Sunday, 12 September 2010

On desecrating the flag and such

A cousin recently posted a photo on Facebook of an incident that apparently took place in Santa Fe. She mentioned the state capital (and they live in New Mexico). [Or Phoenix? I've just noticed that the caption says Phoenix; I'm confused.] Anyway, the photo shows an American flag lying on the ground. The flag has been spraypainted with S.O.S. and distress and some other words I couldn't make out. Three photographers, four onlookers, and one person who appears to be a policeman can be seen in the photo. According to my cousin, this was done as part of a rally and people were spitting on the flag, walking on it, and burning it with cigarettes. Those actions were not visibly taking place in the photo, but she said that her husband witnessed those things taking place. The tone of her comments accompanying the photo was blazing anger.

My first reaction was to think about Colors, the 1988 movie starring Sean Penn and Robert Duvall as L.A. cops who work in gang-controlled parts of the city, where wearing the wrong color in the wrong area could get you killed. (If you haven't seen it, do so.) I have to admit that I thought "what is it with people and their symbols?" Don't get me wrong. I think that desecrating any national flag is odious. The US flag is one important symbol of the country and it is extremely disrespectful not to treat such a symbol with regard. But it is only a symbol. Do soldiers who fight and die for the country fight and die for the flag? Perhaps at times it might seem so on a certain level. I've never served in the armed forces, but I suspect that they fight for loved ones and for the ideals that the country represents. As a symbol, the flag may be the strongest representation of those things, but desecrating a flag does not destroy the ideals (or people) behind the symbol.

I wish I knew what the rally/protest was about. It does seem short-sighted though to do such a thing if you're trying to win people to your side of an issue. That makes me think that the people who organized the rally either were not too clever or were just wanting to stir up trouble. Burning, spitting on, or walking on a flag might get attention, but logic should tell you that most of the attention will be negative.

My cousin seemed to be outraged by the fact that her husband and others who attempted to interfere with this rally were told to back away or face charges. That attitude seems odd to me. The Supreme Court of the United States has determined that desecrating the flag is a constitutionally protected right. If you attempt to interfere with someone exercising a constitutional right, you deserve to go to jail. To me, it seems as simple as that. That doesn't mean I think the protesters were right, but they were within their rights.

Two other comments are worth mentioning: "direct threat to our country" and "[i]f you believe this is OK, I believe you are a traitor to this country and everything it stands for." Concerning the first sentence, my cousin obviously feels quite strongly about this issue. She should therefore work to make desecrating the flag a crime. It's been done in other countries. Concerning the second sentence, I'm not sure whether believing as I do I'm a traitor in her eyes, but I can say that I have a firm doubt whether such inflammatory speech is contributing anything positive to the discourse taking place in the USA right now. I've also been called anti-American (inadvertently I hope) by my brother (or sister-in-law?) for not sharing their appreciation of the We the People clip. (Not recommended viewing: it's made to start your blood boiling, no matter which side of the fence you're on.) The idea is the same--a lot of anger, hatred, and strong words being spread around now. Is it so hard for people to understand the concept that perhaps the strength of the American system lies in the fact that those people were able to desecrate the flag? You might disagree vehemently, I might think it's short-sighted and disrespectful, but nevertheless those people were exercising their rights. An attempt must be made to find some understanding, because both sides can look at each other and shout "anti-American." But what good is that doing?

Friday, 3 September 2010

Just how does your language shape the way you think?

Does Your Language Shape How You Think?

Interesting article from the NY Times exploring the question of how your mother tongue influences your perception of the world. Any article that talks about the language Guugu Yimithirr is worth a read.

Thanks for that, Jeff.