A Grand Old Flag and the Nevada Test Site

A letter explanation and clarification to the Sheriff of Nye Country and our readers

I received an email from the Nye County Sheriff’s Department expressing concern over a recently posted article, “A Grand Old Flag and the Sheriff of Nye County.” The concern, as I understand it, is that some readers might not fully understand that the title and use of the phrase, Sheriff of Nye County, is a metaphor and that when referring to the Sheriff, it meant the law enforcement and security personnel at the Nevada Test Site on Easter Sunday. The story also employed a personalized style of writing, a literary device, to heighten interest in it. Since this article was written in the spirit of good will and understanding, to discuss important issues, and that perhaps some readers might not fully understand this, I wish to clearly state this article was not meant to suggest that Sheriff A. DeMeo, was at the Nevada Test Site on Easter Sunday, April 4, 2010. Sheriff DeMeo was not at the test site and did not confiscate the American Flag. Again, the phrase Sheriff of Nye County was used as a metaphor representing the law enforcement and security personnel present. I respect the Sheriff and his department and the good work they do. I fully understand they perform an important and difficult job. This too was clear in the original article. To be sure this is understood, I offer my apology to Sheriff DeMeo for any misunderstanding this article may have created.

Since the article was written to discuss a number of very important issue which I still hold very dear and as a Veteran of the USMC and one who still honors the U.S. Constitution and serves his country, I have changed the title to avoid any future possible misunderstanding and have substituted law enforcement personnel for sheriff. The article is immediately below for those who have not yet had an opportunity to read it. Thank you!


John Amidon

A Grand Old Flag and the Nevada Test Site

By John Amidon

Few Americans know that the original lyric in George M. Cohan’s “You’re a Grand Old Flag” was “rag”. Mr. Cohan explained he had a chance encounter with a Civil War veteran who carried “a carefully folded” yet tattered old flag. Mr. Cohan took notice and the veteran responded saying, “She’s a grand old rag.” The public however demanded flag and after all, it is show business.

Yet what does the flag truly represent? And why did law enforcement personnel confiscate the American flag on Easter Sunday from an middle aged woman at the Nevada Test Site (NTS) then later attempt to return it?

In an earlier and simpler time Mr. Cohan’s lyrics might have summed it up pretty well, “You’re a grand old flag, you’re a high flying flag and forever in peace may you wave. You’re the emblem of the land I love. The home of the free and the brave.” Yet somewhere from then to now, the Republic became an Empire and the values which our flag once seemed to clearly represent have for many become a distant memory. We are no longer the brave for we fear each other and our own government. Our freedoms are eroding and our economy is approaching collapse with a staggering 12.5 trillion dollar national debt thanks to ill advised permanent war in the Middle East and because our politicians lack backbone and consistently borrow and spend.

When serving in the USMC, I took an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, along with the Declaration of Independence. I know torture is wrong and that habeas corpus is essential for the rule of law. There is no such thing as secret evidence in the country I know and love, so when the FBI uses entrapment based on secret evidence, I am extremely disturbed. When I carry the flag it is to signify the profound respect for and the dignity inherent in the Bill of Rights, freedom of speech, habeas corpus and the rule of law. I carry the flag as a symbol of protest with the hope those Americans who would limit our freedom, who are comfortable with secret detention camps and extraordinary rendition and secret evidence will somehow remember what we once stood for a nation where all were equal in the eyes of the law. I carry the flag like our forefathers did, in resistance to any would-be King George. Lately it seems there is a would-be King George under every bush. Our nation is grinding and slouching and borrowing its way towards a totalitarian state with militarism, apathy, and greed as its guiding constellations.

For many of us it is clear that nuclear weapons pose one of the greatest if not the greatest threat to all of humanity. As President Obama works to limit the proliferation of nuclear weapons, we might well asked who spawned this epidemic of WMD’s and then take a long hard look it the mirror. Nuclear weapons in their inception and development are a crime against humanity. They are designed to kill all living things without discrimination. This is why, year after year, we return to the Nevada Test Site to insist upon a responsible government and the abolition of nuclear weapons. The choices offered by our government are utterly absurd, mutually assured destruction (MAD) and unacceptable damage (UD). For the sake of our world we must honor and implement the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty and decommission all nuclear weapons. We must also act quickly to implement nuclear waste cleanup at sites such as Hanford and our nuclear power plants. Until there is long term containment for nuclear waste, it is time to stop using this dangerous science.

When my friend Catherine carried the flag across the line at the NTS, she carried it proudly knowing all life is sacred and all nuclear weapons are an offense to God and a threat to our nation. Catherine carried the American flag as a flag of protest, like the flag our forefathers created, a flag of profound revolutionary values, which respected the common man and his right to freedom of thought and expression, a government responsive to the will of the people and taxation with true representation. This government would not only tolerate but respect and encourage loyal dissent as a vital and necessary voice for the well being of democracy. When law enforcement personnel confiscated the American Flag, it is likely they understood what was being confiscating and that Catherine was a true American patriot representing the best in America, carrying the flag in loyal and peaceful opposition to the excesses and mistakes of our government. It was right of the law enforcement personnel to recognize the true American values by attempting to return the American flag. That in fact they have failed to recognize, the US government is occupying the Shoshone Nation, that they have no jurisdiction on that land and were there illegally arresting Catherine and others, who were there legally, simply indicates the amount of work that is yet to be done to begin the restoration of “liberty and justice for all.” That the NTS is stark testimony to one of humanities greatest failures, the development and testing of nuclear weapons, that it has created untold death and disease in all of the neighboring states, and killed many ‘down winders” and that this site is protected by law rather than dismantled also shows clearly how much work is still to be done.

One of the most probing essays about, “What the American Flag Stands For” was written in 2002 by Charlotte Aldebron at the age of twelve. It is a very short essay and may be found at: http://www.commondreams.org/views02/0403-01.htm
I would like to quote one paragraph here.

“School children have to pledge loyalty to this piece of cloth every morning. No one has to pledge loyalty to justice and equality and human decency. No one has to promise that people will get a fair wage, or enough food to eat, or affordable medicine, or clean water, or air free of harmful chemicals. But we all have to promise to love a rectangle of red, white, and blue cloth. “

Nearby and not long ago, compassionate Las Vegas passed a law that criminalized feeding the homeless. The law was overturned.

And Arundhati Roy provided us with this provocative and particularly pertinent insight about flags in a time of war.

“Flags are bits of colored cloth that governments use first to shrink-wrap people’s brains and then as ceremonial shrouds to bury the dead.”

One half of one percent bear the immediate burden of our wars waged by this country and the rest of us go on as if the wars do not exist.

We bear no ill to the law enforcement and security personnel at the Nevada Test Site. We know they have a difficult job and we know life presents us with some pretty confusing situations at times. And yes we carried the flag as a flag of protest. It always has been and always will be for those of us who understand what it represents. It really is “A Grand Old Flag.” (We are glad you tried to return it. It shows you are thoughtful.) We just have to remember what our symbol means and carry it in accord with its true meaning like Catherine did at the Nevada Test Site . When we remember that, no one will argue with that old veteran from Gettysburg who once smiled and said, “She’s a grand old rag.”


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