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Dr. John H. Pitchford writes:


How much would you like to bet that you really don't support the idea of "freedom of expression" and that you are really just a cultural anarchists?
How about (as a test) you set up a virtual burning of a Star of David. You don't have the balls do you? You wouldn't do that because your support of "violence" against the signs and symbols of culture and civilization is "selective."
You hate America so you wish to destroy its image, its symbol. Oh sure its just a symbol, right? Well, so is a virtual Star of David. So you think you support "freedom of expression?" Talk is cheap, lets see you set up a virtual burning of a Star of David. Won't do it will ya? Why? Because you are in reality a culture NAZI. Destroying that which you hate just for the joy of it, just like the Nazis of 55 years ago.


Reply to Dr. John H. Pitchford

>You hate America so you wish to destroy its image, its symbol.

On the contrary. I love America. I am an Eagle Scout. I respect the flag, haven't burned a real one, and don't plan to. I know how to properly fold, carry and display the flag. It's the law against flag desecration to which I am opposed.

>Oh sure its just a symbol, right? Well, so is a virtual Star of
>David.
Yes, but they are symbols of completely different things. Read on...

>How about (as a test) you set up a virtual burning of a
>Star of David. You don't have the balls do you? You wouldn't
>do that because your support of "violence" against the signs
>and symbols of culture and civilization is "selective."
>

Actually, I hadn't thought of setting up a virtual Star of David burning. The reason I wouldn't do that is threefold:

1. The burning of that particular icon has not come under fire from the government. There really is no issue along those lines. I do oppose hate-crime legislation, for similar reasons to my opposition to flag-burning laws. The thoughts in a defendent's mind should not be under fire during his (or hers) trial. The actions are what should be punishable. Hence, burning a cultural icon (what comes to mind is Klan burning of wooden crosses) should not in itself be illegal. If someone assaults someone else because of their race, it should be considered assault. Not a hate-based assault. Burning a cross in the neighbors yard is arson and assault. It shouldn't be considered a thought crime of racial disrespect. I support the right of people to burn Stars of David in their own homes for whatever reason they may wish to.

2. It's pretty tasteless. Burning the flag is a symbol of protest against the U.S. Government. Burning a symbol of a culture or religion is a fairly personal attack on those beliefs. To go one step further, I could set up a web page where you could "burn" a tent full of Jews in Auschwitz or pull the trigger on a crosshair over Clinton's head.
I've "got the balls" (and the graphics editing capability) to do all of those things. But I'm not planning on crossing the line between light-hearted parody of U.S. politics and disgusting assault on cultures or individuals. Sure, talk is cheap. I hope, however, that you will understand my deliniation between the two, and my reason for not taking you up on your bet.

3. It's not what I stand for. The flag-burning page is a product of my personal beliefs. If I was going to set up a page for virtual desecration of any other cultural icons or symbols, the Star of David wouldn't even make the short list. If, however, legislation were pending to make it illegal, I might change my mind about that.

> So you think you support "freedom of expression?"

Yes, I do. In fact, legislation was proposed in the City of Tempe to make gang-related clothing, symbols, hand expressions and vocalizations illegal. As much as I dislike gangs and the urban blight they tend to cause, I opposed this law on the grounds of freedom of expression. I was prepared to go to jail for my beliefs, in fact. I had the outfit all ready, and would have proudly been arrested the night the law went into effect. Luckily for our civil rights, it was voted down. Similar laws have passed in other cities. Coincidentally, the Star of David was one of those "gang-related" icons made illegal in that particular legislation, and at least one arrest has been made from that.

>Because you are in reality
>a culture NAZI. Destroying that which you hate just for the joy
>of it, just like the Nazis of 55 years ago.
>
I don't really see the parallel. My intent, as i have stated is not to destroy that which I hate, but to protect the intent of the Constitution of the land I love. Although I do get a great deal of pleasure from the reponses the page has had so far, my pleasure is not derived from the desecration of the American flag, but from the thought-provoking controversy it produces.


Dr. Pitchford replies:

You fail to understand the importance of the signs and symbols of cultures, nations, and civilizations.

I, on the other hand, fail to see how you can divide out the signs and symbols of culture, relgion and civilization.

You say you would not create a virtual burning of the Star of David because it would be an attack on a personal belief system. While you see the burning of the U.S. Flag as an attack on the Government, I see it as an attack on me and what I believe in.

One final consideration, the signs and symbols of decay foster more decay. A neighborhood that looks rundown becomes rundown and then looks more rundown.

The signs and symbols of cultural anarchy foster cultural anarchy. I am afraid you are one the growing legion of individuals who have confused freedom with folly and liberty with license.

I would strongly suggest you view a wonderful little movie that may give you pause to rethink this attack on the government and your desire to "up the establishment."
The film is "Z."


My reply:

Let me first address the issue of the signs and symbols of cultures, nations, and civilizations. I think I do understand the importance of these signs and symbols. Since the 1960's (and possibly before then) burning the U.S. flag has been a visual symbol of protest against the views of the U.S. government. It could certainly be construed as an attack against what you personally believe in, however, I think that most people who burn the flag are doing it in protest to specific governmental decisions.

I cannot believe that you fully support the U.S. Government in its entirety, including all current and proposed legislation, since many are in direct opposition to each other. Therefore, I can't see how my opposition to a specific piece of proposed legislation could be an attack on everything that you believe in.

I am assuming here, based on our previous discussions, that you oppose the desecration of the U.S. Flag. Am I to also assume that you support legislation to make this act illegal? The opposition to this legislative act is the point I am making with this display.

While you may consider my actions insulting to you, I assume that you will support my right to express my beliefs, regardless of whether they are in conflict with yours or not. As long as I do not physically harm you, or provoke riots, am I not entitled to hold my own beliefs?

Also, my flag-burning page gives one the ability to virtually burn a U.S. flag. It does not coerce one to do so. If you decided not to participate in this act (by not selecting the clearly-marked link which would do so) you would not have viewed any symbolic destruction. This should be considered an improvement over public flag burnings, which are easily viewed even by those who do not wish to see them.

>One final consideration, the signs and symbols of decay foster more decay.
>A neighborhood that looks rundown becomes rundown and then looks more rundown.
>
To use this argument to support my view, let me suggest that passing laws against acts which are not currently popular (that is, flag burning is hardly a surging phenomena - in fact, I cannot remember the last time I witnessed or even read about an actual flag burning, with he exception of 1990, as an act of opposition to the then-proposed legislation) fosters those activities in retribution for that legislation.

>The signs and symbols of cultural anarchy foster cultural anarchy.
>I am afraid you are one the growing legion of individuals who have confused
>freedom with folly and liberty with license.
>
I don't support anarchy, either cultural or political. I agree with the Supreme Court in its upholding of the right to burn a flag as freedom of expression. The fact that I have never actually burned a flag should show that I am not taking this liberty as a license to act on it.

I just finished watching "Z." I enjoyed it very much, although the only version I could find to rent was over-dubbed, not sub-titled. I also thought Yves Montand was better in Manon of the Spring and Jean De Florette (two of my favorites.)

Interestingly, I found that the movie seems to support my views. It was quite left-leaning, with an emphasis on the need for personal freedom. The obvious antagonists were the fascist government.

I imagine that the reason you recommended this film was that the protagonists, pacifist freedom-seekers, failed in their goal due to the power of the government. The message I found in this film was not that those who seek freedom should hide that fact in fear of retribution, but that all of us should "question authority" and demand our rights, lest they be taken away.

While I don't necessarily agree that the actions in this film could occur in modern America, I can see how they could have occured in the unstable political climate of France. The film implied, through its disclaimer (any similarity to persons, living or dead is not coincidental, it is intentional) that at least some of the events actually occured.

While I may be vocal in my disagreement with certain U.S. Government policies, I don't think that the government will come after me, persecute or prosecute me for my beliefs.

I enjoyed the film. Thank you again for your recommendation. It didn't cause me to rethink my disapproval of the Joint Resolution against flag desecration. If anything, it encouraged me to pursue the matter further and continue, if not step up, my efforts to see that this amendment does not disgrace our Constitution.


Jim Miller has a comment:


Dr. John H. Pitchford, chill out. I expect the moment the politicians try to outlaw burning the Star-of-David or any other symbol a Web page will appear in protest.


Dr. Pitchford replies:

I'm afraid that that you missed the point I was trying to make with having you view the movie "Z." I must admit it is a very deep connection.

The Greek leftists sought to overthrow a moderate government and replace it with a socialist government. Not only did they create a right-wing junta (by accident) when it was removed from power, socialism was finished as a potent political force in Greece. They blew their power base with their extremism.

Get the point?

Your philosphy finds itself in the same position in America today. Your extremism is a reflection of a cultural revolution that has failed. A revolution that the American people are in the process of rejecting.

Your rejection of the sanctity of the symbol of America, a symbol of a personal belief system that I hold to like most folks cling to like a religion is a good thing. It validates the cultural anarchy that your point of view represents.

Social conservativism is the wave of the future and it is riding on the crest of the extremism of your non-value based belief system.

Thank you for your support ala "Z."

A brief comment on Pitchford's interpretation of Z, from Greek Cypriot Constantinos:

I am Greek Cypriot, and would like to correct his historical error. In fact you will find it quite ironic what the real truth is.

in 1945 the Germans left Greece, and the communists established a government. The Royal family returned from exile and began a campaign to restore itself, backed by American funding, supplies and training. Aftyer a 4 year war the communists were defeated and forced to flee Greece.

In 1967 it looked like the next government would be a moderate one, so the right wing generals took over the country in a military coup. They were funded by the CIA. In 1974 the junta ended after a disaster on the island of Cyprus.

And the wonderful ending of the story is: EVER SINCE 1974 THE GOVERNMENT OF GREECE HAS BEEN SOCIALIST! Check wherever you like and you will see. The Prime Minister has always been a socialist and so is the leading political party.

So this 'Doctor' (I kind of doubt that he is one) is just talking out of his ass. Hope you found this interesting and mildly amusing.

and now.... back to Pitchford's comments....

I forgot to ask. Just what is it the government has done which has fired you up? (G)

I won't trouble you with any additional posts on this subject because it is a waste of time.

Your rationale for not creating a virtual burning of a Star of David:

2. It's pretty tasteless. Burning the flag is a symbol of protest
>against the U.S. Government. Burning a symbol of a culture or religion
>is a fairly personal attack on those beliefs. To go one step further,
>I could set up a web page where you could "burn" a tent full
>of Jews in Auschwitz or pull the trigger on a crosshair over Clinton's
>head.
>I've "got the balls" (and the graphics editing capability) to do all of
>those things. But I'm not planning on crossing the line between
>light-hearted parody of U.S. politics and disgusting assault on
>cultures or individuals.
>Sure, talk is cheap. I hope, however, that you will understand my
>deliniation between the two, and my reason for not taking you up
>on your bet.
What you fail to understand is that while burning the flag may seemed to you to be a protest against the government, it is for many other people an attack on one of *their* personal belief systems, to wit, their belief in America. A belief system that is for them is every bit as much of a religious experience as is the beleif in a religious faith.

Now you see that for many folks the difference between burning the flag and burning a Star of David is non-extant.

Understanding that, I again ask you if you really think what you are doing is about "freedom of expression?" If yes, then let's try a new test, ok?

How about *you* set up a virtual burning of the Crescent of Islam, as a "light-hearted parody" of the Islamic faith. No balls, right?

You wouldn't do that because those folks are NOT into "light hearted parody" are they? Do a send up of the Crescent of Islam and you'd have to join Rushdie in hiding! (G)

Forgive me for saying you have "no balls." I was wrong, because right now some individual who feels as srongly about Old Gory as does some "strap a bomb to his chest follower" of the late I-a-toe-a Co-maniac is very near you at this very moment.

Do you have plenty of "virtual" life insurance? You may need it.

I understand what you are doing, but I'm very much afraid that you don't understand what you are doing. When it comes to attacking the symbols of personal belief systems your vision of what constitutes a "belief system" and what another person believes may be very different. So different as to defy understanding.

To me you are just a tacky little man, to some zealot with a baseball bat..... .... well, good luck in explaining the concept of "light-hearted parody" in ten seconds or less. (GRIN)


My final reply:

I think you're right about ending our conversation. I think I understand your point, although I do not agree with it. I also think your last comments, regardless of the (GRIN)s associated with them, were a bit threatening. I hope the message you were trying to convey was one of concern, that a potential zealot may live in my area, and may make attack me physically, and not that you were that zealot. Your words seemed carefully worded, in any case, to eliminate you personally as that zealot.

As for "Z," I guess I missed the boat. I even thought it took place in France. Even I admit it when I'm wrong. It _was_ a deep message, though. Good movie, anyway.

As for what the government has done to "fire me up?" Well, the only impetus for this particular page was the proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution, a document that I hold dear. Let me quickly summarize my points (although they are made in depth in various places throughout my page.)

1. Congress shall make no law. . . abridging freedom of speech.
The document from which that came should be clear.

2. The State of Texas (and several other States, for that matter) had a law that clearly superceded that Constitutional boundary.

3. Texas vs. Johnson was taken to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court (a conservative court, I might add) held that laws against flag desecration were Constitutionally invalid.

4. In order to get around this ruling, Congress in 1990 attempted to pass an amendment to the Constitution. A paraphrasing of that might be "The first amendment is only valid when we deem it so. Congress shall now be able to pass any laws they wish, even if doing so crosses the boundaries of the checks-and-balances concept. The first law we shall pass will be to eliminate a form of freedom that many Americans will find horrible. No one will miss the freedom to burn the flag, since any who wish to are probably Cultural Nazis, or Communists, and should "Love it or Leave it" anyway. From there, we will be able to do whatever we wish. Ban books, censor television, the world is ours. MUHUHUHUAHAHAHA!!!!"
Well, maybe that's a bit harsh, but you get my point.

5. The current conservative Congress believes that a "mandate from the people" has swept them into office, and that they can, therefore, do no wrong.

6. "Once you start fiddling with the Bill of Rights to outlaw offensive expression, where do you stop?" Before you accuse me of a slippery-slope fallacy, John, let me say that these were not my words. This is a direct quote from Senator Howard Metzenbaum.

And that, John, is the only thing that the U.S. Government has done to get me fired up enough to create this Web page. It is the sole focus for this entire document. If I have enough free time (and with the amount of email I get from this I never will) I could go on and attack the vicious pyramid scheme of Social Security, the RICO act and its effect of ruining due process (while lining the pocketbooks of police departments,) the numerous negative effects of mandatory sentencing on the criminal justice system, and the effect of unfunded mandates on the States (yes, even I have a fiscal Conservative side.)

I won't take any more of your time, Dr. Pitchford. Our conversation has been an interesting one. If you would like the last word, I will not withhold that from you. I would be more than happy to post a final rebuttal on the page dedicated to our long-running debate.


The Final Word from Dr. Pitchford

>Your words seemed carefully worded, in any
>case, to eliminate you personally as that zealot.

Exactly correct! I want you to understand that while the flag may be the mere symbol of a government to you, it may mean much more to other individuals. Individuals who may consider your virtual flag burning to not be just the tasteless intellectual exercise that it is, but rather a direct assault on a personal belief system.

I rank the burning of the flag to be as much of a crime as the burning of the Star of David or the Crescent of Islam.

Don't you find it to be a wonderful paradox that you wish to burn the symbol of nation that gives you the freedom to even engage in such an intellectual exercise?

Your cultural anarchy and your belief in a rabid form of individualism is what is wrong with this nation. Your day is done. The American people are in the process of rejecting your philosophy because of its extremism.

One last thought on the movie "Z," if this nation is forced into a Greek styled military junta, it will be because of your efforts and not in spite of them. You, sir, are an enemy of reason.


Dave Phillips has a comment:


>Don't you find it a wonderful paradox that you wish to burn
>the symbol of (a) nation that gives you the freedom to even
>engage in such an intellectual exercise?

This is exactly the point of both this web page and of those of us opposed to a constitutional amendment. This country is based on the freedom of speech and expression. How can a law limiting these basic freedoms hold true to the premise of the Bill of Rights and the Constitution?


Swiggy has a comment:


After reading the messages from Dr. P., I only wonder what he is a doctor of. He must have eyes, for he saw the page, but I know very few blind doctors. (It must not be a medical doctor...come to think of it, I can't think of any doctorate out there that, when presented in plain English, cannot see a point)
I have no idea if the "doctor" has a nose on his face, but the answer is he can't see something that as plain as the nose on his face. Unfortunately, the "doctor" suffers from delusions of granduer in making him think that there is something to argue about here. He sounds more as a person set on creating civil unrest for religious reasons. The "doctor" is nothing more than a fool!


Marlowe has a comment:


I must agree with Swiggy in his general assessment of the doctor; certainly Mr. Pitchford holds no degrees in rhetoric or logic. If his arguments were experiments in bullying, personal attacks, and dadaism, he certainly succeeded. Simply amazing really.

I am by no means infatuated with political correctness, but I find it very amusing that he completely avoids the issue by involving the tenuously-related icons of the Jewish and Islamic faiths. By the tenor of his argument (that is, his strenuously personal attacks defending a SYMBOL that he holds dear), I have to doubt that he would personally give a damn if people were desecrating Islamic flags or versions of the Koran. Pardon me if I make a similarly tenuous connection, but I believe that this kind of avoidance is tantamount to white males screaming "Oppression!"


Bill Good has some questions for Dr. Pitchford:

Do you kneel before the flag and pray to it as the symbol of a deity?

Do you attend weekly services in a church that proclaims the flag/government to be the Almighty or the Messiah? (Didn't we as a nation condemn Iran for something similar?).

If the answer is "no" then you have no valid argument to make the comparison with the Star of David. The 50 star flag is a SYMBOL of our nation and its recent history (since 1960).

Current government powers burned the historical flags long ago. The government of Franklin (with his "Don't Tread on Me!" flag) and Jefferson are long gone and this country will fall unless their ideals of a non-obtrusive government are restored.


Jim Hill has a comment:

>Don't you find it to be a wonderful paradox that you wish to burn the
>symbol of nation that gives you the freedom to even engage in such an
>intellectual exercise?

Substituting "symbolic" for "intellectual",
in a word,
Yes.

If the amendment passes, I'll be one of the first to do it. The symbolism and irony will be perfect, and the act will be a religious, not political, statement. Banning the strongest expression one can make short of actual rebellion crosses the line to tyranny, because there will *always* be such a statement. What's next? Do you really believe there won't be one? I do.

Tom Jennings has a comment:

Burning (etc) the Star of David would be a very different thing if the burn-er were an Israeli citizen. Burning your "own" symbol is utterly different than burning someone elses.

At the "height" of the flag-burning local era here in San Francisco, some smart anarchists burned the old red-white'n'blue, then the rainbow flag, then their own black flag. Few people got it. Many were upset, even those who cheered when the first went up.

Maybe we should video-tape a flag burning, and burn that in protest. Flags within flags; where will it end?

Eric John Marlett has a comment:

I think one of the main difficulties you had in communicating your views to Dr. Pitchford was that he insisted on the belief that you supported flag burning itself. If I understand you correctly, you are only supportive of the *right* to burn flags. You don't advocate the action; you advocate the freedom associated with the action. As an American citizen, I hold dear the *ideals* upon which this nation was founded, as distinguished from the present government of that nation. One of those ideals is the right to, as long as no one else's rights are violated, express myself in any way I choose. The fact that flag burning is singled out in this case is immaterial. It is the very idea of an attack on something I, as an American, hold sacred that is cause for alarm. If this is indeed the essential point of your argument, then I wholeheartedly agree with you.

Andy Booth has a comment:

I just thought I'd add the other irony that Dr. Pitchford (along with most "conservative" rhetoricians) seems to miss. The amendment is an intrusion of the federal government by a group who claim to be counter to such intrusions. It's alright to rail against federal intervention in poverty, education, etc.; but don't bother me with such trivialities when I want to protect my beloved flag. I am neither anarchist nor knee jerk conservative, and I find the idea that someone has to pass a law to protect that which, despite all it's symbolic weight, is but a piece of cloth (and at the expense of everyone's personal freedom) as bordering on either the absurd or the obscene (and probably both). With all the multiple problems that this country faces (And I know them well; I work with juvenile delinquents five days a week.), Congress could much better spend its time and effort.

Brian Rath has a comment:

It seems that the good doctor fails to miss the point that anyone who burns an american flag in protest of the government is using the flag, as a symbol, to its fullest potential. The flag burners, of which I am not one, are showing their respect for the flag and the basic freedoms it stands for by burning it. The american flag symbolizes the freedoms we have including the freedom to protest when our government acts in a way we deem wrong. By burning the flag, a person is showing his/her distaste for a particular governmental action while using and supporting their freedom of speech symbolized by the flag. Someone who burns a flag probably has more respect for it and understanding of its symbolic meaning than Doctor P. ever will.

Warren S. Apel