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One of the great occurrences in my life involving the flag occurred in Korea in 1952, about thirty miles north of Seoul. A second lieutenant in the Marine First Division, I stood in front of my platoon’s row of tents one day and suddenly spotted the flag in a brisk breeze atop a hill about 200 yards away, at battalion headquarters. It held me spellbound for a long moment. Not because I thought of the cloth. There is nothing sacred about the cloth. But there is plenty sacred about what it stands for. I don’t believe one can have a flag experience that matches seeing Old Glory on foreign soil in wartime. No, what I thought in that moment is that the flag meant Americans are on foreign soil helping South Koreans defend themselves from invasion. At the risk of our own lives. That is freighted with meaning. The cloth is not. The cloth is only the symbol, not the thing itself. If you make it illegal to burn the flag, you only encourage dissidents to burn it, not just in Iraq or Libya but here, in America. If they think they can get your goat by burning a piece of cloth, they’re going to do it, over and over again. What would piss them off is for us to tell them, “You want to burn the flag? Here, have some matches. Now, if you want to make us mad, attack what the flag stands for. See what you can do to harm our system of government, our institutions, our liberties yes, our freedom even to burn the flag.” That way we can frustrate them in the same way they think they can frustrate us, by setting for them a goal they can’t reach, just as we can’t reach the goal, of keeping everybody for all time everywhere from burning the flag. In 1952, the North Koreans could have produced and burned an American flag behind their lines but within our view. That would not have given them an inch of ground we held. It wouldn’t have elected or defeated any candidate for the South Korean legislature. It would have done nothing to hurt America. when the flag carries physical importance. In the Civil War, for example, regimental flags communicated a unit’s position and direction at a time when smoke and noise prevented sending those messages any other way. Write Dialogue The Texas Observer 307 W. 7th St. Austin, TX 78701 [email protected] Readers are invited to submit letters on any subject addressed in the Observer, and we ask that letters generally be brief \(300-500 words at the But protecting symbols merely as symbols, instead of the things they symbolize, is what dictatorships do. If you had burned a swastika in Germany in 1935, the Nazis would have shot your ass. In a similar vein, Patton noted: “Fixed fortifications are a monument to the stupidity of man.” In other words, don’t give your opponent a rigid and inflexible target. Give him air to swing at. Give him a cloud of ideas to attack. Don’t lead with your chin and dare a guy to hit it. Stand back and challenge him to beat you in the marketplace of ideas. Dare him to out-organize and outvote you at the ballot box. Now, if a guy comes on your property and burns your flag, that’s theft by destruction, and you can have him punished for that. But if he buys and burns his own flag, give him the finger. What if some guy buys a nativity scene and burns the plastic baby Jesus on his front lawn? Has he done any harm to anyone’s religious belief? His only crime is unlawful burning outdoors. Assess him a fine for that. But don’t pretend he reduced the significance of the life of Jesus. Robert Heard Austin TEXAS OBNOXIOUS TO GO I fired up the front-end loader the other day and dug into a stack of old mail: magazines, catalogues, circulars, junk mail, bills \(the same tices. There were three subscription notices from the Observer. I guess it’s time I did something about it. But I’m still a lazy man, so I’ve combined my own personal renewal and a gift renewal into one check; I hope the additional donation will make the person who has to divvy it up grumble a bit less. My friend Warren in D.C. is, uh … a bit conservative, I guess. He is an Aggie, after all. And I don’t really know how he’s been reacting to the Observer, since I haven’t heard much from him since he moved from God’s country to Godless country. He did once send me a “virtual beer,” however, so I guess he’s not too mad at me \(or maybe he is; after all, he didn’t send me a real one. And it’s not like I aren’t being obnoxious enough, huh? Anyhow, keep up the good work, and if possible, be more obnoxious. \(I suppose in Texas, the accent is on the first syllable in that word, From the land of salmon and beer, Josh Hayes Seattle, Washington MAKE STRAIGHT THE BAPTIST pastor of Second Baptist Church in Lubbock, not First Baptist, as Karen Olsson states in animal, altogether. Francie Lowe Lubbock FUNDAMENTAL PROBLEM I thoroughly enjoy reading Molly Ivins and the Observer. It’s a shame that your voice is confined to Texas. Although given the present level of corruption and venality in the governments, top to bottom, I am beginning to wonder if there is any solution short of revolution. \(I am not one of the ultra-right wingers who believe there is a massive conspiracy to enThe problem is much more fundamental: business and the corporations have bought the going about the rape of this nation. I do have to admit that the current pols do meet the Kingfish’s definition of an honest politician: they are staying bought, and not suffering from any momentary spasms of conscience that might result in passing a law that would benefit anyone below the top 5 percent of Americans. I’ve never been able to fathom the logic that says welfare to an individual or family is inherently bad and immoral and destructive, but welfare to a Boeing, or Electric Boat Company … is good and moral and uplifting. George J. Coe Redford, Michigan POLITICS INTENSIVE Please give us 90 percent more Political Intelligence, 9 percent Dialogue, 1 percent Book Reviews, and change my address, so I won’t miss any! Ann Murray Eastland Turn Left on the Information Highway! Now You Can Go DownHome with The Texas Observer! Visit The Observer DownHome Page: The DownHome Page has recently been upgraded, revised, revamped, and just generally Texas-ized. Recent issues are posted Archives are available You can write to us Or send us to a friend. You can even subscribe by credit card! Check us Out! SEPTEMBER 25, 1998 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 3 ^4.1,,,