PARTING SHOT

Attention! Please Rise for a Preview of the Flag Laws

A few days before the July 4th holiday, I opened my Sunday paper to find shocking new evidence of flag desecration. It is an example of the sort of unpatriotic act that must be-and will be-stamped out very, very soon.

The perpetrator is a man of indeterminate age posing in a series of glossy color pictures. He wears a scraggly white goatee and his curly white hair brushes his shoulders. His outfit is obviously intended to conjure up images of the Stars and Stripes-top hat, vest, old-fashioned jacket with broad lapels, and all bedecked with suspiciously flag-like colors and shapes. As if that were not heresy enough, in three of the pictures this “patriot” clutches a trio of small American flags, as if waving them over some unknown triumph.

Hundreds of words are printed around the pictures, but I search in vain for a mention of Valley Forge, Betsy Ross, the Founding Fathers, Tom Paine, the Spirit of ’76, Iwo Jima, Guadalcanal, or even a Bicentennial Moment that would justify recklessly invoking Old Glory in this manner.

Instead, I am shocked-shocked!-to discover endless prating about multifunction infrared remote control, scan tuning, one-touch picture reset, and MTS broadcast stereo sound with expanded hi-fi. And not even a single quote from The Federalist Papers. It’s a blatant case of flag desecration.

Perhaps you saw this sorry spectacle yourself-a huge foldout advertisement for an electronics sale at a local department store. Because they are in enough trouble- and could face prosecution under future flag-desecration laws-I will not mention the store’s name. As for the actor who portrayed “Uncle Sam,” his identity is not known- luckily for him. Perhaps they will all be punished after the Flag Laws are passed. Historically the Constitution has banned ex post facto laws that would punish people for doing things that were not against the law when they did them. But many things are changing. If the U.S. Constitution can be changed once to protect the flag, it can be changed again and again, until this scourge is vanquished.

Of course we do not yet know exactly how the First Flagman, George Bush, will stop this obscene use of the flag to enrich those who sell VCRs, hot dogs, apple pies, barbecue grills, new cars, rock music, etc. We only know that he will stop it, thus fulfilling a major campaign promise to reinstill patriotism and protect colorful, easily photographed symbols of our nation.

Yes, fuzzy-minded liberals will howl about the slippery slope to tyranny and the threat to our precious liberties. To them we shall have a simple reply: either you know flag desecration when you see it or you don’t. And if you don’t, you are probably a short, swarthy, large-headed Massachusetts liberal. Or a member of the ACLU. Or both. And so’s your old man.

Already the liberals have clouded the issue with a blizzard of nagging questions. What is flag desecration? they whine. How do you define it? Does it apply only to burning a flag? How about cutting it up with a knife? Stabbing it with a military bayonet? Running over it with a Datsun? A Ford? Splashing it with sulfuric acid? Using it on a rock album cover? Flying it over a fast food restaurant until it is tattered and faded from the sun? And what if someone hangs out a flag, and it falls down, and a frisky Doberman chews it up? Can animals be prosecuted for breaking the flag laws?

Questions, questions. They always want things defined and clarified and analyzed down to the nth degree, when really Truth is very pure and simple. We must be ever vigilant against the liberals, especially those closet liberals who seduce and beguile with honeyed words. For example, radio talk man David Gold poses as a conservative and a patriot, but he revealed his true pinko liberal soul recently when he told a caller that it was okay to wear the flag on certain parts of the body, but not on “the bottom rear end.” Alas, reeducation is in order for Mr. Gold. No more of those star-spangled jogging shorts.

If the Flag Laws are to be successful, they must ban any use of the flag except for patriotic and reverent purposes-and please, no quibbling over these terms. The Flag Laws we will need can be divided into two types. The first deals with forbidden actions, while the second deals with forbidden thoughts.

In the first category, it will be a simple matter to specify the things that cannot be done to the flag. All we need do is make a list of all the objects in the world, and then legislate against using any of them to do anything bad to the flag. Starting with aard-varks and running through catalytic converters, eggplants, liquid nitrogen, nail files, parking meters, tambourines, vegetable juice cans with sharpened edges, vises, xylophones, and zebra-skin boots, it is hereby forbidden to use any object (note to liberals: an “object” is defined as anything occupying space anywhere in the universe, so there) to tear, rend, mutilate, spindle, hurt, maim, chop, dice, purée, incinerate, whack away at, bash, wallop, or otherwise flagellate the flag with intent to do it harm. We will deal later with accidental or negligent injuries to the flag, and with such questions as: what happens if an airliner crashes into a flag factory? Will survivors and families of the dead be liable for flag desecration?

Now let us turn to the more difficult part of the Rag Laws: the approved ways of thinking about Old Glory. This will be entrusted to the Council for Correct Thinking About the Flag. CCTAF centers will be set up in each town, and anyone desiring to do anything with the flag will have to go through the CCTAF screening process. Now, we never meant to say that nobody could make money off the flag. That would be a radical step, and radical steps take you out of the moderate mainstream, and that’s why radicals are wrong. The point will be to make sure the wrong kinds of people do not profit from the flag, while assuring that the right kinds of people are not hindered from making some money along with their patriotic deeds. Anyone desiring to use the Stars and Stripes to sell trucks, hot dogs, swim trunks, or mudflaps will fill out certain forms, answer certain questions, submit five or ten character references, and undergo a thorough background check. Qualified applicants will receive a permit to fly the flag proudly and profitably.

Someone is bound to ask what was wrong with the old way, when we’d put up a flag on the Fourth or on Veterans Day just because we were proud of the greatest country on earth, and grateful that heroes died so that we could make up our own minds about things like patriotism and the proper treatment of symbols.

Don’t worry. We’ll still fly the flag after the Flag Laws are passed. Perhaps more than ever. Not to do so might be.. .dangerous. After all, there are so many ways to desecrate a flag.

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