Patriotism isn't only by the flag?

by YoYoMama 26 Replies latest jw friends

  • YoYoMama

    Patriotism isn't only by the flag?

    (c) St. Petersburg Times, published November 11, 2001

    The American flag has truly come into its own in recent weeks, replacing suction-cupped Garfield's as the accouterment of choice for our cars.
    Everywhere you look, the flag is hanging out of car windows-unless there is a football game and the local team flag takes precedence. Local television news anchors have made flag lapel pins as much a part of their on-air image as their look of sincere concern. And the flag can be seen conspicuously waving in the background of American-made car ads that exhort you to be patriotic and buy a car.

    I don't wave the flag, I wave principles. More than a swath of fabric, our country is represented by a set of ideas that have been culled from the best of the Enlightenment. So for me, patriotism is most profoundly exhibited by calling the government to the carpet anytime it defies the principles upon which our nation was founded: When it denies unpopular groups freedom of speech or religion, doesn't respect limits on police powers or fails to treat every person equally under the law. (Of course, it's hard to sell a
    car with that.)

    Don't get me wrong, I respect the choice of those who show their love of country by displaying Old Glory. But at this time of renewed patriotic fervor, we have to be careful that flag waving doesn't become flag raving.

    In the not too distant past, our flag was used as a tool of persecution, particularly against Jehovah's Witnesses and particularly by members of the American Legion.
    In the early and mid-1940s, as World War II raged, a wave of anti-Witness violence swept the country. Jehovah's Witnesses were targeted because their religion prohibited them from paying homage to anything but God, which meant they couldn't participate in the Pledge of Allegiance. Witnesses also inflamed communities with their avid proselytizing and open criticism of other organized religions.
    Adding to the combustion was one of the worst rulings of the century by the US Supreme Court. In June of 1940, the court ruled that Lillian and William Gobitis, two Jehovah's Witness children, had not had their religious freedom rights violated by a Pennsylvania school district's policy of compulsory flag pledging, even though the children were expelled for refusing to participate. In the shorthand of the day, the Gobitis decision was translated into: Even the court says they're traitors. And it soon became "open season" on Witnesses.

    Americans were skittish about the Axis powers operating a spy network inside the country. (In the same way we are now worried about terrorists in our midst.) Rumors circulated that Witnesses were German spies and members of the elusive Fifth Column, sometimes backed up by fallacious press reports.
    The fact that they wouldn't salute the flag was seen as evidence of their disloyalty.

    Some of the worst atrocities have been documented in the book, Judging
    Jehovah's Witnesses: Religious Persecution and the Dawn of the Rights
    Revolution, by Shawn Francis Peters. For example, in Litchfield, Ill.,
    carloads of Witnesses were set upon by townspeople, with members of the American Legion leading the way. Men and women were pulled from their cars, the men beaten. A flag was draped over a car hood, and, when Witness Robert Fischer wouldn't salute it, "vigilantes grabbed his head and repeatedly slammed it against the flag-covered hood." According to eye witness reports, the chief of police sat watching and did nothing.

    During the 1940s there were thousands of reported incidents, coming from nearly every state, of destruction of Witness property, burning and looting of Kingdom Halls, brutal beatings and floggings when Witnesses refused to salute the flag, and in one case castration. Police typically did not intervene in the attacks or investigate later. Instead, local sheriffs would often arrest and charge the Witness victims. Even our Justice Department turned a blind eye.

    By 1943, the Supreme Court had had enough. It reversed the Gobitis decision in the case of West Virginia State Board of Education vs. Barnette. In a ringing opinion, the court said Jehovah's Witness children and others have the First Amendment right to refuse to participate in a flag salute.

    "Freedom to differ is not limited to things that do not matter much," wrote Justice Robert Jackson. "That would be a mere shadow of freedom. The test of its substance is the right to differ as to things that touch the heart of the existing order."

    As schools across the country react to the Sept. 11 attacks by reintroducing morning pledge exercises, it is worth remembering the way enforcement once got seriously out of hand.

    The flag should be a symbol of America, land of liberty, pluralism and
    tolerance. But too often it has been hijacked by commercial interests to hawk goods, by politicians to hide behind and by bullies to justify violence against those who are different.

    To avoid any confusion, I'm sticking to principles.

    (c) Copyright 2001 St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved

  • jayhawk1
    The flag should be a symbol of America, land of liberty, pluralism and tolerance. But too often it has been hijacked by commercial interests to hawk goods, by politicians to hide behind and by bullies to justify violence against those who are different.

    I agree, the flag represents one of the greatest countries on this Earth. I was sickened by all of the mini flags and bumper stickers that started appearing our of nowhere. Where was this pride before September 11?

    Now regarding your position (or at least the position of the article) on Jehovah's Witnesses not saluting the flag, I agree with that as well. It is sad that Jehovah's Witnesses in particular were unjustly attacked by overly patriotic U.S. citizens.

    However, this unjust action did not last long. Law changes, sometimes for the worst, sometimes for the better. And the law did change. Jehovah's Witnesses no longer have to salute the flag, if they choose not to. Unless another court case makes it to the Supreme Court, it will never again manditory to salute the flag. That is how the U.S. Law works, or did you not know that?

    Let's turn the tables for a minute. How about the Jehovah's Witnesses and their allegiance? No, I am not speaking of their allegiance to the United States, or any other country. Nor am I questioning their belief in Jehovah God. I am talking about their allegiance, if not outright worship of the governing body?

    If me as a Jehovah's Witness reject the governing body or the watchtower society, I am guilty of treason against the society. And therefore, subject to removal by disfellowship proceedings. Why can't a Jehovah's Witness just worship his/her god as he/she chooses?

    In America we have the freedom to do as we choose, salute the flag or not. In the watchtower society, either acknowledge the govening body as God's Prophet, or loose salvation.

    I am reminded of the scripture, remove the rafter from your eye, before you remove the straw from mine. So you can see to remove the straw from my eye.

    So Jehovah's Witnesses have no room to complain in my opinion about United States Law or their former laws for that matter. If you want an opinion, vote, and get involved in the government.

    Is this a light saber in my pocket or am I just happy to see you?

    "Hand me that whiskey, I need to consult the spirit."-J.F. Rutherford

  • moman

    FACT: The JW's are free to spread their LIES,& hide behind their IVORY WATCHTOWER tax free because of the brave men & women that have put their lives on the line in our military & they do this while they preach their BLOODY downfall! BASTARDS!


  • AjaxMan

    In this great country that I live on named U.S.A., we have the freedom to choose to be whatever we want, we can choose which religious path to take. It is our right and prerrogative. Believe me, like you, I did live under a military dictatorship in another country and I now know what freedom is.

    It's true that there were histories of injustices in this country. However, you are only singling out the JW's. How about the Asian inmigrants? Most were not even allowed to become U.S. citizens at the beginning of the 20th century. The Chinese who worked on the West Coast Railroad were treated just as bad if not worse than the African slaves. The Japanese were in internment camps during WWII. It is a shame and injustice that those events happened.

    You know what? Laws have been changed: JW's can choose to salute the flag though I know certainly they won't. People here can even burn the flag. It is still part of free speech. If JW kids do not pledge allegiance to the flag, that's fine. If they get beat up for it at school, you can still sue the school as you do have freedom to choose. Now let's see if within your congregation, you can have the freedom to question the teachings and doctrines of the society. If you get excommunicated for it, can you sue them for infringing your freedom?


    "Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things and the best things never die." - The Shawshank Redemption

  • Room 215
    Room 215

    Yo Yo,

    Thanks for the quote from the St. Peresburg essay.

    JWs are quick to laud Jehovah for granting their legal victories which safeguarded and safeguard to this day their freedom of conscience.

    But how much do they credit the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and enlightened system of justice with its noble-minded justices of the Supreme Court?

    These acted decisively against an avalanche of public criticism to restore JW's liberties even when they acknowledged that the JWs had antagonized and inflamed as much with their turgid rhetoric as with their courageous refusal to salute the flag.

    Such noble interventions make Rutherford's characterization of the ``Anglo-American'' system to Nazi dictator Hitler as ``the most oppressive power on earth'' (in his 1933 Delcaration, found also in thre 1934 Yearbook) appear ludicrous, grotesque even.

  • AjaxMan

    Yo Yo,

    I may add that I do wear a pin of the U.S. flag as solidarity with the victims of 9/11 and their family.

    Also, keep in mind who fights for our freedom and the freedoms of your brethren here in America and at Bethel in Brooklyn. You know who does that?


    "Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things and the best things never die." - The Shawshank Redemption

  • roybatty

    I agree 100% that it was wrong what happened to the JWs in the 1940's. And as has been stated here, the laws have been changed.
    One question though, that has always gone through my mind, how much of this abuse did the JWs bring upon themselves?
    While agree that people can choose to believe or not believe in whatever they want, how "wise" is it shove it in someone else's face?
    What did the JWs expect to happen when they "invaded" a small town and told those people that their religion was a bunch of bs? And then they would march in front of the local churchs.
    Again, it is wrong to physically attack someone for their beliefs but I think that the JWs also share a small part of the blame.
    I get so tired of the comparision of MLK's movement and the JWs. The two do not compare.

  • Room 215
    Room 215


    There's no question that JWs provoked -- then revelled in -- so much of the beatings and mob actions of the Rutherford era. Any glance at the WT literature of the period illustrates the unremitting vilification and baiting of the clergy that Rutherford indulged. Safge in the Bethel precincts, and heavily guarded by WT goons whenever he ventured into a public venue to deliver more of the same, it was the witnesses in the rank and file who bore the brunt of the public's reaction.

    To cite but one example of the JW contempt for Catholicism in particular, I recall one old-time JW referring to the Pope as ``pus-gut.''

  • YoYoMama

    It's really stupid to say that Witnesses provoked the beatings they received.

    It's like saying that a girl provoked her rape because she was wearing a short skirt.

    Or saying that the father that was killed by another father during their sons hockey game provoked his own death.

  • AjaxMan

    I got a question for you, YoYo:

    If we live in a state, country, nation or society that is ruled by the JWs, are people from other beliefs going to have their freedom or will they be beat up, persecuted, segregated, discriminated or worse, killed because they won't agree with JW doctrine?


    "Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things and the best things never die." - The Shawshank Redemption

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