You probably saw it on TV. Perhaps you read about the incident. But it’s certainly no secret where FedEx driver Matt Uhrin stands on burning Old Glory – the flag that symbolizes the USA.
Uhrin is a patriot. On Thursday, he watched from his delivery truck as protesters torched a couple of American flags in front of a Bank of America facility near Iowa City’s Old Capitol Mall.
Then he took action. Grabbing the truck’s fire extinguisher, he waded into the gaggle of flag-burners and doused the flames. A couple of the miscreants tried to rough up Uhrin in the process. But Matt Uhrin can take care of himself, and he did. It was a stand-up-and-cheer moment.
Many locals initially believed that FedEx would fire or at least punish Uhrin for his actions while on the job wearing the company’s uniform. News reports of the incident generated at least 5,000 signatures on a petition by Friday night to help Uhrin keep his job, according to KCRG-TV in Iowa City. On Saturday, FedEx told “Fox & Friends” that Uhrin indeed will remain a FedEx driver, and there are no plans to change his job status. It was the right move.
Meanwhile, two of the protesters involved were arrested and charged with violating the city’s ordinance prohibiting unlicensed public burning – a misdemeanor. Maximum penalty: 30 days in jail, or a $625 fine. A spokesman later told the Iowa Press-Citizen that the protesters were standing up against (1) the election of President Donald J. Trump; (2) local support for completing the Dakota Access oil pipeline; (3) racial, ethnic and social injustice, and (4) U.S. imperialism. Sorry … there are other meaningful and less toxic ways to protest.
The two who were charged are set to go to court on Feb. 23. A nation will be watching.
But burning the USA flag – not to mention defiling defile, satirizing, deriding or otherwise showing contempt for it — should be more than a misdemeanor infraction. It’s tantamount to a public act of treason and should be declared by the U.S. Congress to be at least a Class C felony. Upon conviction, the penalty should be deportation to California, or at least a minimum fine of $100,000 – with proceeds going to the sick and infirm children of illegal immigrants.
In the wake of the radical-left protests of the 1960s, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled — in a landmark case– that the malevolent burning of the Stars and Stripes is protected under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Still, your right to do so ends where my right to not do so begins. Uhrin and millions of U.S. armed forces veterans — living and deceased — and their families will back that up.
But, you might ask, what’s the big deal? The U.S. flag is only a colorful piece of cloth, an object, a thing. Burning one doesn’t kill anybody. Literally, no it doesn’t.
But figuratively, the U.S. flag is a revered symbol of the republic over which it flies. It stands for truth, justice and the American way. It stands for one nation, under God, indivisible, with freedom and justice for all of its citizens. And that is worth protecting at all costs.
Remember what the First Amendment really says: You are free to do or say anything you want – as long as you are willing to take the responsibility for it.
Post Script: U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Ala., and U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark., subsequently teamed up to introduce in the U.S. House a constitutional amendment that gives Congress the authority to restrict the physical desecration of the flag.