Flag burning in Canada? In a small town in Saskatchewan, Caleb Pelletier recently had enough of his neighbor’s Nazi flag, so he tore it down and burned it. The neighbor, being an equal-opportunity fool, also flew a Confederate flag, which apparently didn’t incur enough of Pelletier’s wrath to receive the same treatment.
Given that Canadians suffered nearly 100,000 casualties, including 42,000 deaths in World War II, one can imagine that the wounds might be raw when seeing that flag. But Pelletier’s reaction leaves me asking a question. What level of offense do we require before we have the right to tear something off our neighbor’s house and burn it?
The Confederate flag–which is a bizarre thing to have flying in Canada to my mind–apparently did not rise to that threshold, but perhaps someone else might have felt more strongly about it.
And what precisely factors into this offense? Was Pelletier driven by the local angle, knowing that Canadians died trying to defeat the forces who flew that flag? Was he motivated by the broader humanity of it, knowing that the Nazis led to the deaths of perhaps 10 million people total?
Would he have been justified in ripping down an old-school Soviet flag? A People’s Republic of China flag? What about a Japanese or Italian flag? How high does someone’s outrage need to bubble before boiling over into action?
I live just a few miles east of the Missouri-Kansas border, where a real-live shooting war was underway nearly a decade before the official beginning of the Civil War. Can I justify being triggered by my neighbor’s Kansas state flag because many Missourians in my area were deprived of their Civil rights under Order Number 11? Or might someone near my place of employment (in Kansas) look at my license plate and rip it from my car because of Quantrill’s murderous raid on Lawrence, Kansas? Of course that’s silly, right? The Civil War ended more than 150 years ago, but then World War II ended more than 75 years ago. How long do we get to hold onto our grievances?
Back in Canada, the mental midget who flew Nazi and Confederate flags over his house might reasonably argue, “What harm does a flag do?” And it really doesn’t do any harm, does it? Shouldn’t we be able to see offensive things without attacking them? And if not, then we’re back to deciding how big the offense needs to be.
This is a tough matter to solve. I want to respect the rights of someone I disagree with but I want to live in a non-hostile community. What’s a thoughtful person to do? I find my guidance from Paul:
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Give careful thought to do what is honorable in everyone’s eyes. If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.–Romans 12:17-18
While I hold some unpopular opinions and am offended by other unpopular opinions, I don’t think I’m justified in inflicting my ideas onto others. It’s like this blog. If my words offend you, then you can turn from them.