July 31, 2005


FAIRFIELD, Ohio — Two teenage boys were charged Thursday with burning 20 small American flags set up in honor of a soldier who died from injuries suffered in the Iraq war.

Police said the boys apparently did not know the significance of the flags they took from the yard and set afire under a car belonging to the soldier’s sister-in-law. The vehicle was destroyed.

So I guess they just thought they were burning flags, and a car, belonging to an ordinary patriotic American, rather than the family of a dead serviceman. I guess that’s somewhat less disgusting. It’s possible — though not clear — from the story that this was apolitical vandalism, though (contra Rehnquist in the flag-burning case) I think flag-burning, like cross-burning, is pretty much always meant to send a message.

UPDATE: On the other hand, here’s a characterization of the event as “a confluence of youth and stupidity.” I guess I shouldn’t underestimate the power of that combination. . . .

And this observation seems spot-on: “I can only guess that the parents are thinking about looking to move to another county right about now.”

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Bryan McBurney emails:

If these idiots had burned a cross or spray painted a swastika on a Jewish Community Center they would surely get some kind of politically correct re-education/sensitivity training. In fact, others at their school (assuming they attend school) who had nothing to do with it might get the same treatment. I am not generally in favor of that stuff but, if we must have it for racially/ethnically motivated stupidity, why not mandatory patriotism re-education for anti-American or anti-military stupidity? I am not entirely pleased with myself for coming up with this idea, but if we have one why not the other?

I’m against both, but the door has certainly been opened. And those who are creeped out more by one or the other might ask themselves why.

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