The Protesters, The Veteran And The Flag—An Instant Ethics Train Wreck In Georgia

Mission accomplished... But what exactly was the mission?

Mission accomplished… But what exactly was the mission?

This the kind of story that makes Americans cynical. I’m more cynical from just reading it. Air Force veteran Michelle Manhart saw protesters  stomping on a flag in a demonstration at Valdosta State University in southern Georgia, and took action. She briefly snatched the flag away, but police officers intervened, arrested her, handcuffed Manhart, returned the flag to the protesters so they could continue abusing it, and escorted the comely counter-protester away. The protestors, all African-Americans, proceeded to say some silly and offensive things (Can we stipulate that “You killed off our people. You enslaved our people…You put us in this white supremacist place” is silly and offensive? I think that’s fair… and a lot fairer than accusing Manhart of “killing off” African-Americans.) Neither the demonstrators nor the police pressed charges against Manhart, but she did receive a campus trespass warning that bars her from campus activities. Let us pause for a brief ethics audit, shall we?

1. The flag desecrating protest, as the Supreme Court has clearly ruled, was legal and protected, except to the extent that it incites others to violence, like a burning cross. In some settings, it might be so judged. Not on a college campus, unless the college is West Point.

2. Legal or not, it’s a disrespectful and irresponsible protest, not to mention dumber than a Justin Bieber Fan Club.

3. I think many veterans would react as Manhart did. My father would have. I might have on his behalf. A lot of non-veterans would as well, and I salute them. Remember Rick Monday?

4. The police were correct to intervene and arrest Manhart.

5. The protesters were correct not to press charges.

6. The university correctly ordered her to stay away.

Unfortunately, the story began to rot soon after it was first reported. First the news media took sides. The Washington Post called Manhart a “Playboy-posing veteran.” What does her modelling in Playboy have to do with this incident? Nothing. This description was designed to marginalize and denigrate her and her actions; it’s the equivalent of an ad hominem attack. I also have to wonder why the mainstream media reflexively defends black students who attack the nation they owe so much to by any calculation, and treats a military veteran who feels she should defend the honor of the flag she fought under as a villain. The flag-stomping protest deserves technical respect but not substantive respect. Reverend Wright is an ungrateful, bigoted, and ignorant fool for bleating “God damn America!” and this protest was just as wrong. Then it was revealed that Manhart had posed tastefully nude in a PETA ad that used the flag as a prop, along with some other artistic uses of the flag in a less than purely patriotic manner.

Peta 3

That’s not quite desecration, perhaps, but it is still using Old Glory in less than dignified circumstances, and treads too close to hypocrisy. Finally, we learn that Manhart owns a restaurant called the Bacon Bunker in—three guesses!—yes, Valdosta. Might the whole incident have been plotted as a device to get free marketing, and not been a spontaneous display of patriotic passion?

Oh, probably,

I don’t want to think about it any more.

______________________________________

Facts: Washington Post, New York Daily News

21 thoughts on “The Protesters, The Veteran And The Flag—An Instant Ethics Train Wreck In Georgia

  1. I would have done that, too. Any establishment, polity or campus that would allow the flag to be desecrated by some societal scums-of-the-earth and actually arrest someone who acted to save her country’s flag deserves nothing but condemnation. If those cops had any integrity, they would have stepped in first. Miss Manhart only did their job for them. What the hell has this country come to when we see things like this occurring?

  2. Pingback: For Honor and For Safety - Page 2

  3. Jack,
    I agree with your take on the case at hand BUT ..

    I burn a flag every year on May 4th (for reasons you can likely guess) and I think the US of A is (unequivocally) the greatest country on Earth (to me). Why is it disrespectful or dumb? The constitution protects the right to do so, and I can think of no better tribute. Can’t one love the ideas the flag represents while still being disheartened by all the times it’s failed them?

  4. What does her modelling in Playboy have to do with this incident? Nothing.

    Actually, I have heard that she did some of that modelling (like the other modelling) using a strategically placed U.S. flag – which, if true, does make it relevant, in showing what she considers acceptable.

      • I think the fascination with this part of the incident is the shoddy journalism. I sure some people feel that real journalists would have posted direct links that bypass any paywalls that allow them to examine all the evidence…in hi-res detail. Now that we understand the ‘relevance’, we can move on.

  5. So, this is one of those situations where the police were (probably) the only ethically behaved people involved? With all the grief the police have gotten in the news lately, maybe we can call that the good news in this and move on.

    I know some people are upset about the flag-stomping, but our Universities have been Amerikkka-hating bastions of liberal orthodoxy for decades. Nothing new here. Remember, the California state schools recently banned the display of the American flag completely, calling it a symbol of racism and hate that makes the illegal, sorry, UNDOCUMENTED students uncomfortable. When the state government reversed that decision, the students and faculty protested. I’m not sure what is to be gained from analyzing this unless we suggest that we write our legislators to stop funding such schools.

    The police did a good job in a touchy situation. Hooray for the Valdosta, GA police.

  6. TexAgg,
    Calling someone an imbecile does nothing to further constructive dialogue, nor did it answer my question. I burn the flag (in private, not as a spectacle) because I legally can, not because I hate anything for which it stands. I fail to see how exercising a constitutionally-protected right makes me less intelligent or more disrespectful than anyone else. Who is being hurt by my demonstration? If anything, it does America benefit as it increases flag sales every so slightly and supports the economy.

    The torching of a flag (or anything) can only be defined as hateful is you let it. Flags don’t hold any special power over ideas nor are they physical manifestations of the things they represent. People lose wedding rings all the time, yet they don’t affect the underlying unions. Is it hateful to my mother for me to walk on a crack despite some believing them to be bad luck? It’s the belief we imbue things with that give them there power; thus, no belief, no power.

    I realize you all see me on the fringes, but I honestly can’t understand how anyone can NOT defend the burning of a flag, even if it’s done in hate. It’s been rule permissible for a reason. Hating the people that do so or the motivations that encourage it is one thing, but hating the act itself makes no sense — it’s a form of expression. If you don’t like it, don’t watch.

    Jack,
    I guess I’m beneath comment. I apologize for whatever it is I did.

    -Neil

    • “Flags don’t hold any special power over ideas nor are they physical manifestations of the things they represent.”

      So Neil: You’re OK with people opting for displaying Confederate battle flags on their license plates? ISIS flags at veterans’ funerals? Wearing a shirt with a German Third Reich national flag, while stepping through a Jewish Holocaust museum? If you’re OK with burning (I am, too), then I reckon you’re also OK with displaying and celebrating, up to a point. ??

    • TexAgg,
      Burning a flag does nothing to further constructive dialogue, nor did it answer my question. I call you an imbecile because I legally can, not because I hate you. I fail to see how exercising a constitutionally-protected right makes me less intelligent or more disrespectful than anyone else. Who is being hurt by my demonstration? If anything, it does America benefit as it increases awareness of your idiocy. (especially demonstrated by your economy comment)

      I don’t get the rest of your rant on hate as I don’t recall mentioning it…

      -TexAgg

  7. Jack,
    I guess it’s more a general question (only if you have time) — what specifically about my demonstration makes it hateful? What about it is ethically indefensible? How does this apply to flag desecration more generally? Or rather, with what don’t you agree?

    Also, do you like having your typos pointed out? I always refrained from doing so, as I figured you were already aware of them in most cases. I’m genuinely curious because I do invariably run across them from time-to-time and was never sure if it was worth mentioning.

    -Neil

    • If I burn the Gay Pride flag in public during a Gay Pride parade, you wouldn’t consider that hateful? What if I burn it prominently near the funeral of a prominent gay politician? It may be protected speech, but it would definitely make me an ass. Just because it is permitted doesn’t mean that it is a good thing to do. Telling a young relative that his parents tried to abort him is legal, but would still be a terrible thing to do.

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