In the blockbuster movie Rocky IV, Rocky Balboa (played by Sylvester Stallone) fights mammoth, Russian boxing sensation, Ivan Drago in a bloody exhibition match. In that movie, both boxers wore boxing trunks that depicted their country’s flags. No one ever complained about the trunks – not the theatergoers, not the movie critics and not even the presidents or militaries of both countries.
And no one ever said it was disrespectful when at the end of the movie, both boxers’ trunks became drenched in sweat and blood and the movie ended with a frozen image of Rocky Balboa wrapping the American flag around himself.
But this week, when photographer, Vanessa Hicks, posted a photo on her Facebook page of a Navy dad in uniform holding his eight-day-old newborn baby swaddled in an American flag, a controversy erupted.
The photo’s a disgrace; many people were saying on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. The American flag is not a prop, said others and even some retired and active military personnel were complaining that it was a flagrant violation of the ‘Federal Flag Code.’
Which brings us to the flag code itself, which says: “The American flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery.”
So, does that mean that a baby lying in or on the American flag in a photo is showing disrespect or breaking the law? The answer to that question may not be as simple as it sounds.
For some, the American Flag is a patriotic symbol and a representation of the country they love. For others, it is a degrading image that conflicts with the progressive narrative of a new world order, and one that is loudly demanding inclusivity.
But, the photo’s controversy is not only about showing respect and honoring code; it is also about how America is becoming torn apart into two warring factions – one which clings to its patriotism and the one that wants to destroy it.
And it’s a disturbing conflict that is spreading throughout universities all across America.
Just this past week, a student council group from the University of California voted to remove the American flag from its lobby so that the area would be as inclusive as possible. After thousands of other students and teachers had revolted, the ban was overturned. UC’s Executive Cabinet ruled, “The flag transcends policy and politics and represents American values.”
Score one for ‘Old Glory.’ For once a large group of patriotic Americans weren’t going to get pushed around by a small group of liberal, progressive bullies.
And that’s exactly what the Navy dad was doing in Hicks’s photo – expressing the love for his country and exercising his right to do so.
The First Amendment says that everyone is entitled to symbolic speech. It even allows anyone to burn the American flag in protest if they disagree with the ideology of what our country’s flag represents.
How more inclusive can a country get than that? It seems hypocritical then to deny that same right to a soldier and father who cradles his baby with the American flag in a photo.
In the Rocky IV movie, Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) dresses up in a red, white and blue Uncle Sam outfit. With top hat and all, Creed descends from an overhead scaffold and dances around the stage to intimidate Ivan Drago. While Creed does so, James Brown appears singing and dancing to the movie’s theme song, “Living In America.”
It was a powerful and patriotic moment – much like the one was in Vanessa Hicks’s photo.
Maybe the title of that song should have been the caption for Hicks’s photograph. After all, living in America is everything that the American flag (and her photo) represents.
Joseph E. Rathjen is a freelance writer and an Opinion Writer at 1World Online – America’s Fastest Growing Research Engine