The Senate is poised to vote on the same proposed constitutional amendment to prohibit flag desecration that was passed by the House last year. The proposed amendment is a radical approach to a near nonexistent dilemma, akin to the atomic bombing of a city because there may be a felon in the area.
The flag is a beautiful and inspiring banner representing freedom and justice for all Americans. It is freely displayed, and can be protected only by us, the people. Each citizen can gaze upon it, and it can mean what our heartfelt patriotic beliefs tell us individually.
Government "protection" of a nation's banner only invites scorn upon it. A patriot cannot be created by legislation. Patriotism must be nurtured in the family and educational process. It must come from the heartfelt emotion of true beliefs, credos, and tenets. Our beautiful flag represents those beliefs, credos, and tenets that are outlined by the Constitution of the United States of America.
When the flag is not accorded proper consideration under the flag code, it upsets patriotic Americans. And rightly so. The amendment, however, does not protect the banner from desecration as claimed by proponents - all it will do is invite flag abuse by societal detractors and endless litigation.
Yes, the Constitution can be amended. But will an amendment that is in obvious conflict with the First Amendment accomplish a purpose, or will it bring further confusion and discontent, diminishing the beauty the flag has today as it hangs free, revered by us, the people, not ordered by government edict?
Our nation was not founded on devotion to symbolic idols, but on principles, beliefs, and ideals expressed in the Constitution and its Bill of Rights. American veterans who have protected our banner in battle have not done so to protect a "golden calf." Instead, they carried the banner forward with reverence for what it represents - our beliefs and freedom for all. Therein lies the beauty of our flag.
The proposed amendment would stain the image of our banner, as it would no longer wave free, unprotected by government and freely held high by the citizens of the USA.
Are we now, after 209 successful and glorious years, going to knuckle under to the pressure of modern lobbying techniques to pursue pseudo patriotism? Organizations exploiting high tech lobbying, spending millions of dollars pressuring lawmakers and pandering to a false patriotism, should rethink their priorities and not succumb to the temptation of this "golden calf."
WE must not delegate to government our responsibility of citizenship lest we endanger our most precious freedoms.
Teaching in the home and in our schools the principles evident in our Constitution and Bill of Rights requires responsibility and sacrifice. That energy enhances pride in our heritage. Let's use the advanced technology of the 21st century, the computer, e-mail, the Internet, and all new communication advances to outline American ideals, inspire good citizens, and create new patriots in lieu of spreading false patriotism by the panacea of an amendment.
Respect for our beautiful flag can only come from the hearts of the people. Attempts to bestow honor by government decree upon the flag are idle myths and must not prevail.
* Keith A. Kreul, a retired US Department of Agriculture employee and US Army veteran, was national commander of The American Legion in 1983. He lives in Fennimore, Wis.