THE NATION’S BANNER IS A SYMBOL
THAT EVOKES STRONG FEELINGS
Our nation’s flag — the “Stars and Stripes,” “Old Glory,” “Star Spangled Banner”: call it what you will — has been associated with controversy for at least as long as I can remember. I’m old enough to recall the raised eyebrows that greeted insertion of the phrase, “under God” into the Pledge of Allegiance back in the early 1950s.
During the next decade, flag burning as a means of protesting the Vietnam War was extremely contentious. So much so that it prompted revival of long-ignored state anti-desecration laws passed in the 1800s along with enactment of a federal statute making it a crime to “knowingly cast contempt upon any flag of the United States by publicly mutilating, defacing, defiling, burning, or trampling upon it.”
A 1989 Supreme Court decision struck down those anti-desecration laws in the name of free political expression. But by then it had become commonplace to integrate stars-and-stripes imagery into clothing — often in the most immodest ways — and render the flag in other less-than-respectful applications (an unfortunate trend that continues).
Anti-U.S. demonstrations overseas always include the requisite burning of an American flag or some (often primitive) representation of it. And flying the flag upside down, a nautical signal for distress, is done frequently as a sign of protest or rejection.
Disrespect for the flag was in the news again recently.