Monday, October 13, 2014

Some Thoughts about flag-burning

There was about a 1-second clip on the news the other day, after an allegedly armed teenager was killed by a police officer, that showed an American Flag being set alight by a group of angry people.  I had a problem with that.
The only time a flag should be burned is "when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display".  This is what the US Flag Code prescribes.  When a flag has aged, faded, been worn out by a long life of proudly flying above government buildings, schools, even private homes, it becomes time to lay it to rest.  The preferable means of destruction is burning.

Before President Obama was elected for a second term, some Syrian rebels who had aligned themselves with Al-Qaeda, burned an American flag.  They did it to enrage us.  And it worked.
There've been disgraceful flag incidents in this country too, long before Ferguson MO erupted.  In 1943 some Jehovah's Witnesses refused to salute the US flag in school -- they were found to be exercising free speech.  In 1969, some Vietnam War protesters burned a US flag in New York -- they too were found to be exercising free speech.  (They burned their draft cards too.)
There've been numerous lawsuits against people allegedly desecrating the US flag in various ways.  But the US Supreme Court in numerous decisions, including two in 1989 and 1990, has shown it considers burning the American Flag something that is protected under the Constitution.  It's free speech.  As is corporate campaign spending.  Some of that enrages people too.  But as the Court has said, "If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable."
The society of Ferguson MO apparently did not find burning the flag offensive or disagreeable, even though most of us did.
But why did they do it?  According to USA Today, one protester said, "It's not our flag.  Our children are being killed in the street. This flag doesn't cover black or brown people."
It's hard for me to get inside that person's head, as I'm sure it is for most Americans.  I served in Viet Nam, put my life on the line, to defend that flag and what it stands for -- for me, that is.  Does it stand for the same things for all folks?  Ask around, and not just your friends.  Ask strangers too.  Ask Native Americans.  Ask black people.  Ask Muslims, Catholics, evangelicals, Hindus, young people, old people, rich people, poor people, smart people, simple people.  See if there's a pattern.
I remember the 60s when students were burning flags in protest of the war in Viet Nam.  And when I came back from Viet Nam, I didn't advertise where I'd been.  No one welcomed me back.  Except my family.  Yet, years later, when I heard on NPR a story about a flag burning, I wrote a letter to them.
May 30, 1990
Dear All Things Considered:
The story yesterday on the Louisiana flag desecration/assault law left the bad taste of words like "red neck" and "racist" in my mouth.  Yet I, too, get emotionally wrenched when I see an issue of the American flag being burned, ripped or trodden upon.  I thought much about this dichotomous reaction.  Finally, I think I've resolved it.
Old Glory is like a soldier.  Of my contemporaries, a vast number, myself among them, went to Viet Nam.  Of those, a great number were maimed: physically, psychologically, or both.  A smaller percentage give their lives.
Now, it's the same with flags.  The overwhelming majority fly their entire lives on flagpoles until they wear out and are given decent burials.  Some fall into the hands of unpatriotic, or merely unconscientious, citizens who neglect them.  They become dirty and wrinkled.  Some are called upon to give their lives in free speech demonstrations.
I believe the issues of the Stars and Stripes that "die" in this way should be honored just as our fallen servicemen are honored.  Perhaps the remains of flags thus burned could be buried in a National Cemetery.  Maybe there could be a monument erected: the "Tomb of the Unknown Flag".
The perpetrators, the flag-burners, should be ignored.  Just ignored.  If we do anything else to them, we cause the flags they burn to have died in vain.  Those flags should be honored as fallen heroes who gave their lives in defense of Freedom!
Very, very sincerely,
Randolph B. Jones

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Illegal Immigrants -- What to do?

WHY do so many Mexicans risk death to cross the border into this country illegally (see  I’ll tell you why.  NAFTA*.  The lifting of tariffs on imports of agricultural products to Mexico means that Iowa-grown corn, for example, is cheaper than Mexican-grown corn in Mexico.  Mexican farmers can no longer support their families by selling their produce in the local marketplace.  The foreign imports are cheaper!  (When’s the last time you visited Wal*Mart?)

So, out of work, with their families starving, they risk dying in the desert to find work in America, so they can send the money back to their wives and kids in Mexico... so they can buy AMERICAN corn to eat.
What happens when your company lays you off because its product is undersold by China?  Will you try to sneak into China to find work so that YOUR FAMILY WON’T STARVE?  No, you won’t because THIS government takes care of you with unemployment benefits, helps you find another job, gives you food stamps.  Mexico doesn’t.

When I hear anti-illegal immigrant rhetoric, it makes me think of Stalinist Russia, where dissenters were exiled to Siberia.  I am an American and a patriot and I would really dearly love to see this country return to the principles upon which it was founded.  That ALL people are created equal and have certain inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  Our Constitution doesn’t limit rights to citizens.  It extends them to ALL people.  Notice the inscription at the base of the Statue of Liberty, our symbol of democracy: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

What happened?  What changed?  Why have we become so selfish that we cannot share our wealth with the tired, the poor, the huddled masses... those that labor and are heavy laden, the starving, the sick, the destitute...?  Besides an American patriot, I am a Christian... one who follows Christ and believes in the principles He taught. 

Salvation through Jesus Christ isn’t limited to citizens either.  It’s extended to all peoples.  Didn’t Jesus say, “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11.28)?  Sounds a little like that Statue of Liberty inscription, doesn’t it? 

Turn to Luke, chapter 6.  Read verse 31
[31] And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.

And here’s something that shows how our behavior on earth affects our life in Eternity...  from Matthew, chapter 25...
[31] When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:
[32] And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:
[33] And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.

[41] Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:
[42] For I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:
[43] I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.
[44] Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?
[45] Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.

We need immigration reform.  A change in the laws that WELCOMES the STRANGER with compassion.  Why should we give our business to the “Made in China” folks?  Let’s build up this country with hard working immigrants... which we ALL are!  Unless you’re a pure blood Native American, you and your ancestors are.. European, Asian, Hispanic, African, Polynesian, or some variation or mix of the above.  Let’s bring this country back to its CHRISTIAN principles and welcome the stranger, the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free.  Feed them, clothe them, house them, heal them, forgive them... welcome them.  There’s plenty here to share.

Respectfully and compassionately submitted.

Randy Jones

Impact on Mexican farmers

In 2000, U.S. government subsidies to the corn sector totaled $10.1 billion. These subsidies have led to charges of dumping which jeopardizes Mexican farms and the country's food self-sufficiency.

Other studies reject NAFTA as the force responsible for depressing the incomes of poor corn farmers, citing the trend's existence more than a decade before NAFTA's existence, an increase in maize production after NAFTA went into effect in 1994, and the lack of a measurable impact on the price of Mexican corn due to subsidized corn coming into Mexico from the United States, though they agree that the abolition of U.S. agricultural subsidies would benefit Mexican farmers.[37] According to Graham Purchase in Anarchism and Environmental Survival, NAFTA could cause "the destruction of the ejidos (peasant cooperative village holdings) by corporate interests, and threatens to completely reverse the gains made by rural peoples in the Mexican Revolution."