Upside-Down Flag Angers Veterans
July 7, 2008 - 8:03 PM
(CNSNews.com) - If you're looking for a "simple, cheap and effective" way to alert people to the possible infringement of personal liberties this Fourth of July, just fly the Stars and Stripes upside down, a gun rights organization says.
Though some veterans' organizations are far from embracing the idea, Aaron Zelman, president of Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership (JPFO), said flying Old Glory upside-down, a traditional signal of distress, is not "disrespectful," but a way of showing "love for your country."
"If you really want to save freedom," he said, "then you embrace the concept of flying the flag upside-down to get other people's attention so they, too, will understand the threat we're faced with and embrace freedom."
Zelman said if people are going to complain about a possible police state coming or the government invading their privacy, "then they have got to get with the program."
"They have got to understand the significance of the upside-down flag and why we have to start doing it nationwide," he said.
But veterans say the flag should only be flown in cases of dire distress, like physical threats or threats to property.
According to Marty Justis, director of the American Legion's Americanism Division, the United States Flag Code states, "The flag should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property."
Justis said the best example he could cite would be on a small boat or a ship that is in danger of sinking and has no electronic means to communicate a distress message. Another possible scenario would be a military outpost incapable of communicating a distress message.
However, Zelman claims that flying the flag upside down is done out of "love for your country."
"To fly the flag upside down means 'distress,' 'danger' ... and America certainly is in distress," he said, adding that individuals are facing personal distress because America could become a police state after Sept. 11. "Getting a rifle butt to your skull will be distressful ... or having your privacy invaded is going to be distressful," Zelman said.
In addition, Americans could have their Second Amendment right to bear arms infringed upon, he said.
"It's almost like termites affect the foundation of our house," Zelman said. "You don't see it going on until there's a collapse."
However, the American Legion regards Zelman's reasons for flying the American flag upside down as an "improper use" of the flag, Justis said.
The Flag Code is pretty clear on flying the flag upside down, he said. It does not include doing so in order to "make a political statement or to suggest that we are in extreme danger to life or property in the regard which this gentleman (Zelman) holds it," Justis added.
"In his mind, I'm sure he believes that, but we certainly do not support it," he said. "I don't feel any danger to my life or property because of my civil liberties being taken, and I doubt that many of the majority of other people would."
Zelman's reasons for flying the flag upside down are nothing new, Justis said. In fact, he said militias often tend to share Zelman's sentiments that "their life or property is in extreme danger from government encroachment."
During the Vietnam War, anti-war protestors flew the flag upside down, Zelman said.
"Maybe some Vietnam vets remember that, but they don't understand that some of these protestors, when all was said and done, may have understood something that everybody else wanted to ignore," he said.
The protestors knew that "we weren't going to accomplish very much" going into the war, said Zelman, also a Vietnam veteran. "A lot of Americans were going to die needlessly and that's exactly what happened."
Today, he said he advocates flying the flag upside down as a highly visible means of getting his message across to fellow Americans and encouraging them to "think about the serious problems that are facing America."
Zelman said he'll hoist his American flag properly when America becomes a "Bill of Rights culture," meaning, "all of the Bill of Rights for all citizens."
More specifically, Zelman said he wants to see an America where "people are in control and government is the public servant once again for the master."
But don't expect to see the American flag flying atop Zelman's 20-foot tall highway side flagpole righted any time soon.
"This is an educational process," he said. "It's going to be a one-on-one process, I'm afraid."
E-mail a news tip to Michael L. Betsch.
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