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Source: The Daily Campus (UConn)
Date: October 12, 2007
Byline: Commentary

Veteran's Actions Violate Meaning Of U.S. Flag

Last week in Reno, Nev., an American veteran named Jim Brossard pulled up outside of a local Hispanic-owned bar. Brossard had heard of the bar on local talk radio and had heard that a flagpole outside the bar was flying two flags, one Mexican, the other American. The Mexican flag was the topmost of the two.

Brossard wordlessly cut down both flags; the American he took with him, and the Mexican he left lying in the dirt. Before leaving, Brossard turned to a television news crew on the scene, saying, "I'm a veteran — I'm not going to see this done to my country. If they want to fight us, then they need to be men and they need to come and fight us."

Word of Brossard's vigilante activism quickly made the rounds, and the video found its way to most major television news outlets. Commentators regularly described superior position of the Mexican flag as "illegal" or "not allowed," and Brossard was widely lauded as a hero. Don King gave the veteran two free tickets to a boxing match at Madison Square Garden.

Brossard is not a hero and the widespread commendation of his (illegal) acts is truly deplorable. The straight fact of the matter is that Brossard trespassed on personal property, committed vandalism and stole an American flag. The news media must bear special responsibility for their unjust depiction of this incident: on Fox News, Brossard was described as "rescuing" the American flag that he stole.

It is true that it is against federal law to fly the flag of another nation above our own. However, the media failed to adequately note that the federal law which stipulates how to treat the flag, the U.S. Flag Code, is purely symbolic — the Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that punishing violations of the Flag Code violates freedom of speech. The code is violated thousands of times per day: using the flag in advertising, placing it upon clothing, or even flying the American flag above the flag of a foreign nation on the same flagpole — all these acts are 'illegal.'

It's probable that the bar owner meant no offense, that he flew the American flag as a sign of love for this nation. Brossard's treatment of the owner and the media's treatment of Brossard, should shame us all. In cutting down those flags, Brossard desecrated the Constitution of which the Stars and Stripes is but an emblem. In truth, the publicity and response Brossard's actions evoked are merely symptomatic of a growing wave of anti-Hispanic sentiment sweeping the country, and not of any special reverence for the flag. When 'patriots' begin to swarm Ford Motor Company headquarters for illegally using the flag in their advertisements, we can begin to discuss proper treatment of the flag.

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