“Burn it! Burn it! Burn it!” - The Occupy Oakland crowd reaction to a protester who emerged with an American flag after the lobby of the Oakland City Hall was vandalized on Saturday
And burn the stolen flag they did.
Several protestors told reporters they supported the flag burning “because it (the flag and the United States) had failed me.”
No matter how repugnant you believe burning the flag that is an emotional symbol of sacrifices made by millions, wearing the uniform, laboring to build America, and those who battled social injustices they have the right to do so. It’s called freedom of expression.
It would be nice, though, if the Occupy Du Jour folks remembered freedom isn’t free. There is a price to be paid to secure each and every liberty and right we enjoy.
The obvious - and unfortunately most essential - is the collective sacrifice of lives, the spilling of blood, and the giving of time to serve and protect our country by wearing the American uniform. It is undisputable that freedoms secured and preserved by the masses are much deeper and have longer staying power than those conferred by a king, a dictator, or by government decree.
Even with how sacred the American flag is to anyone who has served in the military it represents much, much more.
The Occupy Everything movement contends they are on the side of the masses that they have packaged in a nice little sound bite dubbed “The 99 Percent.”
“The 99 Percent” are reflected in the red, white, and blue just as much as the men and women that serve in the military.
It symbolizes the hopes of immigrants. It reflects the towering skyscrapers built by the blood and sweat of American labor. It shines with the equality oppressed minorities have struggled to attain. It has a revered spot at most places of worship for its role as guardian of the right to worship as one pleases.
To burn the flag is to say none of that matters.
And to say the burning of the flag symbolizes how this country has failed them tends to underscore what they really are - anarchists.
There is no burning desire to work toward change. There is simply a burning desire to destroy the system as well as property.
The beauty of America is that it is the sum total of conflicting forces coming together. The ideal it is built on is one nation of people of different faiths, ethnicity, cultures, income, and views.
The message from the Occupy Because I Don’t Want to Work Within the System movement - or at least those in Oakland that relish burning the flag - is that they aren’t truly willing to try and put change in place. Instead they want the world to change to suit their exact vision.
Let the Occupy Everything folks go ahead and burn the flag. It tells the vast majority of “The 99 Percent” that they supposedly identity themselves with that they are not one of them.
It’s a safe bet that the overwhelming number of “The 99 Percent” have issues and are hurting economically or in some other fashion yet they still understand in their heart that the system the flag represents is what has given them a lot of good things they enjoy that billions across the globe wished they had.
The flames reducing the American flag to ashes when they burn it are flames fueled by freedom derived from the lives of those who died for what that flag stands.
And they are flames that they have the freedom to spread no matter how repulsive anyone thinks they are thanks to what the flag they are destroying truly represents.
This column is the opinion of managing editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209-249-3519.