Every time we went to the mall, when I was a kid, we’d see it just over the crest of Bloomfield Ave in Verona, as we turned on to NJ-23. I checked to make sure that they’re still there and they are. At least the main offices are. The actual plant has been moved a few miles away to Roseland. I’m talking about Annin and Co, the world’s largest maker of flags, and official supplier to the United Nations.
There’s been a lot of talk lately about what you can and can’t do, or what you should and shouldn’t be allowed to do, to what is probably one of their biggest selling products – your basic red, white, and blue American flag. The United States Flag Code, which many of us learned as Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts is an official set of guidelines for flag design and treatment, but it doesn’t have the force of law. There are, however, those out there who want to create a Constitutional Amendment that would make it illegal for you to order a flag from Annin, or any other supplier, and burn it.
I don’t agree with these people.
I understand that they hold the American flag, and all the rights that it stands for, highly in their hearts. I understand that they consider burning an American flag for any reason other than its proper disposal to be the utmost in desecration. But I believe the one of the rights it stands for is the right to take the flag that you have paid for your with own cold hard cash, and burn it if you want, as long as you’re not violating any pollution ordinances.
That’s right. I believe that our flag stands for the right for us to destroy or deface it, as long as it’s your personal flag, and not one that you’ve taken from someone else.
Ironically, this means that while many have burned the flag in protest, it is indeed possible to burn it in celebration – in celebration that we have a Constitutionally protected right to do just that.
In fact, my two favorite magicians, Penn and Teller, have come to the same conclusion. As part of their Las Vegas act, they take an American flag, stuff it into a rolled up copy of the Bill of Rights from the Constitution, apparently set it on fire, and the Bill of Rights – the truly important thing, the thing which the flag represents – remains unscathed.
But my description here doesn’t do it justice. You have to see it and listen to Penn’s monologue for yourself, in order to get the full effect. Fortunately, that, like so many things these days, is available as a YouTube video.
Then, when you’re done watching that, check out what happens when they perform that same trick at the White House on “The West Wing.”
And then, think about all of these things on Sunday, which is Flag Day.