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Let the people decide if their flag is worth protecting

Re: Freedom to burn, Sept. 12.

This editorial characterizes flag amendment supporters in Congress as "spineless politicians," while painting those who oppose protecting Old Glory as "courageous leaders."

Interestingly, the overwhelming majority of people in this nation agree with the so-called "spineless" majority in Congress who support the amendment, not with the minority that opposes it.

It is absurd to suggest that the flag represents the freedom to burn it. There is no historical precedent and scant legal precedent for such a theory. The flag is the symbol of our nation and it symbolizes what the people say it symbolizes, and the vast majority certainly don't think that includes the freedom to desecrate it.

Polling, consistent over 15 years, reveals that more than 70 percent of the people in this nation believe the flag deserves protection. All 50 state legislatures have petitioned Congress to propose a flag protection amendment. An amendment has passed the House of Representatives five times in the last nine years and come within three votes of passing in the Senate.

All that stands between the people and their flag is the U.S. Senate. It's time for those few senators who discount the will of the people and who, like the Times, belittle the good sense of their colleagues who champion flag protection to either step forward in support or step out of the way and let the people decide, through the process of ratification, if their flag is worthy of legal protection.

Marty Justis, director, Americanism and

Children & Youth Division, American Legion

National Headquarters, Indianapolis

Our liberties need the protection

Re: Freedom to burn, Sept. 12.

Thanks for your editorial opposing the effort to amend the Constitution to authorize Congress to punish desecration of the American flag.

The flag is a powerful symbol. As a retired officer, I served 30 years under that flag. You cannot serve our country as a soldier without a sense of patriotism, without being moved by our important symbols.

However, I never lost sight of the fact that the flag is venerated because it is a symbol of the liberties our Founders guaranteed in the Bill of Rights, liberties that justify the sacrifice of countless service men and women who fought an died to protect them. It is our liberties that make the United States unique among nations. We are a country where every issue can be debated, where citizens who disagree with the policies formulated by a current but transient majority can even burn our flag in protest.

The flag does not need this amendment to "protect" it. It needs Americans who understand the importance of preserving our liberties to contact our senators and tell them to preserve the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of speech by voting against this amendment.

Mike Pheneger, colonel, U.S. Army (retired),

Tampa

Strange and outdated arguments

The strangest arguments are advanced by your Sept. 12 editorial Freedom to burn to justify flag-burning. Even if we were not at war they would be ludicrous, but in the midst of war they are insulting as well.

Of course, I realize that the older anti-Vietnam protesters and their countercultural companions (or their converts) are still alive and kicking in the media, but that era is past. Furthermore, it is protests like the editorial that continue to upset voters and defeat the Democratic Party, as they have been doing since the '60s.

I doubt the Senate vote will not pass, nor will the necessary number of states reject the amendment. Your protests are past history and have outlived whatever usefulness they may have had.

W.H. Riddell, Tampa

With friends like this . . .

The Sept. 12 article Serving two flags reports this administration's continued favoritism of Israel, influenced by the number of administrators who are heavily pro-Israel, leading to moles inside our government helping that country with stolen information. If they are such good friends, why do they have to spy on us? This isn't the first time.

And what's the measure of a "good friend"? Do any of our other friends spy on us to the degree that Israel has (Jonathan Pollard)? Has any other friend sunk one of our Navy's ships (the USS Liberty)?

What has Israel ever done for the United States to get this "good-friend" status? Helped us in disasters? Fought beside us in conflicts? Has Israel followed U.N. resolutions to reduce tensions? I don't think so. The major quality of this relationship is to take taxpayer money and use it for military means to kill Palestinians, almost 3,000 in the past three years.

The horrors of Adolf Hitler occurred more than half a century ago, as did the killings of many more millions by Josef Stalin. I am not responsible for those events, and I'm tired of having them served to me on the guilt tray. The Holocaust card is as tiring as the race card played by the Democrats and the liberal card used by the Republicans. Enough already!

Norm Haddad, Largo

Neglect of black history is key

Re: School's out, and Taking steps to promote academics, Sept. 12.

Pinellas school official Randy Lightfoot suggested that schools establish high expectations and inclusive classroom environments. As a black student having attended and graduated from public schools in Florida, I believe that the root of the problem lies with the lack of inclusion of the history of black Americans in this country and civil rights in the curriculum. Is it really a big surprise that minority students enthusiastically embrace hip-hop culture while rejecting a culture and a school system that has systematically excluded and ignored the history of their people in this society?

As the daughter and granddaughter of English teachers, I was one of those students deemed as "acting white" for excelling academically and speaking proper English _ and that was almost 20 years ago, before hip-hop exploded, so obviously this onus does not rest on Ludacris or Lil John.

Also, let's not forget hip-hop is a subculture. The larger problem lies in American culture, overall, and how we, as a society, have defined or redefined success over the past three decades. It's not just black America that has its priorities skewed. Quite simply, wealth and excess are glorified while family systems and true values have long ago taken a back seat.

Bridget Sermon, Sarasota

Try a higher level label

Re: I'm Black, not African-American, Sept. 11.

John McWhorter has progressed beyond "African-American." He now calls himself "Black" and pleads with others to do the same. Maybe he will rise to the greater level and call himself "American" just like millions of other citizens do.

Gregory Sevachko, Holiday

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