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Getting back to the flag

Last night I awoke in a cold sweat, panting in fear. With everyone in the nation gung-ho about US forces finally doing some long-needed damage in the Middle East, it seemed that almost everyone had forgotten about the apparently urgent, life-threatening need to prevent desecration of the American flag. Is it just me, or has the clatter of helicopter blades in Saudi Arabia drowned out the hottest constitutional debate since the Equal Rights Amendment?

A few short months ago, George Bush had managed to convince a few of us that a red, white and blue polyester shrine means more than the freedoms it stands for, and urged us to commit to eternal damnation those heathens who prefer to treat their flag, their property, according to their constitutional right of free speech. Shame on those who would commit actions of flag desecration that might disturb others; shame on those who refuse to conform. Where do they think they are, in a democracy?

Now, however, with the Persian Gulf crisis coming to a head, Mr. Bush has managed to secure bipartisan support for his foreign policy, and, with popularity polls running high, no longer needs the potentially explosive flag issue to rally the public into a tide of Bush-led patriotism. Now, unwilling to let the flag issue divide the nation while he is doing so well, Mr. Bush has dropped it cold. With the president confident in his support and distracted on matters of real significance, the silliness of his flag policies is apparent.

Mr. Bush must assume that we of this nation are dullards with poor memories.

Alas, the flag may rise from the dead, provided that support for US intervention in the Middle East wanes in the future. In six months, the economic burden of military deployment may force other nations to pull their troops out of the peace-keeping contingent in Saudi Arabia. This action would leave US forces alone, and destroy the international consensus for maintaining pressure against Saddam Hussein. All the American public needs to see is American troops defending a patch of land far away that nobody else cares about, for public opinion to turn against Bush and Operation Desert Shield. At this time, patriotism and flag burning may return to the argument pool. The White House could well turn the issue of respecting the flag into that of supporting soldiers enduring hardship overseas. Once again, the Bill of Rights will come under fire.

Some anti-Bill of Rightsers may lament the changing nature of patriotism in the nation, and long for a consistence of opinion. I'm sure that they argue that steady patriotism is important for morale in the armed forces and psychologically uplifting for the nation -- and sometimes this is even true. But the people of this nation don't need patriotism rammed down their throats -- the present crisis has proved this. Americans will rally behind the flag when they believe it right, and that is the way it should be.

who

Matthew Hersch, a freshman, lives at Delta Kappa Epsilon.

Mr. Bush must assume that we of this nation are dullards with poor memories.

In six months, the economic burden of military deployment may force other nations to pull their troops out of the peace-keeping contingent in Saudi Arabia.

Americans will rally behind the flag when they believe it right, and that is the way it should be.

Is it just me, or has the clatter of helicopter blades in Saudi Arabia drowned out the hottest constitutional debate since the Equal Rights Amendment?