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Am I really mad enough to burn a flag? Is my country really so FUBAR that it's time to light one up?
The day I bought the flag, the 2,500th U.S. soldier died in Iraq. According to the lowest estimates, more than 30,000 Iraqis have been killed in our effort to give them "freedom" and "democracy," though they never asked for our help. Everyone knows our president lied about his reasons for starting that war; he went unchallenged by this country's "opposition party," such as it is. Meanwhile, 40 percent of us cared so little about democracy here at home that we didn't bother to vote in the November 2000 elections. We let more than 45 million of our own people go without health insurance. In 2004, the Census Bureau reports, 37 million people lived in poverty up 1.1 million from 2003. Thirty percent of us fail to graduate from high school. As a nation, we officially refuse to cooperate with worldwide efforts to save the freakin' planet.
I could go on, but by now I'm wondering why other people aren't burning flags already. Maybe we're too doped up on television and sugar and antidepressants to do anything. Maybe we're too exhausted, working double time to cover for all of our fellow workers who've been laid off. Maybe we just need to hear a good Starkweathers' song. In that spirit, Smith let us put it up on our Web site.
"That's kind of the sad thing about it this song is 13 years old, more or less, and it's still relevant," Smith tells me. But it's hard for him to be happy that his song is still relevant. "The direction that this country's going in ... is overwhelming to me sometimes. To me that song was never about randomly and for no reason burning flags. It's not just like joyriding. You should reserve it for the absolute, the utmost of your despair."
I'm there. And I know I'm not alone.
But I have a few more questions. Where will I burn my flag? Out on Main Street, in front of my office? (Not unless I'd want to unfairly implicate the entire Pitch establishment in my own personal conscientious objection.) Out at Village West, our sparkling new altar to sprawling consumerism? On the Plaza, where the handful of anti-war protesters carry on their vigils every Sunday afternoon?
And then I have to think about getting my head busted, my nose broken, my teeth bashed in. It's quite possible I'd end up in a video clip on someone's camera phone, shown over and over on The O'Reilly Factor, or get run over on the sidewalk by an enraged flag defender in an Escalade.
I'm brave enough to write all sorts of things in this paper, but I ain't stupid. I'm not prepared to die because one of my fellow Americans doesn't respect one of my American freedoms.
The real reason that we don't need a flag-burning amendment? They've made it way too scary to burn a damn flag. They've made us value the symbol of freedom over the actual freedom.