When we think of something that represents and symbolizes a nation or a country, its flag is what we all first think of. Flags are an embodiment that a country is independent, well in most cases, while it may also mark its identity from the others.
As defined by the Oxford English Dictionary, a flag is a piece of cloth or similar material, typically oblong or square, attachable by one edge to a pole or rope and used as the symbol or emblem of a country or institution or as a decoration during public festivities.
With these, it is considered symbolic and meaningful. Just like the cross of the Catholic church, the Buddha statues of the Buddhists, the temples of the Shintoists, etc., the flag of a country is sacrosanct, at least with its meaning. Hence, a deep respect for it is very much obliged to every citizen of every country. Acts of disrespect such as burning, turning it into a clothing or the like are not tolerated. (Well, not for all countries and cultures)
The Flag Issue in the United States
On June 21, 1989, the United States Supreme Court decided to burn the Old Glory under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Old Glory is a nickname for the flag of the United States. The original “Old Glory” was a flag owned by the 19th-century American sea captain William Driver (March 17, 1803 – March 3, 1886), who flew the flag during his career at sea and later brought it to Nashville, Tennessee, where he settled.
However, the U.S. Supreme Court considered the act legal and further expressed it as an exercise of political speech. Moreover, this action and ruling ended the five-year saga ignited by a protester at the 1984 Republican National Convention in Dallas, Texas. In the event, protester Gregory Lee Johnson burned an American flag during a protest against President Ronald Reagan’s policies. During that time, Reagan was seeking for a re-election. As a result, a Texas court sentenced Johnson to spend up to a year in jail and pay a $2,000 fine for having desecrated a “venerated object.”
Merle Haggard and His Response Song
The decision of the U. S. Supreme Court to legalize the burning of the American Flag sparked a lot of issues and controversies. Many Americans expressed their disdain in different ways. One of the best-known examples of this was when country music singer Merle Haggard recorded a song in response to this. Inspired by this atrocious decision of the American Supreme Court to support the citizens’ right to burn the U. S. flag, Haggard composed a tune called “Me and Crippled Soldiers.”
Rush-released by CBS Records, “Me and Crippled Soldiers” is an expression of Haggard’s disappointment of what happened to the flag. He said:
“I don’t like to get involved in political things, and I don`t usually force-write a song, but this flag burning really upset me. I was watching the news and saw them burning the flag. It made me sick to my stomach.”
Here are the first verse and the one-line chorus of the song:
Now that it’s alright to burn the stars and stripes
Yes, nobody really needs old Uncle Sam
Might as well burn the bill of rights as well
And let our country go straight to hell
Only me and crippled soldiers give a damn
WATCH: Merle Haggard performs his 1989 song “Me and Crippled Soldiers.”
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