An odd little church in Florida touched off a global controversy by threatening to burn a Koran on September 11.  They announced the burning had been postponed, but there have already been riots in Indonesia, and injuries in Afghanistan.  Naturally, these riots have been accompanied by the burning of American flags.  When rage and hatred blaze in the dark corners of the Earth, the symbol of American freedom is usually the first thing to catch fire.

American flags were burned on September 11, 2001 as well.  They dissolved into ash while Palestinians danced around them, singing and passing out candy to celebrate the fall of the Twin Towers.  They were vaporized in the blasts of superheated jet fuel that ripped through the corridors of those towers, and the Pentagon.  They melted on the shoulders of heroic firefighters who ran into a million tons of cascading rubble and never came back.

That grand old American flag has seen her share of abuse.  The sight of her riding the winds of dawn, her beauty unspoiled by a night of cannon fire, inspired the poetry which became our national anthem.  She was made to march along the Trail of Tears, where brave men died of exhaustion in her shadow.  She was carried into battle against her own sons, and drifted sadly over ground soaked with their blood at Shiloh, Antietam, and Gettysburg.  She greeted the morning of December 7, 1941 above the decks of eighteen doomed ships, warmed by their last gorgeous Hawaiian sunrise.  She was burned and spat upon as an insult to the men who carried her honor into the jungles of Vietnam.

And yet, the American flag has never been desecrated.

She is the symbol of a unique nation: born in the defiance of tyranny, baptized in the destruction of slavery, and coming of age when it rescued the world from genocidal evil.  Those who destroy our flag earn nothing but our contempt.  They abuse their freedom of speech to level such an insult… but if you embrace the freedom to perform only virtuous deeds, you will soon find that what you’re holding isn’t “freedom” at all, as the arbiters of “virtue” lay their heavy hands upon your shoulder.

Anyone who seeks to desecrate the Stars and Stripes, on either foreign or domestic soil, is a fool. The power of that flag is far beyond their reach.  It is a flame that warmed the freezing waters of the Delaware, as George Washington and his force of starving yeomen brought defeat to the invincible British army.  It was raised above the bloody rocks of Iwo Jima by men who would have acted no differently if they had known half of them would be dead within a matter of weeks, resting beside seven thousand of their brother Marines.  Our flag rose again above the rubble of the World Trade Center, in the hands of firemen who spent the day pulling survivors from the burning dust.  They wanted to do something for all the people they couldn’t save… a gesture of enduring love, and defiance of the sickening evil that tore them from their loved ones.

The image of those firemen and their flag passed through the lens of photographer Thomas Franklin, and into eternity.  The blood of liberty is made from the remembrance of such moments.  Franklin would later say, “This was an important shot. It told more than just death and destruction. It said something to me about the strength of the American people and of these firemen having to battle the unimaginable.”

That’s what America is: a never-ending battle against the unimaginable.

No cretin with a cigarette lighter can touch the compassion and courage woven into the cloth those firemen raised above Ground Zero.  Burn that flag and prove you are a savage, or a spoiled brat.  Spit upon it and soil yourself.  Stamp it beneath your feet, and diminish.  You might as well try to extinguish the Sun.  Instead of protecting your symbols with promises of destruction and murder, think about what makes the American flag untouchable, and be elevated.

No nation has ever loved the whole of mankind as much as the United States of America.  Our fallen soldiers lie in every corner of the Earth as proof.  Love is patient, and love is kind.  We forgive the world its trespasses.  On September 11th, we ask its patience and kindness, as we recall the day unimaginable evil descended upon New York and Washington, and we once more took up the burden of doing battle with it.

Cross-posted at

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