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To Our Readers

By John Flanagan

Saturday, April 1, 2000

Burn flags,
not freedoms

IT'S ironic that in the "land of the free" freedom is so badly misunderstood. Free trade and free expression are bedrock American values, dating from before the 13 colonies became a nation.

Yet today, the age-old tradition of Yankee traders plying the open seas in search of global markets is still threatened by protectionist backwash. Meanwhile, life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and many of the basic freedoms guaranteed by the Bill of Rights have somehow earned the stamp of ACLU liberal extremism.

Americans honor the memory of Rhode Island founder Roger Williams, who fled the witch-burning Puritanical society of Massachusetts in 1635, during an age when religious intolerance and civil war raged in England and when Puritan Oliver Cromwell's hymn-singing Ironsides sacked and murdered their way across Catholic Ireland.

In Hawaii, however, many now mistakenly think it's a good, conservative idea for religious symbols to be displayed in government offices and on military bases. It would be un-American to remove them. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I've cited Sen. Cal Kawamoto before for his championing ill-conceived, protectionist legislation to give local contractors a 15 percent cushion on state government bids. Cal might consider himself a spokesman for conservative values, but it was Kawamoto who bemoaned the defeat of the sanctimonious flag-desecration amendment that narrowly escaped passage in the Senate this week.

To confuse the symbol with the thing itself is a particularly muddle-headed mistake. Luckily, clearer minds in the Supreme Court and Senate, including Senators Inouye and Akaka, have resisted this flagrant, perennial, grandstanding, election-year boondoggle.

Freedom of political expression is intrinsically American and burning a flag is about as clear an expression of harmless, nonviolent disagreement with government that a citizen can make. Uncounted thousands have fought, suffered and died to preserve freedom of expression, yet 63 of 100 senators voted to end it.

Sure, it offends people to see the symbol of the United States trampled or burned. If it didn't, who would do it?

John Flanagan is editor and publisher of the Star-Bulletin.
To reach him call 525-8612, fax to 523-8509, send
e-mail to or write to
P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, Hawaii 96802.

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