Burning the flag is not the answer

By Brad Polumbo

Eric Lynch/Flickr
(Eric Lynch/Flickr)

The First Amendment protects the right of all citizens to free speech and to protest or seek government redress in whatever way they see fit. College students across the country have long taken advantage of this right, and recent times in the aftermath of such a contentious presidential election are no exception.

Recently, the students and faculty of Hampshire College took advantage of this right – first as students chose to burn the American flag in response to their frustration with President-elect Donald Trump. After, the school’s administration decided to take down all American flags that flew on-campus in a similarly intended political statement. Now, in 1989 the Supreme Court ruled that flag burning as a protest was protected free speech under the First Amendment, so I’m certainly not going to contest their right to do so. But the same First Amendment that gives them the right to attack the symbol of the United States gives me the right to attack them for doing so.

When students at Hampshire College burn or otherwise attack the American flag, they do more than just disrespect our veterans – they display a woeful ignorance of their own privilege. You see, these same college students are the first people to bring up controversial topics like white privilege, male privilege and privilege of wealth, but they ignore the enormous privilege we all have as Americans.

By burning the American flag, you display an immense ingratitude and lack of appreciation for this privilege and for the people who have risked their lives for us all to have it. To burn our flag is an insult to every single veteran who has ever fought under it and it is to proclaim that, because your political interests did not prevail, you are now ashamed to be a part of this country. Well, be as ashamed as you would like but the fact of the matter is that many other countries in the world simply don’t have the same level of liberty, freedom and quality of life that we do in America – something that wasn’t achieved overnight or by accident. In fact, more than one million American soldiers have been killed since our country’s founding in wars hard-fought under this same flag defending the rights, liberties and freedoms now taken for granted.

Students of Hampshire College, you have the right to be upset about the results of the election. But this doesn’t change the fact that in burning the American flag you do more than just voice valid concerns about the election of one man to a political position – you attack the very identity of our nation and take for granted how very lucky you are to be an American.

Bradley Polumbo is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]