Other Voices: The flag is a symbol, but some symbols matter


I read the Oct. 25 “No Shoes, Please” column by Grace Acosta reiterating views that have been propagated in news reports and op-ed pieces for many months: professional athletes sitting or kneeling for the national anthem and presentation of the colors. She claims it is a legitimate use of First Amendment rights and an appropriate forum and method to draw attention to current American social issues.

There is a Veterans Affairs hospital right down Foothill Expressway. Did Ms. Acosta interview any folks there for their perspectives? Does she know well any vets at all? Those folks at the VA and all military veterans – my late father, my uncles, my cousins, my classmates, my buddies, myself, many of them combat veterans – took an oath to defend this nation, as ordered, with our lives if necessary. Those wounded vets at the VA hospital paid a very high price; their input might affect her opinions, though I am aware that a small percentage of vets do support the kneeling NFL players.

Regardless of the wisdom of our government’s involvement in certain armed conflicts, those who volunteered or were called to do the hard, dangerous, undercompensated work of defending the U.S. and/or our allies and interests view the flag as an important reminder of this nation’s generally noble 241-year history and the sacrifices made by their predecessors and compatriots to maintain our freedoms. Not that the country is perfect, but those sacrifices made since the Revolutionary War – an estimated 1,322,389 Americans killed (source: U.S. Military Institute), plus millions wounded, plus those fortunate millions of us who were unscathed – are represented by that flag.

That also goes for military families and many other important constituencies, for example the “Rosie the Riveters” who supported the World War II effort here at home.

All of these selfless folks ensured that Ms. Acosta and the rest of us can spout off without recrimination from the comfort of our sofas. Further, many Americans who did not serve in the military or formally or directly support military efforts also view the flag in the same reverent manner. You don’t have to wear a uniform or have discharge papers to understand and respect the flag’s historical significance.

Put another way, the “flag issue” is not just about the problems of today; it is far bigger and more significant than that. Thus, in many minds, the full-sized displayed flag – very different from a pin or a patch – is not a “tool” to be co-opted for “causes,” regardless of their merit. Are you going to use a Quran or a Bible or a rosary to hold up the corner of an unbalanced restaurant table? I would hope not, because you know it would be disrespectful to those who hold those items sacred.

So yes, Ms. Acosta, like those items, the flag is a symbol, and whether you believe it or not, some symbols matter.

If the Town Crier – a wonderful local paper – feels it must run opinion pieces on national affairs, how about having well-researched side-by-side columns, pro and con, on a single topic? Unlike most news/opinion sources, you would be demonstrating refreshing balance. Just a thought. We all know that bias is rampant in the mainstream media.

John Gordon is a Los Altos resident.

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