A forgotten Veterans Day: Your right to protest is not a guarantee

Julia Lasko and Barbara Bell, Opinions Co-Editor and Print Managing Editor

While scrolling through social media on Nov. 11, a day meant for honoring the members of our military and celebrating their bravery, one could see posts of protesters hanging the American flag upside down, defacing, and burning it. Any citizen who believes it is justified to destroy or disrespect the American flag has never been handed a folded one, once draped over the body of their fallen soldier. The American flag is far more than a piece of fabric. It holds within its fibers the memories of the triumphant and stories of our country’s history. Regardless of your reaction to the recent presidential election, defacing the symbol on Veterans Day is an unmistakable attack on the American military.

It is unfortunate that this year’s election fell only a few days prior to Veterans Day. The results have been highly contested and questioned, and have left many Americans, especially marginalized groups such as the LGBTQ+ community, women, and ethnic minorities, feeling hurt, afraid, and unheard. Comparatively, the veteran community in the United States is afflicted. According to the RAND Center for Military Health Policy Research, 300,000 of the 1.7 million veterans (20 percent) who served in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from post traumatic stress disorder or major depression.

While we think that peacefully demonstrating is an understandable response, it is important that Americans acknowledge that their ability to lead walk-outs, like the one demonstrated on campus, and dispute the outcome of the election is allowed by the privilege of freedom provided by the brave members of the military who defend our country each and every day. To disrespect this privilege in the form of burning a flag on Veterans Day, with regard to the sacrifices made by veterans, is wholly condemnable.

As American citizens, we have the right to exercise our right to freedom of speech and expression. However, the act of destroying or defacing the American flag, especially on a day as somber as Veterans Day, exudes ignorance. Why does this recognition matter? It matters because the right to express anger or disappointment regarding presidential outcomes or our president-elect is not guaranteed. It is imperative to recognize that the right to do so hinges on the actions of our military. Burning the flag alone is disrespectful, but on Veterans Day, when the flag is inextricably linked to the military, it is intolerable.

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