The more Clint Eastwood-literate among you will recognize that I cribbed my subtitle from one of the roughly 700 vengeance-themed Westerns that he made in the ’70s and ’80s. This is in honor of the response to an article about an American flag being burned on the LSU campus by the poster who goes by the oh-so-appropriately-semi-literate moniker of gofigger:
Check the video camera. It’s time for a public hanging.
Here’s the article.
Sure, the flag was clearly the property of the university and therefore should not have been stolen for this purpose. But why do we sit over here in our easy chairs and scoff when we’re told about Danish newspaper editors being threatened with death for publishing images of the prophet Mohammed when we’re ready to leap out of them and hastily erect a gallows when someone protests American policies by burning a flag? Flag-burning is an act of political speech, and its constitutionality has been upheld by the Supreme Court (although I’m not sure the Roberts Court would rule the same way). It’s not a crime and if it’s offensive to people, frankly it’s supposed to be.
Nothing brings out that special Louisiana brand of racist or just plain crazy like a flag-burning. A cursory glance at the comments section for this article reveals how quick most of the readers are to lay the blame at the feet of foreign graduate students, liberal activists, and/or Muslims. Louisiana for Louisianans!
No one knows who burned this particular flag but the timing of the incident suggests an expression of anger over U.S. foreign policy. One might reasonably ask this question, then: what policies are we defending when we condemn this statement? Extralegal assassinations of foreign nationals? Cultivation of relationships of convenience with tyrannical heads of state like Pervez Musharraf, Hosni Mubarak, Moammar Qadafi–and, lest we forget, Saddam Hussein? Invasion of sovereign nations which pose no security risk to the United States?
It’s not necessarily reasonable to steal someone’s flag just for the sake of burning it. But it’s also not unreasonable to ask why America is exerting its power around the world in the various ways that it is currently doing so. And if we are so cash-poor that we cannot afford to continue operating the way that we have been (as so many Republicans are quick to state) then maybe we should start by reevaluating our foreign policy priorities.