Valdosta, Georgia (TFC) – The flap over a protest that involved walking on the American flag made headlines because a veteran took the flag from the protesters. She then wrestled with officers to try to retain control of the flag.
To put this more bluntly, Michelle Manhart stole something and then forcibly resisted officers. She admitted to this behavior and there is a video of the incident. Fox news refused to even acknowledge that Manhart committed a crime, which is mildly entertaining considering the theft of something of nominal value and resisting a police officer was used by the outlet as justification for the killing of Mike Brown in Ferguson. In this case though, the thief that resisted cops is being held up as a hero. So what aren’t you being told about the incident?
Michelle Manhart told Fox news:
“The flag is an iconic symbol for freedom. If you are going to fight for a cause and use the First Amendment – how are you going to stomp and trample the icon that gives you that right?”
No ma’am. The flag does not give anyone rights. The government does not give anyone rights. The US Constitution does not give anyone rights. Those rights are “self-evident” or people were “endowed by their creator” with them. They existed before the flag was sewn. The flag is a symbol. You cannot honor the symbol while destroying the very thing it is supposed to symbolize. You desecrated the idea of the flag, ma’am, when you decided your worship of a colored piece of cloth was more important than someone’s unalienable rights. Your attempt at stifling the US Constitution is far more insulting to the flag than students using it for shock value during a protest.
Let’s run through all of the objections that are sure to be flying in:
“The US Flag Code states…” The US Flag Code is guidance, not law. There are no criminal penalties contained anywhere in the flag code. The code was what Manhart cited after she stole the flag and tried to run away with it. Abiding by it is completely voluntary.(UPDATE: By the way, everything Manhart did here when she decided to pose nude with it dragging on the ground was also against the flag code.)
“Georgia law states…” Georgia’s law is unconstitutional and unenforceable except in the most narrow of instances. You don’t have to take my word for it, the Supreme Court ruled on all of these laws in Texas v Johnson (1989). If somebody desecrated the flag without making a political statement of any kind, they might be prosecutable under the statute. It should be noted that the Georgia law also specifically protects the Confederate flag as well. I can’t imagine why black students in Georgia might think there’s a problem worth drawing attention to.
“It’s offensive to do that to a flag…” The First Amendment was designed to protect offensive speech. Weather reports do not need First Amendment protections. Cooking recipes do not need First Amendment protections. The offensiveness of speech could accurately be used as a barometer for whether or not it is protected by the First Amendment. The more offensive something is, the more likely it’s protected speech. Being offended is the price of living in a freer society.
“My dad/cousin/aunt/granddad/barber/whomever died for that flag…” No, they probably didn’t. If they were a true patriot, they died for the ideas embodied by that flag. One of those ideas was trampled on when Mrs. Manhart took it upon herself to become a thief and disrupt a Constitutionally-protected activity while invoking the power of the government’s code. I can assure you that if one of the founding fathers thought that a bit of colored cloth was going to be used to curtail freedom they would have burned every single one of them and probably would have strung Betsy Ross up by the neck.
“If you disrespected the flag in another country, you’d be shot…” Probably not. Most countries don’t grant their flags special protections under the law. Those that do are typically Middle Eastern countries that have religious imagery on their flag. Countries we would consider ourselves on par with (The UK, Ireland, Australia, Canada, etc) have no laws about the desecration of national flags.
“Mrs. Manhart is a veteran…” So were Timothy McVeigh, Terry Nichols, and John Allen Muhammed. Nidal Malik Hassan was active duty, so obviously his view must be even more correct, right? If you don’t recognize the names, they are the Oklahoma City bombers, the Beltway Sniper, and the Fort Hood shooter. The last time a society listened to a hyper-nationalistic brainwashed veteran with an uncontrollable fetish for flags, it didn’t end well.
“It’s disrespectful to do that to a flag…” Yes, it is. I completely agree. I still stand for the Star Spangled Banner, and while I don’t recite the pledge anymore, I still stand for it when others do out of courtesy. I’ve never burned a flag or walked on one. I also believe it unnecessary to use this kind of shock tactic to get your point across, but my opinion doesn’t matter. They had a Constitutionally-protected right to do what they were doing. Being disrespectful is not a crime. It is certainly more disrespectful to steal the property of another, isn’t it?
“Why don’t you recite the Pledge anymore?” I’ll recite the Pledge again when people stop treating the flag like a mascot for a sports team and start believing in the ideals that it is supposed to embody. So you’ll hear me say it when Americans realize that all men are created equal with certain unalienable rights. That’s “all men.” Nowhere is it written that beyond America’s borders live a lesser people. Nowhere is it written that enemies of the state can lose their rights. Nowhere is it written that you should waive your rights when you wave your flag. Until Americans realize that, the flag is just another pretty piece of cloth that is nothing more than landscaping and means as little as the shrubs surrounding the pole it’s flying on.
Here’s the video in case you missed it: