... or they do get it, and they don't care, and they're willing to take the consequences. Frankly, I can't believe it's the latter. They couldn't be that stupid - or could they?
That thought was sparked by this meme on Gab.
I understand that image on a visceral level. It resonates with me, as I don't think it can with someone who isn't a combat veteran - although any veteran, and any veteran's family, will get it to a considerable extent.
Almost a decade ago, I wrote about my buddy Flynn. He died in combat after an RPG-7 rocket inflicted mortal injuries.
I remember Flynn's face, agony in his one remaining eye, jaw set in a rictus of unimaginable pain, coughing blood through his set teeth, half his left cheek torn away, left eye dangling from its socket, shirt turning bright red with the blood gushing from his punctured and shredded chest, a gurgling, gasping, groaning, never-ending moan torn from his throat as he gargled his life away in the sand . . . and all I could do was inject a syrette of morphine, and hold his hand, and watch - feel - his life slip away between my fingers while the ambush roared and raged all around us.
I had to let go of his hand, and grab my rifle, and return fire . . . and as I did so, I remember hearing the last half-gasping, half-choking rattle in his throat . . . and by the time I could look around again, it was too late. Just a couple of flecks of African dust, lifted by the last breath through his lips, drifting lazily before his mouth, then slowly sinking down to the ground once more, into the muddy blood that spread slowly from beneath him . . . and his one good eye, staring blankly into the dust, and the blood, and the darkness that had taken him from me.
There's more at the link.
Flynn and I fought under the orange, white and blue flag of the old Republic of South Africa.
It incorporated in its central stripe the "Vierkleur" ("Four-color") flag of the old South African Republic (later the province of Transvaal), the "Union Jack" of Great Britain, and the flag of the Orange Free State, a Boer republic adjacent to the South African Republic, and later a South African province of the same name. Inevitably, it became indelibly associated with the policy of apartheid, and is referred to by many today as the "apartheid flag", even though it predated that policy by many years.
With the advent of a truly democratic government in South Africa in 1994, a new flag was adopted.
It was an artificial concoction by a civil servant, hurriedly thrown together to produce what was at first thought to be a temporary symbol of the "new nation" that was to arise. (I was there at the time. One newspaper commented that it "looked like a pair of Y-fronts [a local term for briefs] on its side", to which the designer retorted, "Well, South Africa needs all the support it can get!") The new flag eventually became permanent, in the absence of any more popular design.
In 2019 the old "apartheid flag" was outlawed from public display in South Africa, and its use is regarded as "hate speech". I can understand the anger and bitterness the old flag provokes in the hearts of many black South Africans . . . but it was still the flag under which I fought, and for which Flynn and a number of other friends died, and under which they were buried. I can't simply condemn it as a symbol of racism, because it was never that to me. It's a symbol of many other things - things that the new South African flag simply cannot express for me.
I'm an American now, and proud of my adopted flag, and will gladly serve under it if need be: but the old South African flag still has a visceral effect on me. It goes far deeper than words can express. I have a lapel badge in the form of the US and (old) South African flags, their staffs crossed. I shall still wear it with pride if a suitable occasion arises - and it will have nothing whatsoever to do with racism or discrimination. Those who can't or won't understand or accept that will just have to live with it.
(For that reason, I can understand veterans of Nazi Germany who still respected the Nazi flag after World War II, even to this day. They defended it as a symbol of their personal patriotism and military service rather than of Hitler and his demented goons. For them, it really was that, even though the rest of the world could not or would not understand that perspective. They'd fought under it, they'd bled under it, and many of their friends had died under it. It went beyond mere words. I think US veterans can understand that position as well. My father, who fought against Nazi Germany, certainly did, and respected it.)
And so we return to the image with which we started this article. When I see people spit on, or stamp on, or set fire to, the United States flag, and disrespect both it and the nation for which it stands, I too feel a visceral reaction of rage.
Have they no idea how many people have died for and under that flag? How dare they disrespect, not just the flag, but those people and their sacrifice, by their actions? Have they no conscience at all? As for the chant "America was never great" in the video clip above, they couldn't be more wrong - but then, most of them have no reference points. Their liberal/progressive/left-wing teachers have deliberately failed to educate them about true history. They have no idea that for decades, the USA was, indeed, regarded as "great" by most other nations and their people, and still is by many.
I came here to make a fresh start with my life after eighteen years of civil and military war, unrest, violence and hatred. For me, believe me, America has indeed been, and still is, great. I'm proud to be an American, and not ashamed to say so publicly. I'm honored to be accepted as a brother by my new national family, and I stand tall and proud beside them beneath our national flag.
I therefore understand the visceral scorn, contempt and disgust that the policeman in this video clip must have felt when he took action to defend the flag. He would have known it was a small gesture against the violence and hatred on display all around him - but it was still a gesture worth making, and I'm glad he did so.
We need more men like that policeman - and a stronger response to the flag-burning thugs he confronted, too.
"If you haven't risked coming home under the flag, don't you dare stand on it". Yes, indeed - and don't you dare disrespect it, or burn it, or reject it. If you do, you reject me and all I stand for. The one necessarily implies the other.
I think a lot of Americans share that sentiment. I think, if those who are rioting in our streets don't come to their senses, they may find that out, real soon now. Rejection works both ways.