Meaning and Symbolism

<img alt="Black and White picture of the American Flag flying" src="" width="400" height="190" border="0" class="img-center" />
<blockquote>"You're so far across the line, the line's a dot to you!"</blockquote>
Uttered in a fit of comic rage by Joey Tribiani, this line from <a href="">Friends</a> has become one of the most well-remembered of our generation.
Slightly less than three years ago, University of Arizona journalist Sheila Baphat wrote <a href="">an article</a> about the right of a U.S. citizen to burn the American flag. She applauded the Senate for rejecting an amendment to ban flag burning, and said of those who opposed the act: "They are obsessed with protecting a piece of cloth that represents, most importantly, the right to burn it".I wrote then on Tribolum (April 1st, 2000), seething with anger and agitation at the insensitivity and callousness she exhibited. She clearly paid little or no price for her citizenship and it seemed to her that one's individual right to expression superceded the rights of community.
<img alt="Toni Smith with back facing the American Flag" src="" width="130" height="94" border="1" hspace="7" vspace="7" align="left" />Now three years later, Division III basketball player <a href="">Toni Smith</a>'s <a href="">refusal to face the American flag</a> during the National Anthem receives colossal media coverage after Vietnam Veteran Jerry Kiley rushed the court with an American flag and shoved it in Toni's face. In a short video clip, Kiley told reporters that the flag was not about policy, but represented the sweat and blood of all who were serving America in the Middle East.
Toni's reason for not facing the American flag was that she opposed the United State's stance on conflict with Iraq, and that "the government's priorities are not on bettering the quality of life for all of its people, but rather on expanding its own power". It was only after Kiley's confrontation that she decided to go public. Her delivery, though unpolished, came across as truly sincere and her points highly insightful. Bear in mind that she is just a young college student.
In her public statement, she said "the flag means different things to different people. It means freedom to many, but to me I see the blood of the millions of indigenous people who died so that we could obtain it, the many who were enslaved to build it…" (highly paraphased; from memory).
Like the rest of us (save for <a href="">a select few</a>), she has every right to her own opinion. On the principles by which the American government was instituted, she has every right to oppose the decisions that are made. There is no doubt that what she is doing is both very difficult and trying. She is booed every game she plays with chants of "Leave our country".
So on that day three years ago I wrote in my journal wishing that Singapore would not see the day Singaporeans burn their own flag. Now, three years later I hope fervently that we find the courage, and more importantly the freedom, to do so.
<span class="byline">Photo of Toni Smith and Team &copy;AP Photos</span>

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