansevoort’s Regiment was hoisted and a Cannon Levelled at the Enemies Camp was fired on the Occasion. Gansevoort himself later issued a statement back to St. Leger on the occasion as well: “It is my determined resolution…to defend this fort and garrison to the last extremity, in behalf of the United American States, who have placed me here to defend it against all their enemies.”

“Defend….to the last extremity….against all their enemies.”  In the time since, the American flag has flown over more Colonel Gansevoort’s than we could ever count or will ever know; each one willing to give his or her own life rather than surrender the freedom of others.

So when I see today images here on American soil of cowards hiding behind bandanas burning and desecrating our flag while proudly waving the Mexican flag and demanding rights to which they are not entitled, I don’t just get mad, I get livid.

And that those thugs are only allowed their flag burnings because of a 1989, 5 to 4 divided Supreme Court decision illustrates just how critical this upcoming Presidential election.

Because as Thomas Jefferson in a letter to Thomas Ritchie, September 1820, warned: “The judiciary of the United States is the subtle corps of sappers and miners constantly working underground to undermine our Constitution”.

So no matter how disgusted you may be with either Trump or Clinton your vote in November will determine what court will be ruling over us come Flag Day 2017 and beyond.

PUBLISHER’S NOTE: A version of this column first appeared in the June 12, 2016 print edition of the Joplin Globe.

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