This weekend delivered us one of those rare gems that you just can’t make up: one lawless individual’s act of nationalistic idolatry sent conservative news outlets and bloggers into paeans of uncritical praise. It was an embarrassing display. Conservatives apparently checked no background and paid attention to few facts. The result was that Christians and conservatives ended up tossing out the foundations for society and morality, as well as their own stated values, merely because an American flag and a military veteran were involved. But the rest of the facts are quite disturbing.
It turns out that these conservatives are praising the unlawful actions of a socialist pornographer who defies the law, even though she herself once desecrated a flag for her own pet cause.
Headlines such as the one by Todd Starnes—Christian social commentator for Fox News—were typical: “University Detains Veteran Who Stopped Flag Desecration.” He reports some of the basic facts of the incident like this:
An Air Force veteran was hauled away in handcuffs and detained by campus security at Valdosta State University in Georgia after she stopped protesters from desecrating an American flag.
Michelle Manhart admits that she snatched Old Glory from a group of demonstrators who put the flag on the ground and were walking on it.
One member of the unnamed group told the Valdosta Daily Times they were desecrating the flag as “a symbol of our protest.”
Several stories came across just the same. But what they haven’t told you is what will really shock you.
“Snatched” it was. For starters this was a case of theft, pure and simple. A female protester can be heard in the video telling Mrs. Manhart, “It’s not yours.” And it wasn’t. That’s why Manhart was eventually arrested by police. Yet Manhart attempts to justify her theft with a socialistic argument. She retorted to the protester, “This belongs to, actually, the entire United States.”
Well, no, actually, it doesn’t. It is private property. Even though the flag is a symbol for the United States, individual American flags are not community property. The argument is ludicrous. In fact, in one of the landmark flag-burning cases, when the Supreme Court decided that flag-burning was protected as free speech, one of the defendants nevertheless was sent to jail because he had stolen the flag from a government building. It was private property.
So, folks, whatever your individual views on flag-burning may be, private property laws trump those views.
The Blaze even posted this socialistic sentence from Manhart “above the fold” on their version of the story. Since they seemed to approve of Mrs. Manhart as a hero, they apparently did not recognize the irony of defending socialism when Beck built his career decrying it.
There are so many other sparkling facets to this gem I hardly know where to begin.
What about “pornography”? It turns out that Mrs. Manhart is only a “former” veteran because she resigned after being demoted from her rank as a staff sergeant. Demoted, why? For disgracing the military uniform by posing both nude and in uniform in a 2007 Playboy spread.
But surely that was just some youthful mistake, right? Well, Mrs. Manhart was already married and had two children when she made that decision. She remained unapologetic afterward. A reporter in 2007 noted that Manhart went through the spread with her 11-year-old daughter: “Manhart, daughter at her side, has gone through her Playboy spread page by page. The human body is beautiful, she explained, and nothing to be afraid of.”
Aside from making trips back to base a bit awkward for Manhart, the authorities weren’t too happy with her. When they took official action against her, she couldn’t accept her punishment, so she quit.
She then tried to advance her “modeling” career with another skin stunt, this time running into pure hypocrisy. In 2008, she posed all-but-nude for PETA, including a shot in which—pay close attention now—she covered her privates with an American flag and the American flag was dragging on the ground.
At the time, she justified her actions this way:
“When we originally did that shoot, we did it for a specific cause,” said Manhart. “We wanted to portray what we have as Americans when we get rid of all our material things. We wanted to strip the human of all material items and stand behind the flag because if we don’t have anything, we still have this. We still have our freedom.”
Manhart said she knew the flag would touch the ground during her photo shoot and took preliminary measures to ensure that it was disposed of properly.
“We made sure before the shoot that the flag would be donated to the Boy Scouts, so they could dispose of the American flag since it touched the ground,” said Manhart. “We made sure of that. If any part of the flag was touching the ground we wanted to make sure it was done right.”
Ironically, in the video of the recent incident, you can hear Michelle lecture a protester that the flag needs to be “properly disposed of.” The interlocutor responds, “We’re going to take care of that.” But Manhart refused to give it back anyway.
Apparently, she can desecrate a flag for her pet cause, but people with whom she disagrees cannot.
It was at this point that the “lawless” facet shines. When police arrive and instruct Manhart to hand over the property, she refuses. She continues to the point that they move to arrest her, and then she causes a scene by resisting arrest.
Now, I have my own views on arrest and police powers, etc., but what have we heard from all these great conservative outlets for months now? What have we heard when the issues were Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and others? We have been instructed over and over that whether you think you’re in the right or not, obey the police and don’t resist. Whether you’re innocent or not doesn’t matter. That can be sorted out later. The important thing is to cooperate and let the police do their job. If you resist, you can get in trouble and even injured or killed!
Yet, when a military vet and an American flag are involved, some of these same conservatives can’t praise their hero enough. I have even seen cop-bashing in the comments to these articles. I have not seen one single conservative commentator apply the same logic regarding police to this circumstance as they did to all those others.
And finally there is the issue of the law. We live in what may be to some a confusing time because the federal law against flag desecration still appears on the books, but subsequent Supreme Court decisions have ruled that flag burning or desecration is protected by the First Amendment.
The first law protecting the flag was actually signed by the great society statist, Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968. The first SCOTUS test case was Texas v. Johnson (1989). It overturned the law and protected flag-burning as free-speech. Congress immediately passed another Act. This, too, was overturned the following year in U.S. v. Eichman (1990).
These decisions were both 5–4, but notably included conservative Scalia and quasi-conservative Kennedy in the majority.
Since then, Congress has attempted several times to pass a Constitutional Amendment. The last attempt (2006) failed by a single vote in the Senate. For those who like to keep tabs on things: one of only two Republican “Nays” among 32 Democrats was the man who is now our current Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell. (He defended his vote, well in my opinion, in a press release.)
There is not a single facet of Mrs. Manhart’s story of which Christians and conservatives ought to be proud. The woman is socialist, lawless, hardly a role model for morals, and a hypocrite.
The only thing driving conservatives to puff this story is the fact that she was a military veteran who “stood up for the flag.” But when these things, which are hardly virtues in and of themselves, are allowed to triumph over private property rights, basic morality, and personal integrity, then conservatives have basically thrown out everything—indeed, the most important things—for which they claim to stand. The foundations have been destroyed in the name of preserving the façade.
In this, we can see the power that the military and nationalistic patriotism hold over many. The reaction to this incident suggests that a government dedicated to war and lawlessness could sway the conservative masses to trample their own rights and morality by merely waving the flag and pronouncing “support
At that point, conservatives stand holding only the symbols and power and glory—but they have dropped the substance of it. If we overlook degeneracy and lawlessness in order to uphold a symbol, we’ve turned society on its head. Friends, don’t save the fabric of the flag if it means trampling the fabric of society to do so.