Monday, February 23, 2009

Thread Does Not a Nation Make

Debatable Opinions; Letters to the Editor
(originally published at OpEdNews)

On February 14, two of Philadelphia’s finest were sent to the scene of an altercation between a Philadelphia cab driver and a would be thief. The thief warned the cabbie that, if he called the police, he would shoot the cabbie and the police. The cabbie, most likely fearing for his life, called anyway.

Two policeman showed up at the scene. The thief wannabe was wearing a jacket and his hand was in one of the pockets. As the police approached the man, he quickly raised that veiled hand. The hand wasn’t the only thing that the thief raised. In his hand was a .357 Magnum.

A little after nine o’clock PM, Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey walked out of the Albert Einstein Medical Center to an anxiously waiting media.

He somberly looked up and said, “It's my sad duty to inform you of the death of John Pawlowski. What makes his death even more tragic is that his wife Kim is expecting their first child. What makes this whole thing unacceptable is that officer Pawlowski was improperly displaying the flag of The United States of America on his sleeve.”

Of course Commissioner Ramsey never mentioned anything about the flag on Pawlowski’s sleeve. In truth, he never mentioned anything about Officer Pawlowski’s wife expecting their first child, but that one is a fact.

This is not glib handling of the senseless killing of one those brave people who work day and night to protect cabbies as well as you and me.

I wonder, though, whether the man who wrote a letter to North Carolina’s Citizen-Times would, indeed, fault the commissioner for failing to mention whether or not the slain officer was displaying the flag properly. After all, he’d been noticing the “improper display of the flag of the United States on the sleeve of various uniforms.”

There’s nothing wrong with knowing the proper placement of the flag. It’s just another piece of knowledge. What’s wrong is that the letter writer states that, “Some of the offenders have included law enforcement…”

Offenders, he says! So “offender” may have been Officer Pawlowski’s status when he lost his life trying to save that of a cab driver. We really don’t know, do we? How the flag was situated on his uniform hasn’t, yet, become an issue. Unless the letter writer from North Carolina gets involved in the investigation, it probably will never become an issue.

I’d like to think that the flag is important because of what it’s supposed to represent. It’s supposed to represent The United States of America and the wonderful participative government for which the founding fathers laid the groundwork. At any rate, they laid that groundwork by penning eloquent words eloquently upon the parchment of the time.

As we know today, much of what they wrote was incongruent with what they practiced. Yet the words are there and, as time has passed, they’ve come to be meaningful. They are the words of which we should be reminded when we see an American flag. That is the purpose of the flag. The flag has a purpose; it is not, in and of itself, a purpose.

Yet, throughout American history, it has somehow become not a representation, but a raison d’être.

We’ve been told that everything’s changed since September 11, 2001. One of the “everythings” is the American love affair with sewn fabric of red, white and blue. Don’t misunderstand. “Old Glory” has always been important to many Americans, more important to some than to others. We’ve even given it a name.

There’s always been a debate between those who see the flag as a representation and those who see it as an end to a means. There have been votes in Congress to amend The Constitution so that it becomes a crime to desecrate the American flag. There could one day be a law which punishes people for “desecrating” cloth while those who desecrate the ideals for which that cloth stands go free.

There exists an opinion that, since the flag represents, for example, the premise that “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…”, whenever the government of this country has, with malice aforethought, obstructed those ideals, they have rendered the flag what it really, thread sewn into red, white and blue. It ceases to represent good and becomes a piece of cloth worthy of nothing more than the same destruction of that which it represents.

I’m quite certain that the letter writer, who becomes obviously upset when the flag is not displayed “as if it is advancing, that is, the union should be to the front as it would be if the flag were freely flying”, would call for the death penalty if he ever read the above paragraph. I’m not certain that I’m embellishing in this case. The flag, for some, has taken on the importance of religious dogma.

Justice may be found when the letter writer returns to his home after a hard day of covert flag inspections just to notice a figure through the window of his house. He takes out his cell phone and calls the police who send two “offenders” to his home. As the three are standing outside the home, quietly discussing their next move, our flagomaniac notices that the flags on, not one, but both of the officers’ sleeves are a bit off, not quite right.

The letter writer then says in disgust, “Please call for two more officers who know how to wear a flag correctly.” Then, maybe in that particular case, he would make an exception.

By the way, “Emblem makers offer sleeve flags in “right” and “left” configurations. The same should hold true for decals or other representation of the flag on the sides or windows of automobiles.”

It’s good to know, I guess.

To friendship

“I wouldn't trust Nixon from here to that phone.” - Barry Morris Goldwater

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