You may recall last year the ALS “Ice Bucket Challenge” that completely took over social media in which just about everyone from your neighbor next door, to your favorite pop singer, to former heads of state dumped buckets of ice on themselves to encourage awareness and contribution to ALS research. There was some controversy to this brief social media frenzy among pro-life advocates who pointed out the research group which was being highlighted conducted embryonic research, but in general it could be said that whoever participated in that challenge were most likely doing it for pure motives. They wanted to help people, and that is certainly noble.
You may or may not have heard about a more recent social media “challenge” that has been making its way across Twitter and Facebook. You may not have heard of it since it thus far has not been getting nearly as much attention as previous challenges, which is certainly a good thing. Unfortunately I have not been able to escape it showing up in my news feeds.
I am referring to the “Eric Sheppard Challenge,” which is where people, especially blacks, are encouraged to photograph themselves stomping on the American Flag and post it in solidarity for a black college student Eric Sheppard, who is a New Black Panther member, white-hater, self-proclaimed terrorist, and currently a fugitive from the law after allegedly bringing an illegal firearm onto the campus of Valdosta State in Georgia at an anti-flag protest. If you want to know more about this fine and upstanding member of the community check out the following news reports:
This young man is apparently so angry at the white man, and therefore protests the American Flag, a symbol of white oppression. And apparently when a person is vocal about their hatred for whites, calls themselves a terrorist, and unlawfully brings a weapon to an event whose explicit purpose is to defame the symbol of America itself, it is unjust for law enforcement to take issue with that. They are just profiling him, apparently, because he is black. And as a result numerous people are taking to stomping on the American flag to show solidarity for this would be terrorist.
This is all of course coming right on the heels of the Baltimore riots where the city was set ablaze by a group of supposed “protestors” who really just wanted to throw a childish temper tantrum and destroy half of their own city in the process. And all of this is also happening in the shadow of the Ferguson Missouri protests and riots when the nation was all in an uproar because a violent criminal who was assaulting a police officer was shot and killed. Racial tensions are high, and mistrust of the police and the state are growing greater every day. And just when you think it can’t get any worse we see the “Eric Sheppard Challenge” gaining momentum in the black community.
I could have a lot of reactions to all of this.
I could be bewildered. Confused that not only someone like Eric Sheppard actually exists, but that there is apparently a following of people actually desecrating the American flag to show solidarity for him. These people live in a country that actually tolerates them stomping (literally) on the very freedom that allows them to behave in such a manner. They are actually stupid enough to not realize the very fact that they are doing so, without fear of legal reprisal, only serves to disprove the point that they are trying to make: that the law is out to get them.
I could be furious. I could be outraged that these supposed citizens of this proud country would so brazenly spit on the very image of our national pride. I could be disgusted by the manner in which they completely insult all those who have sacrificed so much for the freedoms we have in this country. Throughout this country’s two and half century of history countless men and women of all races, creeds, and beliefs have bled, been maimed, and died to preserve this nation and what it stands for. And these heathens spit on every drop of sweat, blood and tear ever shed to make them more free than just about anyone has been before in the history of the world.
I could be sad. I feel deeply for the sorry state of our society that rather than celebrating this nation for what it is and also persistently working to make it even better, these people would rather just completely destroy it. Is our nation perfect? No, it has always had flaws, and still does. But if you look at our history I can tell that we have been making progress. But apparently the progress just isn’t good enough.
I could tell these people that if they have that much disdain for this country then they should feel free to leave. It’s a big world and I’m sure they could find a nice home for themselves somewhere free from the oppression of the white man here in the United States (I hear that Siberia is nice, or perhaps North Korea, that is a clear bastion tolerance and equality).
I could suggest that if they have so much hatred for the flag, and the country that it represents, then they no longer need to participate. We could revoke their citizenship and they no longer need the right to vote.
I could feel or say all those things, but I won’t.
I won’t partially because they are out of anger, and won’t really be very productive anyway. But mainly I won’t because they won’t care. They probably won’t care about what I have to say because I’m a white man, and I’m apparently part of the problem. But they also won’t listen to me because they don’t care about what I’m saying. They don’t care about those that have sacrificed to make this country what it is. They won’t care about huge strides that this country has made over its history towards freedom and equality.
So maybe I can point out something that they will care about.
All of you who are stomping on the flag, you are fools. Not because you are insulting a nation of white men, but because you are defecating on the memory of your own ancestors.
It is true that when this country was founded it promised liberty and justice for all, but failed to deliver it. Slavery was a dark stain on this nation from its beginning, and the sin of slavery still had horrible consequences well through the twentieth century, and even does still have some remnants of its effects present today.
But when revolution broke out against Britain and our nation was fighting for freedom it was not only white men who fought, but the black man fought right there with them. Those black patriots were not stupid; they had to have known that the issue of slavery and racial inequality would not be quickly resolved. But rather than refuse to fight out of principle they proved their true character by fighting for freedom. They stood next to their white brothers in arms and proved their worth as soldiers and as men. They did not win freedom for all of their black brothers and sisters, but they helped build a nation founded on the idea of freedom. They may not have been able to get all the way there, but they fought and sacrificed to get one step closer.
Nearly a century later, civil war broke out, and the black man’s freedom was on the line. The black man did not just sit back idly and let the white man fight it out. No, black men signed up to fight for freedom. They could have been angry that they were segregated into entirely black companies. They could have been infuriated that they were not paid as much as their white counterparts and refused to fight out of principle. But once again they proved that they were above such spiteful behavior. They fought hard with all their might, they persevered, they bled, and some of them died. Once again they proved their worth as soldiers, and as men. And with their sweat and blood they helped defeat slavery, and won freedom for them and their black brothers and sisters. They may not have rid the country of racism, and they were certainly not in for an easy road, but they fought and sacrificed to get yet one more huge step closer.
As they moved on into the twentieth century, several wars would come and go: World War I, World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. For a while they would still be segregated into black companies. They would still not be given the respect they deserved. They could have become indignant that after over a century and a half of proving themselves they still were not afforded equality with the white man. But once again they refused to sit it out. They continued to step up to serve a country that despised them. They proved their worth once again on the battle fields, showing that they could fight just as hard and just as strong as the white soldier. They refused to let themselves give in to indignity, and they slowly brought the nation to realize their worth. Every drop of sweat, blood and tears made the nation ripe for the Civil Rights movement when they would finally be treated as equals under the law. They may not have won every heart overnight, there would still be a battle against racism over the decades to follow, but they fought and sacrificed and managed to achieve that which would have been unthinkable to their fathers.
So if you don’t care about anything else, care about them. Care about your fathers, your grandfathers, your great-grand fathers. When you stomp on the flag you stomp on the blood of black men who gave their all so that you could live in a country defined by freedom. When you stomp on the flag you stomp on the sweat of black men who fought so that you wouldn’t be a slave on a plantation. When you stomp on the flag you stomp on the tears of the black woman who stood firm in the face of brutal racial hatred so that you could walk into a restaurant and be served with dignity and respect. When you stomp on the flag you stomp on every black man, woman, and child who came before you and gave everything they had to provide you with a country with more freedom, more equality, and more acceptance than any country they could have ever dreamed.
The flag is not just a white man’s symbol. It is an American’s symbol. Yes, it comes along with it a tainted past, the sins of slavery and Jim Crow racism. But it also symbol of those who persevered under that oppression, rose above it, and overcame it.
Of course I’m not talking to all blacks. I know there are plenty in the black community who are fine, upstanding citizens, productive members of society who are likely equally appalled by the image of anyone defaming the American Flag. My message is not to these people.
But to those of you who think that you are standing up for some righteous cause by stomping on the American Flag, you are fools. Complete and utter fools.
Like me on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/thefaithfulengineer