Mike Rowe ridiculed Massachusetts’s Hampshire College for its decision to remove the U.S. flag from campus because it instilled students with “fear.”
A better option, Rowe suggested, might be “simply educating them about the undeniable fact that no country on the planet affords its citizens more liberty than this one.”
Seems reasonable to me. But some had issues with his exercise of free speech and Rowe responded in detail to one, Susanne McDaniel, in particular.
“How did you become so blindly patriotic? First of all, the college you were referencing in your rant about the American flag is a private college and doesn’t receive federal funding. However…the very essence of freedom in this country is our right to speak out against the flag, which is a mere symbol.
“If you take away that right, then we have lost all freedom. You really need to take a civics course, Mike Rowe. I used to like you; but, you have really become very annoying to me in recent years. I thought you were more intelligent. But, I guess appearances aren’t everything.”
“I’ve never thought of myself as ‘blindly patriotic,’ but I am a fan of the United States, the founding fathers, and the men and women who have served on my behalf. I also confess to feeling lucky to live here.
“Having said that, I think you’re correct about the flag; it’s only a symbol. So too is the Crucifix. And the middle finger. And the Swastika. And the compressed chunks of carbon that millions wear on their ring fingers as expressions of timeless love and eternal devotion…
“But if you really believe our flag is nothing but a ‘mere symbol,’ equally suitable for flying or burning, ask yourself if you’d be comfortable if the people you work with suddenly started coming to the office in pointy white hats fashioned from bedsheets? Would that be a problem for you? Or how about The Rainbow Flag, favored by the LGBTQ community? Would it be OK if people started burning that? If not, why not? I mean, it’s only a symbol, right?”
“The thing about ‘mere symbols’ Susanne, is that they represent ‘mere ideas,’ and ‘mere ideas’ are the backbone of ‘mere humanity.’ In the case of the flag, we’re talking about ideas that are wrapped into the Constitution — a document that separates us from every other country on the planet.
“Mere ideas are the reason people fight and die. Mere ideas are the reason we’re allowed to speak freely, protest publicly, bear arms, and burn the very symbol that represents those very freedoms. I didn’t suggest that you or anyone else be denied your right to fly or burn whatever flag you wish. What I failed to do, is quietly accept behavior I don’t care for. Which, if I’m not mistaken, is the same compulsion that motivates others to publicly express themselves in whatever ways they choose.”
FYI: Hampshire College is flying the American flag on campus again.