Symbolic speech is to be protected by the First Amendment, and while it can be a "necessary" political protest, it can also be a dangerous thing in the hands of people pushing solidarity with the wrong ideas. With that, we'll get to Ben Haas, but first, some background with regard to baseball.
On April 25, 1976, 2 protesters went on the field at Dodger Stadium to burn the flag. In the midst of trying to get it to light, Rick Monday came and saved the day by yanking the flag out from underneath them. For a career, he batted .264 and hit 241 home runs. He played from 1966-1984, and he knows what it means to win a World Series, but he will always be the guy that saved the flag.
Never mind that flag burning represents a symbolic gesture that when the flag is tarnished, this is the proper way to "dispose" of it. For what was the protest in 1976? America's legacy of injustices read out like some book? Maybe back then it was new... left over hippies and academics telling their findings and banging on the podium that if you don't believe me it's all in here... it's so old hat and partisan now, and I get it... there are lots of people that have belittled, marginalized, discriminated against, and killed for this country to be, but at the end of the day, it's our country, for better or worse, and we live here. We're not about making ourselves less to make other people around the world feel more, especially when we didn't discriminate, but alas, that's not what this blog is about. It's about baseball and the right to be great. The right to feel the other part of the holy trilogy (mom and apple pie being the other 2 - even if I don't eat apples).
As Ken Burns makes abundantly clear, baseball has done much to make American injustices go away. Sure, there were the years of Jose Feliciano being ostracized for daring to sing the National Anthem differently (making it possible for Christina Aguilera to forget the lines while doing her screaming siren rendition). We integrated African Americans before much of America. We fought for labor rights, for better and for worse. We brought the country together in a show of patriotism as teams played to make us forget 9/11 happened.
And somehow now... we know that we can't forget 9/11, and for that, we have to address the villains of that day with more than tough talk and rebukes. We need to end the Osama Bin Ladens, Ayman al-Zawahiris, and Abu Al-Asad Zarakwis of the world. We need to make sure that there are no more Abdelbaset Ali Mohammed al-Megrahis that can get released. We need to make sure that there can never be a show trial like the one that will someday come for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. We may not like that there need be violence. We should want for peace and happiness and the good things that PIXAR movies show to us, but at the same time, we should be thankful that men with guns go out in the middle of the night and put a bullet in the skull of Osama Bin Laden.
So if Ben Haas has a grudge with the US, one has to wonder why? Are his ethics so elevated that even terrorists who kill nearly 3,000 on a late summer day in 2001 deserve human rights when they don't extend them to their own people? Is this guy for real?
LSU responded to his protest that was quickly shut down by angry, patriotic protesters shouting for this "hippie" to "die:"
"With our commitment to free speech occasionally comes events that offend our standards and values. Burning an American flag offends the vast majority of the LSU community. Still, freedom of speech ensures that even objectionable expressions of opinion will exist. While we accept this reality, please join me in continuing to express our support for this great nation and the symbols that represent it."
Martin added that he was pleased the student changed his mind and opted not to burn the flag.
"I’m happy that after talking to university officials and realising how many people are against flag-burning, that he thought better of it. 'This is what a flagship university, and Free Speech Alley, is all about – good civil discourse, dialogue between all parties and discussions of diverse opinions. This is how students learn from each other and grow as people. I also thought today brought out a wonderful display of patriotism among the students conducting the counter-protest."
At this site, we wish Mr. Haas no ill - even if his protest was ill-conceived shock and awe for the radical left and extreme libertarian right and served no purpose other than to piss off main stream America, but alas... One would have to wonder how far his ideas would go with those he wanted to defend today, but no matter. Will this make him more like Adam Gadahn? Will the water balloons and screams of the military men and women and their families, friends, and supporters do anything to change his mind, to make him see the error of his way?
When the teams take the field, will he rise for our anthem and put his hand on his heart? Will he even take off his hat?
In the end, it doesn't matter because this is his right to believe how he wants to believe, but with that, people have the right to tell him he's wrong in the same "respectful" way he told them that they're wrong.
Somewhere out there, there is a sense of pride and respect, the same pride that once emenated from a guy who once wore Dodger blue (and red and white), and it is filling Louisiana. These are people that see what's coming down the Mississippi. These are people that feel the effects of our economoy. But these are people that are standing up for the good things in America that are and that will be.
This is something Haas has absolutely no clue about.