The Civic Responsibility and Consciousness of War
Kiss the flag? Burn the flag? Support the troops? Stop the war? If you want to know why former school teacher and fitness coach Doug Wight went on a flag burning spree just before Christmas, maybe you should ask him. It seems that few people have done that. Newspaper articles that appeared presented few details.
Wight was in court on January 24, and his trial is set for April. The Associated Press filed the first news articles on the morning of Christmas Eve. “Anarchist Group Behind Local Flag Burning,” read the banner headline. “Police say a flag-burning incident in Northampton may be the work of an anti-American anarchist group,” the story began.[
It was not an anarchist group, not an anarchist, and it was not anti-American. It was only Doug Wight, a former public school teacher and patriotic citizen spurred to action by a combination of frustration, outrage and conscience.
Doug Wight is the primary suspect in four flag related incidents in the weeks just prior to Christmas 2007. But contrary to what most people believe, three of the five flags destroyed were on Federal Property. The flag at the Greenfield (MA) Post Office was lowered off the pole and burned in a dumpster. Two flags on the highway overpass above the Massachusetts Turnpike in Palmer (MA) were burned on December 7. One flag was taken from someone’s yard and a note left to say it would be burned. The fifth flag was burned where it hung from a tree outside someone’s home.
“A man police have linked to four vandalism incidents around the Pioneer Valley said he felt called to burn American flags as a way to draw public attention to what he sees as abuses of power by the U.S. government,” the Greenfield Recorder began on December 27, 2007.
The story is not as simple as it would appear, much to the dismay and celebration of those both for and against what Doug Wight did, and the important points of consideration have been swept away with the ashes of the flags. As usual, the media and the news-consuming public have distilled a very complex and intriguing story down to a collection of sound bites and jingoisms.
Several hours before his arrest Wight gave an interview to the local Daily Hampshire Gazette newspaper. He said he hoped his actions would inspire others to take a critical look at the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which he says are illegal, and other policies of the Bush administration, like the USA PATRIOT ACT, which he says violates the Constitution.
“I felt called, as a kind of duty and responsibility,” Wight told the Gazette, “to try and wake up the American people in any way I can without harming or hurting them. If I have to go to jail and suffer to help put an end to these state-sponsored atrocities and abuses, so be it. Such is the price of true liberty!”