Maj. Gen. Pat Brady (USA, Ret.)
Chairman of the Board
Citizens Flag Alliance, Inc.
PO Box 7197
Indianapolis, Indiana 46207-7197
The Citizens Flag Alliance, Inc. is a coalition of some 125 organizations representing every element of our diverse culture, some 20 million souls with one mission and one mission only -- to return to the people the right to protect their flag. This was a right we enjoyed since our birth, a right taken away from us by the Supreme Court.
We want it back.
If you are like 80% of your fellow Americans, you also want it back. But like the majority of us, you are very busy and your time is precious. Even so, you can help very much, and it will take little time.
The U.S. Senate is considering an amendment which would restore our ability to protect our flag. Sixty-seven votes will make this happen. I am asking you to help, I am asking you to make a powerful statement on this issue by showing your colors. Fly the flag. Fly it at home. Fly it at work. Fly it on your street corners. And fly it in your schools.
There is no better way to teach our children the essentials of respect, patriotism, and values than through the vision of our beautiful banner. And when you show your colors, you not only teach our children about the origins of the bounty that is America, you also say thanks to those whose sacrifices brought us that bounty.
The greatest worth of our flag is that respect for our flag has promoted respect in our society. And it has promoted the values that make us the most respected nation on the planet. Our children learn so much when they see our flag, and if enough Senators see enough flags, they will join the people and allow us to recapture “Old Glory.”
American Values, we cherish them. Our values are a heritage we as Americans share and a legacy most of us want to pass on to our children and grandchildren. These values have their basis in the Declaration of Independence and Constitution. These values are symbolized by the flag of the United States.
Because of their significance to us, as a united people, President Clinton, in his State of the Union address in January 1998, called these documents and our flag “America’s treasures” and called on us to save them for the ages. He spoke of the restoration of the “star-spangled” banner that flew over Fort McHenry in the War of 1812, the very flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to pen our national anthem on the back of an envelope.
The President also referred to the flag of the United States that Senator John Glenn will wear once again as he orbits Earth for NASA this year. Our flag, the living symbol of our American values marks, the President said, “the unbroken connection between the deeds of America’s past and the daring of America’s future.” How very apt. Throughout our history, that flag has inspired defenders of our freedoms to press on to the goal, to achieve great deeds when nothing less would suffice. The mere sight of “Old Glory” waving majestically reminded them of America, their home, a home and a flag worth defending.
But you don’t need to have worn the uniform of our country to know the values our flag represents. Immigrants to Ellis Island and San Francisco knew its meaning. It was their flag. It was not the flag of their king or of their fathers. But it would be their flag and the flag of their children. It would be respected as a symbol of hope, not despair; a symbol of freedom, not oppression. As time passed, that same flag flew over their privately owned places of business, tangible evidence of American “freedom of opportunity.” It was a silent testament that told the world, “Here, in America, you can go as far as your dreams will take you.”
The flag flew over their schools as a symbol of free public education and the value they placed on their children’s future well-being. The flag was given an honored place in their churches and synagogues as a symbol of the value they placed on the freedom to worship as they choose. We today, as did generations past, proudly fly this living symbol of our country. For many of us, our flag flies over our homes to show our respect for those freedoms we cherish and to show the pride we have in our country.
This is not arrogance, but faith. We know America is not a perfect country, but it is a good country, and we are a people always striving to become that nation under God envisioned by our Founders. This is the essence of the values that have made ours the greatest country on earth. And our flag symbolizes the common goals we share as Americans. It keeps us focused on those things that bind us together, when there are so many forces trying to tear us apart. So meaningful was this single symbol of our unity of spirit and aspiration that we protected it by law from physical desecration for more than 200 years.
We lost that right in 1989 when the Supreme Court ruled that flag desecration was protected free speech. For this, we can thank the courts and those who defended Gregory Lee Johnson. Johnson was leading a lawful protest in Dallas, Texas, when one of his group ripped a flag from a bank in Dallas, hurled it to the ground, doused it with lighter fluid, set it on fire and, hating everything about America and its people, chanted “America, the red, white and blue -- we spit on you.”
Conduct, not speech -- that’s what 80 percent of Americans believe, and that’s what they have said in poll after poll taken since that fateful Supreme Court decision in 1989 when five of nine justices departed from the well-worn path of tradition and common sense to decree that flag desecration is speech.
But four justices disagreed. They reviewed previous decisions and examined existing federal and state laws. They recalled 200 years of precedent and protection. They remembered Thomas Jefferson’s words when he wrote that violation of the flag was worthy of a “systematic and severe” course of punishment. They recalled the words of James Madison when he wrote that, an act of flag defacement in the streets of an American city was a most egregious violation of law “actionable in court.”
The decision of one Justice of the Supreme Court reversed 200 years of protection for a national treasure, the flag of the United States. “Just a piece of cloth” our opponents say, not worthy of protection. They tell us that Jefferson, Madison, and previous generations of Americans were wrong. They tell us not to be concerned, there are more important issues, but they never define those issues nor invite our opinion. Many call them “elitists,” because they, better than we, know what’s right for America. They will define the values by which we live.
They know little of us -- we the 80% of the American people who want protection restored to our flag. We, like our forefathers, are persistent. In the face of determined elitist opposition -- which would revise our history and destroy cherished traditions that we would pass on to our children -- we have continued since 1990 to wage a campaign for a constitutional amendment to restore protection for our flag.
Eight long years have led us to victories in the U.S. House of Representatives; now our focus is on the U.S. Senate. And why? Because we value our heritage. When conduct that has not been tolerated in our society for 200 years is proclaimed to be good, evil triumphs. Yet, we are not helpless. We can change this. We can show our intolerance of flag desecration by joining the “Show your Colors, America!” campaign. Each of us can make a difference by doing one simple thing: fly your flag over your home from Memorial Day to Veterans Day. Ask your neighbors, friends, and those in your community to do the same. One simple act. One significant act.
The late Bishop Fulton J. Sheen said, “It is better to light one little candle than to curse the darkness.” Let each of us fly our flag this year as a positive statement about America and about the value of our flag and our heritage. Join the campaign to save our flag.
Call 1-800-424-FLAG. Ask for a free kit. Order a flag at cost. The kit has other simple suggestions on how you might ask others to become involved, simply by flying the flag of their country. On February 4th, Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Max Cleland (D-GA) introduced Senate Joint Resolution 40 into the United States Senate. It reads simply: “The Congress shall have power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States.”
The Senate vote will be taken before the end of the year. Like that single Supreme Court Justice in 1989 who destroyed the freedom of the people to protect their flag -- we may need only one more Senator to restore this precious freedom. And that one Senator may be your Senator. That’s why you must act now. Contact your Senators. Your voice may be the voice that Senator needs to hear. One justice. One senator. One person. And that one person is YOU. Call 1-800-424-FLAG and get involved now. Fly “Old Glory.” Call your Senators at 1-202-224-3121. Your voice will make the difference.
Work to restore our freedom to protect the flag not only for you, but for your children, your neighbors, your community, your country. Show your colors, America!
This article duplicates the script of a 12-minute videotape distributed by Citizens Flag Alliance. The videotape can be obtained free while supplies last from the address above. A sample videotape has been sent to the Secretary of each Valley in the Southern Jurisdiction with the suggestion that it be viewed as a Temple or Lodge program, shared with other appropriate groups, and broadcast on your local public access television station. To preview the videotape, contact the Secretary of your Valley and then “Show Your Colors, America!”