Air Force Vet Stands Up to Flag Desecration

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Even before she decided she could not stand idly by and watch protestors trample the American flag, Michelle Manhart was no stranger to controversy. The Air Force veteran has courted criticism for posing nude in Playboy and for PETA, her uniform in evidence in the former case and the flag as her only clothing in the latter. But while some may argue that Manhart is misguided in her patriotism, few would doubt the patriotism itself.

“I saw the flag,” Manhart told a Georgia news station. “I walked up. I picked it up and I walked away.”

After being notified by a Valdosta State University student that protestors were demonstrating against racism by walking back and forth across an American flag, the former military instructor decided she needed to see it for herself. Upon arriving, she was disappointed to see campus police doing nothing to stop the desecration. She took it upon herself to confiscate the flag, a decision that finally spurred the police into action.

“They said, ‘If you release it to us, we will not give it back to them,” Manhart said in an interview with Air Force Times. “I disagreed with that wholeheartedly. We drape that flag over many coffins…if you’re walking on that flag, then you’re also walking on their caskets and you’re walking on everything they stood for and you have no respect for the freedom that they have fought to make sure that you can have.”

When she refused to give the flag back, campus police put her in handcuffs and hauled her away. She was not charged with any crime, but she was banned from the campus and all Valdosta State University events. VSU president William McKinney wrote in a Facebook post that the Supreme Court has ruled that Americans have the right to disrespect the flag. “While I firmly disagree with the actions of the protestors, I understand their right to protest.”

Certainly, no one can disagree with that. It is the law, even if some might take umbrage with that law. And the right to freedom of speech should not end at the point where it starts offending people. Conservatives should not get so attached to their sacred cows that they start sounding like the other side.

That said, I have less than zero respect for anyone who desecrates that flag. Not because it fills me with abject horror to see it trampled, but because you have to be fundamentally stupid to see America as an oppressive, evil land. Walking across the flag not only means you’re unpatriotic, it also means you’re simply not that bright.

That flag doesn’t stand for the current administration, the Republicans, the war in Iraq, slavery, police brutality, homophobes, or whatever pet cause you’re railing against this week. It stands for liberty. It stands for a nation. It stands for a grand experiment that began long before any of us were born. And that grand experiment, to any objective way of looking at it, has brought the human race farther in the last 200 years than the previous thousands put together. To trample that flag is to deny that reality, and to do that requires having little or no knowledge of American history, human history, or anything else.

The name of our country is not the Perfect States of America. We have stumbled along the way. We have made mistakes. We will continue to make mistakes. We will continue to stumble. Even if this country stands for another 2,000 years, it will never be perfect. But until something or someone comes along with a better set of founding principles than those written into the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, this country – and the flag that symbolizes it – deserves the respect its due. When you deny it that respect, you’re not shaming America. You’re just shaming yourself.