Participants in the flag debate around my campus note that the American flag has been deployed in the service of heroic causes and of less heroic and admirable efforts. The truth is that if you can’t find the flag used in the service of something you find offensive, well, you’re just not trying very hard. At the height of the Boston busing controversy, an activist at City Hall used the flag to attack a black man in a suit who happened to be passing by.
Yippie activist Abbie Hoffman provoked controversy and arrest by wearing an American flag shirt while protesting against the war in Vietnam. (Most states then had [clearly unconstitutional] laws prohibiting flag desecration.) It’s odd now to see that shirt as controversial; it looks most like a jersey from the US Olympic team in the 1970s. Contemporary tea partiers are more creative and less deferential in using the flag design in their t-shirts (TEA-shirts?).
But civil rights activists, here marching to Montgomery, Alabama, weren’t about to let the Klan claim a monopoly on patriotism or the flag.