Re "Clark Backs a Ban on Flag Burning," Nov. 12: By supporting an amendment to the Constitution that would allow Congress to ban flag burning, [retired Army Gen. and Democratic presidential candidate] Wesley K. Clark demonstrates that he does not understand what America is about. The right to criticize the government, even in ways that may offend people, is the very core of our 1st Amendment. Clark would have us damage our Constitution in an attempt to defend a symbol. Ironically, eroding the freedoms that our flag stands for would desecrate the flag more thoroughly than any number of flag-burning radicals ever could.
I read your article with mild amusement. I have served for 22 years in both the active-duty and the reserve component of the U.S. Marine Corps and have just returned from a two-year deployment to the Horn of Africa and Afghanistan.
Daily, I recite Article I of the Code of Conduct of the American Fighting Man, which provides, "I am an American Fighting Man, I serve in the forces which guard my country and our way of life, I am prepared to give my life in their defense." I have served and fought steadfastly in the belief that our way of life includes the right of individuals to express themselves, no matter how abhorrent their message.
When I see someone in America desecrating the flag of my country, I feel pain and hurt, but I also think two thoughts: First, is this a great country or what? People have the complete freedom to express themselves in a manner that they see fit. And second, what an ingrate and a moron you are for desecrating that flag; I cannot believe how you show such disrespect to the country that gives us our hard-won freedom, and I cannot believe how you are flaunting your ignorance.
John Kerry states that the Constitution preserves the right of free expression, yet he also is quoted as saying, "If I saw somebody burning the flag I'd punch them in the mouth." Is that what you fought for, Mr. Kerry? So that if someone expresses himself in a manner in which you disagree, physical violence will be used against him?
I fought to protect people like that from people like you. We should surround flag burners with a protective line of police officers; what better way to say that this is the greatest country the world has ever known, and as proof, we're shielding you while you show your stupidity.
David M. McCarthy
Lt. Col., Marine Corps
Reserve, Special Operations