Archibald M. Willard, “The Spirit of ’76,” one of the best-recognized icons of American patriotism; courtesy of the American Reserve Society Sons of the American Revolution (of which Willard was a member).
Scouters discuss issues of leadership and skill, a wide-ranging group of topics that pertain to Boy Scouting, on a list-server known as Scouts-L. I subscribe to the discussion, and at times have participated frequently in it. Looking over my own archives, I was amused to see that it was more than a decade ago that I addressed the issue of how to quell any need for a Constitutional Amendment on flag desecration.
The U.S. flag fascinated me from my early childhood. It always strikes me as unique among flags of nations, and I can truly say that I find it stirring to see it in good display. In court, in schools, in the Senate and executive branch of federal government, and in local government, I have had more than my share of occasions to participate in cermonies honoring the flag, or merely sit in contemplation of it during official proceedings. I always reflect on John Peter Zenger’s trial for telling the truth about the King’s governor of New York, and how our flag now means that we can tell the truth about our own government without fear of official reprisal.
I often reflect on the story of Virginia Hewlett, who was a member of the U.S. High Commissioner’s staff in the Philippines when Gen. MacArthur’s forces retreated, and who risked her life in order to strike the U.S. flag and prevent its capture by the Japanese. For this action she and several others were captured, tortured, and endured the war in a prison camp. When she was freed, to her husband and my old friend Frank Hewlett (who was a UPI war correspondent and later a Nieman Fellow and Washington correspondent for the Salt Lake Tribune), she weighed 78 pounds. Read the rest of this entry »