On February 14, two of Philadelphia’s finest were sent to the scene of an altercation between a Philadelphia cab driver and a would be thief. The thief warned the cabbie that, if he called the police, he would shoot the cabbie and the police. The cabbie, most likely fearing for his life, called anyway.
Two policeman showed up at the scene. The thief wannabe was wearing a jacket and his hand was in one of the pockets. As the police approached the man, he quickly raised that veiled hand. The hand wasn't the only thing that the thief raised. In his hand was a .357 Magnum.
A little after nine o'clock PM, Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey walked out of the Albert Einstein Medical Center to an anxiously waiting media.
He somberly looked up and said, "It's my sad duty to inform you of the death of John Pawlowski. What makes his death even more tragic is that his wife Kim is expecting their first child. What makes this whole thing unacceptable is that officer Pawlowski was improperly displaying the flag of The United States of America on his sleeve."
Of course Commissioner Ramsey never mentioned anything about the flag on Pawlowski's sleeve. In truth, he never mentioned anything about
Officer Pawlowski's wife expecting their first child, but that one is a fact.
This is not glib handling of the senseless killing of one those brave people who work day and night to protect cabbies as well as you and me.
I wonder, though, whether the man who wrote a letter to North Carolina's Citizen-Times would, indeed, fault the commissioner for failing to mention whether or not the slain officer was displaying the flag properly. After all, he'd been noticing the "improper display of the flag of the United States on the sleeve of various uniforms."
There's nothing wrong with knowing the proper placement of the flag. It's just another piece of knowledge. What's wrong is that the letter writer states that, "Some of the offenders have included law enforcement..."
Offenders, he says! So "offender" may have been Officer Pawlowski's status when he lost his life trying to save that of a cab driver. We really don't know, do we? How the flag was situated on his uniform hasn't, yet, become an issue. Unless the letter writer from North Carolina gets involved in the investigation, it probably will never become an issue.
I'd like to think that the flag is important because of what it's supposed to represent. It's supposed to represent The United States of America and the wonderful participative government for which the founding fathers laid the groundwork. At any rate, they laid that groundwork by penning eloquent words eloquently upon the parchment of the time.
As we know today, much of what they wrote was incongruent with what they practiced. Yet the words are there and, as time has passed, they've come to be meaningful. They are the words of which we should be reminded when we see an American flag. That is the purpose of the flag. The flag has a purpose; it is not, in and of itself, a purpose.
Yet, throughout American history, it has somehow become not a representation, but a raison d'être.
We've been told that everything's changed since September 11, 2001. One of the "everythings" is the American love affair with sewn fabric of red, white and blue. Don't misunderstand. "Old Glory" has always been important to many Americans, more important to some than to others. We've even given it a name.
There have been votes in Congress to amend The Constitution so that it becomes a crime to desecrate the American flag. There could one day be a law which punishes people for "desecrating" cloth while those who desecrate the ideals for which that cloth stands go free.