3/08/2008

Re “Fly your flag upside down” (Monitor letter, March 2):

I agree with everything Mr. Butterworth said, except the part about turning the flag upside down.

Many of us disrespected the flag in the Vietnam era to show our disgust with the war. Some people sewed the flag on the seats of their torn jeans or burned the flag or refused to stand for the National Anthem. That turned out to be a terrible mistake.

Most of us war protesters were extremely patriotic. “My country, right or wrong: When right to keep it right; when wrong to put it right.” It’s amazing how many people don’t know that statement has a second half.

When a minority of war protesters disrespected the flag, it permitted our opponents to brand all of us as unpatriotic or un-American. Amazingly, when the vast majority of Americans turned against the war, they never forgave the war protesters who got it right from the start. They continued to see us as anti-American when only a few of us felt that way about our country. The country is still polarized over that 40-year-old breach.

My advice to Mr. Butterworth and others who feel as he does: Keep your protest focused on the issues, not on the flag or America itself. These belong to you as much as they do to your adversaries. Don’t let them claim ownership of patriotism or the flag, and marginalize patriots like you.

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