Interview With the Flag-Burner

I interviewed my friend Jesse, a.k.a. AnarchoJesse on YouTube and elsewhere, less than an hour before his controversial flag burning demonstration in Keene’s Central Square, New Hampshire. There was a crowd of people waiting, many of them reporters with notepads and video cameras.

As I point out in the video, I had mixed feelings about this particular choice for a demonstration. I certainly have consistently defended Jesse’s right to do it. I just haven’t been confident that it would be an effective way of conveying the message, and I wasn’t alone. Those involved in freedom movements in New Hampshire had a range of opinions, some so strong that they declared never to do business with Jesse over this. It could be quite a conversation starter. On the other hand, if all you do is upset people and get them angry at you, you haven’t accomplished anything. Once it became clear that he would not be dissuaded, Jesse got quite a lot of input from others and myself about making sure he did this the best way he could. He did a press release which he worked on very thoroughly with considerable feedback to make sure his message was clear before the event, so people had a chance to hear him before just reacting emotionally to the powerful imagery. He made sure he was prepared to explain his reasoning at the event so it didn’t just look like an angry outburst, though some of that still got lost in the tenseness of the situation.

People cried. Some seemed ready to attack Jesse. It’s fascinating to me the emotions that a flag can invoke. From my Navy days, I recall a few of the complex traditions in place about the handling of the American Flag, about how it must never touch the ground or it must be ceremonially burned, how it must be flown a certain way and that it’s flown at half mast to show respect for a death, and the length of time it’s to be flown at half mast based on the rank of the person who died. I remember being disturbed by that actually, by the way human lives were given different values based on a military ranking. But it’s just a piece of cloth! I’m reminded of the Catholic process of transubstantiation whereby a cracker becomes the body of Christ. It’s still a cracker! What exactly do you think happened to the crumbs in it? The only thing that happened was a change inside your mind, and it’s quite a powerful change to your thought processes. Yes, I realize that it’s a symbol meant to represent something abstract, but it’s more of a distraction. The symbol is being used in a deceptive way to manipulate how you feel about that abstraction. It’s a brainwashing tool.

I’m not sure if this is the best way to do it, but we need our delusions to be dispelled. I don’t feel mankind can address the problems that the world deals us until we can see the world clearly for exactly what it is. Hopefully this will inspire questions that people are normally sheltered from and lead to useful dialog about what it really means to be free.

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