Thursday, December 29, 2011

Woodbine flag broke the law

Patriotism is no exemption to law

You can't touch me! I'm wearing my 'invincibility flag!'
I don't keep a list of pet peeves like some people do because everything that could be on my list is pretty well covered by a single item: stupidity. Normally, I need only avoid liberals in order to avoid being irritated, since they are the ones who cling to stupidity the most. But every now and then, I run into some stupidity on the right. 

Nowhere does this happen more often than with matters concerning the American flag. Don't get me wrong, I love the flag--I even get a little misty sometimes reflecting on what it stands for. But because I'm not trying to get into the flag's pants (as some seem to be) I don't take those feelings so far as to abandon all reason. And I certainly don't get jealous about the flag, thinking everyone is trying to steal her from me. I'm going to stop this line of thought because it's starting to sound like a typical teen movie.

Fox News' Todd Starnes posted an article today entitled "State Says American Flag Violates Law." I came across it in another forum under the header, "These people need to fight this tooth and nail." Apparently a Woodbine, MD family erected an American flag to honor their nephew serving in Afghanistan in a public roundabout. Why the Winklers couldn't put it on their own lawn, it doesn't say, but it stayed there for three years until a car hit it. The family replaced the damaged pole with a larger, sturdier one which the state highway department said was a safety hazard and subsequently removed it. 

In response, the Winklers did what any sane bunch would do in such a situation, they held a protest rally and invited all their friends. To be fair, they did acquire the necessary permits, but the organizer's statement about it is somewhat ironic, "I'm not a big stink maker; I don't sweat the small stuff, and we're at the point where you can't say this and you can't do that, but the American flag is one thing we are all going to stand up for."

Fine. They can have their protest. It's their right, after all. But what I don't want to hear--what is repeated again and again in the comments to the article--is how this is a coordinated attack on America and patriotic expression. It's not. It's addressing a hazard in the right-of-way which should be evidenced by the fact that somebody crashed their car into it. At this point, the flag pole's defenders can't even claim it isn't hurting anybody.

I can understand being upset at how the flag was removed; it was unceremoniously tossed into the back of a dump truck. I suspect that was due to laziness on the part of the state workers rather than any intentional disrespect. And I can somewhat understand the Winkler's irritation at the loss of a flag and pole, although that is what happens when you leave stuff in a public place. However, neither of those things strikes me as the likely impetus for their impromptu rally.

What the Winklers and other residents of Woodbine are demanding is the right to flaunt the law as long as they fly an American flag in the process.  There is no discussion in this story about working with the state to erect an appropriate flag or any acknowledgement that the individuals involved may have overstepped their bounds; just a repetitious sentiment that because an American flag is involved, that is the only thing that should matter. Just get a load of some of these quotes from the Baltimore Sun's coverage of the story:
“We figured it’s the American flag and we live in the United States of America – how can anyone have a problem with it?”

"Permit or not, it's the American flag."

"I know they have rules, but it's the flag."
The article also reports that their nephew said the American flag, the symbol of everything he served to protect, just shouldn't be messed with. So, again, because it is for the troops, nothing else applies. If the object were a simple unadorned pole would anyone be so quick to defend it? What if these citizens of Woodbine erected their flag, not in the roundabout, but right in the street? Or on another citizen's property? Would that citizen be vilified for taking it down? 

We grant the state limited rights to defend our own, but in order to do so, it must have its rights respected as any citizens would be. Otherwise how will it enforce ours? There's picking your fights and then there is instigating them. This event is not about oppressive bureaucracy, it is about insolent citizenry. 

I expect this sort of thoughtless emotionalism from liberals who prefer to be judged on their intentions rather than their outcomes. They have imbued their patriotism with a sense of immunity from the law; that so long as they fly the American colors, the law should have no effect on their actions. Should they be able to sell meth just as long as they put it in red, white, and blue packaging and send the proceeds to troops' families?  

Patriotism doesn't provide an exception to the law, even if it is simply traffic law. Conservatives ought to be distinguished by their critical thinking and support for the rule of law. Men's minds ought to be sterner than to be blown about on the winds of popular sentiment. Otherwise, they are no more substantial than a flag on the breeze.


Joel Farnham said...

I understand your objection to their objection. Are you going to have an opposing protest rally? ;-)

tryanmax said...

Not planning one. I just don't handle well people playing the victim no matter what way they play it.

tryanmax said...

One irony that just hit me is that the permit process was easy enough for these people to follow in organizing their protest, but it was apparently too difficult when it came to erecting the flag to begin with.

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