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June 15, 2012

Betsy Ross and Free Speech

Harry M. Covert

It's important to honor and revere Old Glory and not just on the day set aside as Flag Day. The official observance was yesterday, June 14. It didn't have to be a federal holiday, a day off, to be a proud flag waving day.


I don't give any credence to those who take pleasure besmirching the Betsy Ross creation, which has stood the test of time, honoring the nation and Americans of all stripes.


I'm one of those who wears a flag lapel pin. I often rotate between a dual decorations that includes a state or commonwealth flag, or another combination of the U.S.-United Kingdom. On Sundays, it's not unusual to see such accoutrements as The Flag with the Christian flag. It's a rather dazzling combination and often draws attention and comments.


Once during an impromptu visit to Washington, some friends and I happened upon a demonstration. A bunch of unkempt ignoramuses were attempting some disruption in front of the Department of Education. They were whooping and hollering, just being nuisances. The reason for this early morning bellyaching was not evident. Suddenly one of the crowd pulled out a cigarette lighter and a flag attempting to burn it.


Among my colleagues was a burley former college football player. Before the fellow could get the flame started, he was knocked to the cement and someone landed a big fist to his nose. Shortly blood was streaming down his face and the sidewalk emblazoned with red splotches.


There was no media around that day; no video recording, nor still photography, and no risk of an Internet appearance. In those days there was no such thing as telephones with cameras, or the web. Organizers apparently didn't know anything about media contact.


Yes, free speech may have been curtailed a bit that day. I don't think so. It was fun to see someone come to the defense of good versus evil, the symbol of America, preserving honor. No police were on the scene. After some slobbering, the group dispersed, afraid of any more pugilistic activities. No criminal case here either.


Not wearing a suit or sports jacket? A flag pin can adorn shirt pockets or collars.


On occasion, just to be different, I wear a silver fly. That's right, a fly. During May, it's not unusual for me to wear a tasteful gold Confederate States of America adornment. I also have a tiny pin symbolizing a shock of wheat. The interesting thing is no one ever comments or asks their meanings.


Let me explain. The fly pin arrived on my desk in 1958. Producers of the Vincent Price movie "The Fly" sent the symbol to newspapers all over the country. A friend provided the CSA ornament and the wheat shock was a gift from "gleaners," who collect food for the world's hungry.


I've never been one to wear t-shirts with names of products or companies, nor do I have the names of car-dealers on vehicles I drive. I draw the line at free advertising. The exception is for Betsy Ross' creation. Even when I'm traveling abroad it's always with me. Once in a coffee shop near London's Trafalgar Square, there was a nice welcoming smile, and this, "Hello Yank!"


Is there no protection from Barbara Fritchie and the Mason Dixon Line?


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