- The Washington Times - Monday, December 5, 2016

Mike Rowe is defending the American flag as more than a “mere symbol,” but as an idea that many people have given their lives for.

The former “Dirty Jobs” host made the remarks in response to a Facebook commenter, Susanne McDaniel‎, who accused him of being “blindly patriotic” for his recent criticism of flag burning. Mr. Rowe said he’s simply a fan of this country “and the men and women who have served on my behalf.”

He also took issue with the commenter’s characterization of the American flag as a “mere symbol.”

“I think you’re correct about the flag; it’s only a symbol. So too is the Crucifix. And the middle finger. And the Swastika,” he wrote. “And the compressed chunks of carbon that millions wear on their ring fingers as expressions of timeless love and eternal devotion. It’s easy to make anything feel small and silly by reducing it to its chemical composition or its various component parts.

“But if you really believe our flag is nothing but a ‘mere symbol,’ equally suitable for flying or burning, ask yourself if you’d be comfortable if the people you work with suddenly started coming to the office in pointy white hats fashioned from bedsheets?” he asked. “Would that be a problem for you? Or how about The Rainbow Flag, favored by the LGBTQ community? Would it be OK if people started burning that? If not, why not? I mean, it’s only a symbol, right?”

Mr. Rowe compared American flag burning to artist Andres Serrano’s “Piss Christ,” a 1987 photograph depicting a small plastic crucifix submerged in the artist’s urine.

“Amazingly, some people were offended,” Mr. Rowe wrote of the art piece. “Christians, in particular. They just couldn’t see that Andres was using a symbol to express himself. Silly Christians. Interesting though, that Andres didn’t submerge Mohammed in the same glass. I wonder why that is?

“The thing about ‘mere symbols’ Susanne, is that they represent ‘mere ideas,’ and ‘mere ideas’ are the backbone of ‘mere humanity,’ ” he continued. “In the case of the flag, we’re talking about ideas that are wrapped into the Constitution – a document that separates us from every other country on the planet. Mere ideas are the reason people fight and die. Mere ideas are the reason we’re allowed to speak freely, protest publicly, bear arms, and burn the very symbol that represents those very freedoms. I didn’t suggest that you or anyone else be denied your right to fly or burn whatever flag you wish. What I failed to do, is quietly accept behavior I don’t care for. Which, if I’m not mistaken, is the same compulsion that motivates others to publicly express themselves in whatever ways they choose.”

Mr. Rowe included a photo of himself gazing at a color painting of Joe Rosenthal’s 1945 Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph “Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima.” His post late Friday has been shared more than 53,000 times.

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