Should Flag Burners Burn?

Human Rights Constitution of the United States (1787) Is refusing to stand for the National Anthem an appropriate protest? Judicial Mandates •     Words and meaning of the law should be understood as they were understood by the people when the law was enacted. •     Activist judges should not invent new law, but they should respect the constitutional prerogative of the people to pass laws through their representative legislatures. Preamble Articles I - VII Amendments I – XXVII Amendment I: freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, petition in general: justices: The Next Supreme Court Justice > Law | about | Center for Constitutional Studies & Citizenship | Amendments: Amendments 1-10 Bill of Rights | Amendments 11-27 books/films: freedom of the press: Rosewater Stewart | interpretation: America's Unwritten Constitution Amar

by scott pickard

Should burning the flag be a protected form of free speech? Consider this:

  • Was the flag burner trespassing?
  • Did the flag burner hurt anyone?
  • Did the flag burner catch anything else on fire?
  • Did the flag burner burn a public flag that they did not own?
  • Was it an act of treason, in and of itself?

If the answer is “no” for all five questions, then the flag burner is not a criminal. They were just someone that took their own flag onto public property where they are entitled to go, and they burned it (unfortunately they don’t have a flag anymore) but didn’t hurt anybody or anything in the process. If we’re going to send a person to jail for this, then we will have to reevaluate thousands of actions that people perform every day that should be equivalently considered obnoxious, disturbing, anti-patriotic, or criminal.  There will be social accountability enough from family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues that the flag burner will have to face, and possibly realize that “I will never do that again!”

Come on, we’ve got to get a grip on ourselves, take a step back and get some perspective, and not be so mentally and spiritually brittle! This is America. We are tough, flexible, resilient, and open-minded, so we can absorb the actions of a flag burner. We can’t rule-make a person into being civil and/or patriotic – it’s either in their heart, or it’s not.

What do you think?


A Star on the Boulevard

a star on the boulevard

by scott pickard

About 13 years ago (2002) I did something that I had never done before and have not done since, which is to take a full two weeks of vacation at the end of the year. It was ause it or lose it situation for me and I wasn’t about to waste those precious vacation days. The first week of this vacation my wife was still teaching and my kids were still in school and not yet out for holiday break, so I was home alone. I asked myself, what should I do? The Bible says idle hands are the devil’s workshop, so while I wasn’t about to do anything devilish, I was determined to have some fun!

We didn’t have HBO back in that day but my young-adult son (just graduated from college) had become a fan of the Sopranos so he sent me a box set that had several DVDs covering the entire first season. On my first day of vacation right after my wife and kids had left for school I settled in with the first DVD and as you might expect I didn’t come up for air until I heard my wife driving up the driveway coming home from school. When she walked in the door I said, “I’ve done something very bad,” and informed her that I hadn’t gotten off the couch since she left that morning. Now that’s not the worst thing in the world but for me it was extremely slug-like and I don’t think I’ve ever done that since. But of course binge-watching TV episodes is now the new normal so I guess I was ahead of my time.

To atone for my extreme laziness I decided I’d do something constructive the next day and I thought maybe I would get started on the outdoor Christmas lights. But then a thought popped into my head and I don’t know where this came from, but as I looked up at our big pine tree at the southeast corner of our house I thought maybe I’d put a star on top of that tree. It was to be a big surprise for my wife and kids that evening.

I had climbed on buildings and train bridges and up tall trees since I was five years old, and then as I got older I advanced to municipal water towers, so I had no problem with heights. I just thought I’d start climbing the tree and if I ran into a problem such as an irritated squirrel, I’d abandon the idea. No big deal.

So I made the rounds of the big-box stores and found my first star at Lowe’s. I came home, laid out 200 feet of electrical extension cord, and set up a ladder so I could make it up to the first branch about 20 feet off the ground. I fashioned a harness so that I could carry the star around my neck and attached the electrical cord to my belt so I could pull it up with me as I climbed the tree.

It was a very cold day and a little snowy as I started to climb the tree, branch by branch, very slowly and carefully, until I got as high as I could go, swaying in the breeze and afraid I might snap the top of the tree trunk. I secured the star to the trunk of the tree, plugged in the extension cord and slowly descended. I got down safely and ran the extension cord around the house and plugged it into an outlet in the garage. I walked around the house and looked up and saw the star glowing. It worked!

I unplugged the star and waited until my wife and kids came home and then when it got dark I asked them to come outside so I could do the big reveal. They were flabbergasted! My wife looked at me and said, “How did you get that up there?” I said nothing but just looked at her and then she looked at me and said, “You climbed that tree, didn’t you?” I nodded and smiled and I have been smiling about that ever since.

So for 13 years people have been asking me how I got that star up there. They all seemed to think I rented a cherry picker (boom lift). I would just say, “Oh, it’s a really easy tree to climb….. lots of limbs.” But most of them were skeptical that I actually climbed up the tree. The most recent skeptic asked, “Did you use a drone?” Nope, no drones in my air space, just me and the squirrels.

I decided to keep the star on until January 6 (epiphany) which is when we would typically take down our Christmas tree. But I didn’t climb back up the tree to take the star down. I left it up there with the cord running down the trunk and then I tied it off to a limb about 20 feet in the air, ready to be plugged in the next year. But it didn’t quite work out that way. You see, squirrels will chew on anything from a gutter to a garbage can to an electrical cord to a star. So about every 3-4 years I’ve had to climb back up there and replace a squirrel-mangled star with a new star. But each time I got a better, bigger, brighter star!

The holiday star has become an iconic feature of our neighborhood for all these years and gives me a great source of pleasure. Every year our neighbors look forward to seeing the star go on the first weekend after Thanksgiving and they are sad to see it go off on January 6.

I appreciate this is a very small accomplishment in the big scheme of things. I didn’t scale K2 or bring peace to the Middle East. But it is these simple traditions that make life so pleasurable and meaningful in a neighborhood such as we have on the Boulevard. We’ve been in our house for 33 years and plan on being here 33 more. I don’t know how long I will keep climbing up that tree for the inevitable star replacement. My kids remind me that I shouldn’t be doing this anymore. But how could I not?

This simple story has no best-practice takeaways for the busy linkedin professional, except to say I hope you can follow your star this holiday season while enjoying the fellowship and love of your family and friends.

- sp -

Things you affirm on your deathbed

  • All you have left are memories of your life experiences
  • Loving your family is the most important thing in life
  • Worry is worthless
  • Taking risk is how you grow human knowledge
  • Balance is a universal force and the ultimate truth

- sp -

Faith is a Double-Edged Sword

[ from A Man of Faith by scott pickard ]

Faith is a double-edged sword.

Faith gives a person a certain power and confidence; a comfortable and secure belonging to a group that one trusts, and the fellowship that arises from that association.

But the sharper edge of the sword is that faith can also drive a person down a narrow path that does not respect other points of view, with a purpose that is unshakable. In many contexts this kind of determination can manifest as a good thing and it will deliver successful, sometimes incredible results.

But in some cases this “blind faith” can drive people to seriously harm others (even kill them) all in the name of their “faith practice,” to both non-believers outside their circle, but also members inside for purposes of enforcement.

The disastrous irony of blind faith is that it motivates people to do things that they believe are good, right, just, and necessary by the principles of the faith they follow. What can you say to a person like this to convince them otherwise?

I ask you, is there a more powerful and sharper double-edged sword in our world than blind faith?

- sp -

Faith and Science

[ from A Man of Faith by scott pickard ]

I am a man of faith, and a man of science.  For me, scientific and spiritual views are compatible.  Otherwise, how else can you answer these questions:

  • Why is there something instead of nothing?
  • Why are we here?

It’s truly amazing if not a miracle that the universe follows mathematical algorithms so precise that we can use these algorithms to land a man on the moon.  Both science and spiritual are at work here, because something must be behind all this. It could not be a random accident.

I don’t know the answer, but I have “faith” that there is a profound truth behind it all that is outside scientific explanation.

- sp -