Independence Day... the 4th of July... it has always meant so much to me.. it has always meant so much to everyone that I knew in my circle, in my world. We celebrated our freedom from oppression, we celebrated our freedom from the being subjected to the whim of a king, or a government so far removed from our reality. We reveled in our ability to protest against laws that we did not agree with, we reserve the right to protest against anything that the government did, without being subjected to persecution because of our beliefs. We won those rights, along with the right to worship. or not worship, as we wished. We won the right to free speech, no matter if it was against the government, as long as it did not injure anyone else. We can protest as we wish, even if it is abhorrent to the rest of the citizens. As long as we did not hurt anyone, we could state whatever we wished.
We are at a crossroads in this country. We have a faction that wants to burn the American Flag, because they believe that it stands for oppression and hatred. I am very torn... I am a veteran who served in the United States Marine Corps, in the service of, what I consider, this great nation. I served to protect the rights of all citizens, as outlined in the Bill Of Rights. One of these is the right of free speech. Even though I might not agree, I must stand for the right to protest.
I am a Patriot. I am someone who, thought I knew that I possibly could be drafted into the Army, decided to join the Marine Corps. Why? Because I believed then, and I believe now, that every citizen of this beautiful free country, owes an obligation to give back. I believe in the concept of the United States Of America. I believe, regardless of what we have had to fight over, that this concept of Liberty for All, means that we are right thinking citizens of a country that should be, if the bill of rights is followed, a beacon for all who believe in liberty and freedom throughout the world.
This Independence Day weekend, we are challenged. We are challenged by those who wish to burn the flag in protest against the police, and what they claim is systematic racism thought the United State. My first reaction was rage! I, and so many of my contemporaries, served to preserve the integrity of this symbol of what we consider to be our freedom. It makes me angry to think that so many gave their lives for this country, and this symbol, the flag of our great Union.
But then, I realized that, what we had set out to defend was the very thing that these people, no matter how mis-guided, were doing. They were exercising their right to free speech! No matter how much I, and my compatriots disagreed with what they were doing, we had secured their right to do so.
If they were in Russia.. you could count on the fact that they would serve time in a gulag. Putin is unforgiving.. just ask Pussy Riot. If they were in some country in the Middle East, controlled by some psychotic pseudo-religious regime, you could count on the fact that they would be executed in some grisly fashion.
These people say that they are oppressed! Well, in their minds, they are. I will say that, in some cases, they may be correct. But i would say to them, if life is so terrible in this country.. why are you still here? I agree that there are still things that have to be changed. We have come a long way, but we have a long way to go. We will get there, eventually, if we all work together. However, calling for disarming the police, instead of working with them to solve the problems, is just stupid.
We must all work together to build a more perfect society. If you think that this country is terrible, then I invite you to take your thoughts abroad to a country that conforms to your idea of a more perfect society. While I support your right to burn the American Flag, it troubles me that you feel that it is right to do so. Try burning an Isis flag in the areas that they control. Try burning a Russian flag in Moscow. See how long you would be free to voice your hatred of the society that you live in.
So, on this Independence Day, I salute all those who have stood for this beautiful country for the last 239 years. We are still the noble experiment. We must continue to be and example to all who love freedom. We must acknowledge our mistakes and correct them. We must continue to try to be the shining example of democratic freedom throughout the world.
Join with me in celebrating this great and beautiful country! I wish you all a Joyous Independence Day! May we continue to be a shining light for the next 200 years.
Love and Peace to all.
John Zaffino, Kent Lakes New York
July 4th, 2015