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Free Speech & The Golden Rule

When I was driving around my town the other day, I came upon these flags flying proudly, the lower one waving its protest in the crisp winter breeze.

I had driven a block or so by the time it hit my brain waves just what I had seen. I took the next left, and the next left, drove slowly back the way I had come craning my neck to the left as I looked for evidence of the picture I wanted for the blog that was already forming quickly in my mind.

I found the flags again, did another left and pulled to the side of the road right at the stop sign. I positioned my phone’s camera to take a picture when, and if, the wind cooperated to frame the flags just right so the bottom one would be readable. I kept a look behind me. Nothing there. Then, just when the right moment came, I heard a loud horn blast from a truck behind me. The crossroad was clear and of course, he wanted to be on his way. I relinquished my picture-taking effort, drove across the road and did an illegal U-turn. Now, positioned better to see the flags in the wind, but facing into the sun, I pulled over, put my blinker on, and readied my camera. There it was! Perfect! I snapped the shot. Yes, it said exactly what I thought it did. The paw-printed flag flying respectfully below “Old Glory” shouted the words, “MY DOG IS SMARTER THAN THE PRESIDENT”

Now I’ve owned a few dogs that were very smart indeed but I don’t think this is about smart dogs, as much as it is a statement about how the resident of this house feels about presidential decisions. I doubt that the flag owner has inside information about the President’s IQ or even cares what his IQ is. What he, or she, is protesting is the level of intelligence that would lead a president to make the decisions he has made since taking office.

Seeing these two flags flying freely in the wind, reminded me how grateful I am to live in a country where people have the constitutional right of freedom of speech. It seems obvious to me that the resident who chose to fly these two flags, is also grateful for a free country in which to live. The country’s flag is flying, showing patriotism, and loyalty to its national heritage. The second flag, flying as it is, where it is, indicates subordination to that which flies above. Yet, while it is subordinate to it, it is not bound by it. Those freedoms, protected by the force of its own power, allow for protest against itself in whatever voice a citizen choses. An emotional response arose within me, giving flight to a wave of gratitude, joy, and contentment, as strong as the flags wildly waving their patriotism and protest. This is my home now. This is where I live; this is where I belong.

I sat there in my car and watched those flags. I took a video of them. Then, as quickly as the wind rose holding those flags out taunt and straight, that wild fury became nothing more than a whispering breeze, until finally only the flagpole held them aloft. Both flags sagged until they were almost invisible next to the pole. The message of the paw-printed flag disappeared. Now at least, a few of the occupants in the cars going by will not read its words. I don’t agree with those words. Not because of any opinion I may have about the President, but because the words are mean-spirited. They are unkind. And while the person who chose them and flew them high on a pole has every right to do so, I believe it is wrong behavior. This is not a message anyone wants to hear said about them. It is a right, but it is not right.

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