True Colors

November 15
, 2001

Berkeley banned it from their fire engines, and Sears had it removed from service vehicles. Texas A&M ordered it stripped from dorm windows for creating an “exclusionary environment,” and ABC News said its display compromised their credibility. "Especially in a time of national crisis, the most patriotic thing journalists can do is to remain as objective as possible,” network spokesman Jeffrey Schneider said.  “We cannot signal how we feel about a cause, even a justified and just cause, through some sort of outward symbol."

In the aftermath of Sept. 11, Americans across the nation stood united, echoing that proud refrain, “Oh say does that star spangled banner yet wave…”  And it did.  From overpasses and t-shirts, antennas and front porches, the nation was bathed in red, white, and blue.  Wherever citizens were free to raise the flag, they lifted Old Glory aloft, and drew comfort from our colors.  But from their ivory towers, the mandarins clucked scorn.

"It's very important that our viewers perceive us as giving them unvarnished information," said NBC News executive vice president Bill Wheatley in the wake of the attacks. "We wouldn't permit anything that raises questions about our objectivity."  Likewise, Forrest Carr, news director at NBC’s St. Petersburg, Florida affiliate issued a memo, “Patriotic ribbons are not appropriate for journalists who may be called upon to question the actions of the government.”  Not that the media has ever been faulted for excessive patriotism.

Several years ago, in his book, The Revolt of the Elites, Christopher Lasch documented the rise of a new privileged class.  Insulated from middle America by a growing income gap, they flock to the coasts, establishing their own cultured communities apart from a greater notion of country.  Unlike the barons of better days, this new ruling class, ruthless in its material pursuits, “has lost faith in the values, or what remains of them, of the West.”  Indeed, concluded Lasch, “it is a question of whether they think of themselves as Americans at all.”

Recall President Clinton’s recent speech at Georgetown University where he lambasted the country he once led for “terror that has existed in America for hundreds of years.”  This is liberalism’s harvest:  our past is shameful, our present oppressive, our future dependent on replacing misbegotten patriotism with multicultural tolerance.  Thus our new elites indulge fashionable disdain for the country that gave them birth.

In peacetime, their contempt was disheartening.  In peril, it’s treasonous.  The flag they would lower has flown over trenches where they would not have fought and marked frontiers they would not have blazed.  The glory of their nation was bought by those who loved her best, not the sideline critics who fret that our emblem is “culturally offensive.”

Congressman Tom Tancredo suggests a first step back to good.  This week, he introduced the “Freedom to be a Patriot Act,” which blocks taxpayer funding for any organization that bans patriotic display of the American flag.  The public library system in his home state of Colorado refuses to hang the flag at its main branch.  He recognizes as we do that no law can ransom a nation turned on herself.  But the will of a patriotic people can.  In tragedy, our impulse to rally round the flag remained, and try as they might, our elites have failed to convince the masses that their allegiance is misplaced. 

Decades ago, an author now nameless wrote of our banner’s most historic hoisting, “The American flag was raised over Mount Surabachi upon the bodies of thousands of dead buddies. Each night spent on Iwo Jima half of everyone you knew would be dead tomorrow, a coin flip away from a bloody end upon a patch of sand their mother couldn't find on a map.” 

So to the lordly newsmen, the squeamish school administrators, the CEOS in their penthouse offices: answer to these fallen before you lower their flag.  They knew its worth – and so does the country forever in their debt. 

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