Probably by now you've heard of the U.S. Army veteran named Jim Broussard who recently cut down a couple of flags above a Reno bar because the bar owner (a Mexican-American) was flying a Mexican flag above the Stars and Stripes.
When Broussard heard about this abomination, he marched down to the Cantina El Jaripeo and—with television cameras rolling—cut down both flags. He tossed the Mexican flag on the ground, raised the U.S. flag to the camera and blurted, “I'm Jim Broussard, and I took this flag down in honor of my country.” Then he ranted for a few more moments and ended by saying that the bar owner would have to fight to get his flag back.
Now, it is true that the flag code prohibits flying the U.S. flag below any other. Naturally, there has been much discussion about whether Broussard's actions were patriotic or criminal, but I think an even better question is, “Should flying another flag above the U.S. flag even be illegal in the first place?”
The United States Federal Flag Code was drafted by the American Legion in 1923 and adopted by Congress in 1942. The rule that Cantina El Jaripeo violated was from Section 3(g), which states that flags of two or more nations “are to be flown from separate staffs of the same height.”
Some states have penalties for breaking the flag code while others do not. However, all states consider the flag code as law. And that's the part that creeps me out. The fact that it's a real true actual law is just a little too Heil Hitler for my liking. Not to mention how a lot of these laws are just plain silly, like Section 4(b), which states that the flag should never touch the ground (to which I ask, what's wrong with ground? Ground is cool) and Section 2(b), which commands, “The flag should be hoisted briskly and lowered ceremoniously” (to which I ask, must there really be a law about which adverbs should describe my flag raising and lowering? Can't I raise it judiciously and lower it lovingly? What about wildly and affectionately? If I raise it kookily and lower it drunkenly, will the flag police take me away? How about frantically and passionately? Fearlessly and dramatically? What gives?).
Then there's the first line from Section 4, which requires that the flag be shown respect at all times. Oh, man. There should never be laws that require you to respect something or someone. Respect is earned, not legislated. You want to know how to ensure that people respect the flag? By making it safe and legal not to; by having enough faith and confidence in your country to let people treat the flag however they like—let them burn it, tear it, wear it, trample it, eat it, bury it, smoke it, suck it and shit on it if they want. Allow them to do these things to the flag and, by and large, they will not.
Don't get me wrong, I believe the flag code should be observed by government agencies—at schools, post offices, firehouses and the like. And the code is great for regular Joes who want to respect the flag properly. It just should never be a crime not to, especially when it comes to dissent. If you don't want people to burn down the actual U.S.A., then you damn well better let them burn up the symbol of it. So they can have an outlet to say, “Hey, there's something I don't like about America!” Then, when you come across a person who is disrespecting the flag in some manner, whether by burning, inverting or—gasp!—flying another flag above your precious flag, you can just say to yourself, Hmm. Must be something he doesn't like about America, and then continue walking along your merry way because, in the end, a person should be able to not like something about America if they want to, and they should be permitted to say so.
It's called speech and it's supposed to be relatively free.
Not that I think the cantina owner was intending to disrespect to Old Glory. It seems obvious that the man was displaying his affection for both countries but, since he's from Mexico and probably loves Mexico most, he flew the Mexican flag on top. That's cool. I get that. It should be perfectly acceptable for somebody to love their birth country more than they love the one they live in and, again, it should be perfectly OK to say so.
But Jim Broussard the bully doofus decided he was going to steal the bar's flag and vandalize the other, which is just unbelievably fucked. Even if he did have a legitimate beef with the bar owner, tossing the Mexican flag on the ground like a piece of trash was an affront to all Mexicans: The ones in Mexico and the ones right here—the ones who obey the law, who pay taxes, who serve in the military. The ones who fly our colors respectfully. The ones who are just regular upstanding American citizens who would never in a million years storm onto your property, steal your shit and taunt you into a fistfight like a playground terrorist.
Hey, Jimbo, if you want to ensure that every Mexican-American in Reno starts disrespecting Old Glory, just keep treating them the way you've been treating them.
Jerk.During an interview with Neil Cavuto of Fox News, Broussard gave this as the reason for his actions: “It is important to me, above all, that our country remember to be patriotic.”
Above all? Patriotism? Really? That's the most important thing? Hmmm, what about, oh, I don't know, reducing crime? Fighting bigotry? What about protecting the environment? How about solving some real true actual problems like the shrinking of the middle class or the collapse of the dollar? What about Britney's kids? Oh, Lord God in Heaven, who shall look over them?!
But patriotism? Pffft! Just like symbols, patriotism is empty calories. Devotion to your country is not nearly as important as helping your country become something worth your devotion. No matter how hard you try, no matter how many laws you enact, no matter how many vigilante patriots you enlist, you can't make people love the flag if they don't love the country, and fatheads like Jim Broussard are making this country increasingly difficult to love.