Thoughts from my Grandmother: Burn this Flag, Sonny!

For the first time in a long time, I was able to sit down with my grandmother and mother to dinner over at a restaurant that I love to go eat at: Alicia’s in San Jose, by Route 85. It’s a simple family run Mexican restaurant. Food is good enough to make my grandmother prefer it over her own cooking. Of course, this is to say that she doesn’t cook much. At my house, I do most of the cooking. She loves certain dishes I cook, but not all. This was the first time in two weeks that I got a chance to sit down with my elders and talk to them, other than in passing when I leave for work or come home around dawn every morning. With the move, it’s just been really hectic to spend time with them. Not to mention my hours make them worry.

Anyway, the conversation at dinner turned toward that awful mess back over in Germany, with the school shooting and eighteen people losing their lives. My mother, a schoolteacher, launched into her side of the debate, discussing the Columbine and De Anza incidents. For those not familiarity with the De Anza incident, a guy on campus was setting charges all over the junior college’s campus and had intended to set them off. He got caught before it happened, though, and recently got sentenced to ninety-nine years in prison. Now, as with all conversations centered around current events, at least in my family, they sometimes break down to philosophy. We started getting in on the parental responsibility to the kids who engage in illegal activity. Where were the parents through all of this? But the difference between Columbine and De Anza was mostly about the fact that Columbine is a high school and De Anza is a college. The students of a high school of course fall under the jurisdiction of their parents, but college students are adults by the letter of the law. Even though still students, they’re typically above the age of eighteen and therefore are not really tried as minors. Plus, add into the effect that while he was living at home, there’s really only so much a parent can answer for, with respect for privacy toward their adult child. In my eyes, you can’t really blame the parents of the guy from De Anza, because in theory all his growing up was already done. My mother countered with the accountability of just knowing what’s going on in your house, not simply the invasion of privacy, but in essence, the respect of an adult child has to begin somewhere. This guy abused that trust and respect, in my eyes, and the parents are pretty much blameless.

We talked on further about the parental issues, the need for more involvement. But the conversation turned toward freedoms. I brought up the notion of freedom of expression, because my grandmother said that while she was in Sacramento, they were protesting against Israel bringing arms against the Palestinians. I made the comment that it was their right to protest, that’s why we have the bill of rights. And then we starting talking about flag burning. Now my grandmother is a little on the conservative side, so of course, she took the stance that there should be an amendment banning the burning of the American flag. I, of course, disagreed. In my opinion, erecting an amendment to that end would be in direct conflict with the bill of rights. The freedom to express your dissatisfaction with the government by burning the flag in protest is protected under the first amendment. I’m sure the Supreme Court would throw out any such amendment accordingly. My grandmother went on about how much the flag meant to my grandfather and that he put his life on the line for the flag. I just commented that without any disrespect to my grandfather, he served his country, not a flag. The people within it. The flag is colored cloth and nothing more, a marker for the United States. It’s not a holy artifact and putting it above natural rights was in direct conflict to the founding principles of this nation. The right to freedoms should not abridged for the sake reverence. This is why church and state are separate. For all of their mistakes and errors, the founding fathers were wise in that they knew they did not have all the answers. The amendment process, checks and balances to ensure against overt tyranny… you have to admit that while the system isn’t perfect, it’s the best we can do right now. Personally, I wouldn’t find myself burning a flag. I’m not so inclined and I do hold it in reverence. That’s a personal belief, and one I wouldn’t dare inflict upon others. They have the right to express themselves, and so long as it isn’t an expression in infringing upon the rights of others, who am I to dissuade them? We judge more often than not by personal morals, a judgment that doesn’t work. I have to have a great deal of respect for the legal system and those that work in it every day, for the hard work they have to put into judging based on simply justice. It’s so easy to be swayed by personal values, rather than what is logically correct. There’s a certain dispassion you have to maintain as a judge sitting on a bench. It’s something I envy.

At the end of the conversation, the result was simply to disagree. My grandmother felt one way and I felt the exact opposite. And to be honest, I believe that I am right. I can’t justify that kind of an amendment simply to sleep better at night. Actually, I couldn’t sleep better at night knowing I live in a country that would shred the Constitution based on immorality. Even though such things do go on, I’m sure that in the end, they will be corrected by our judicial system. After all, that’s why we have checks and balances in the first place.

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