Friday, April 9, 2010

Don't Tread On Me, Except In Connecticut

The last two times I passed through Washington, D.C.'s Union Station, my eyes were drawn to a flag dealer's display. "Don't Treat On Me," many of the flags say. In my mind's eye, I see the flag flying proudly in front of my home, or draped, dorm-like, from a wall somewhere in my office. I love the flag, and the sentiment it expresses.

So, too, do tea party activists. They planned to hoist the flag above the state capitol in Hartford, Connecticut, at a protest event. They even got approval from the state police to wave the protestor's flag.

But then the police changed its mind. Acting State Capitol Police Chief Walter Lee reports: “At this point the request was denied due to the fact the intent to fly the flag had changed.”

“It was apparent it was much more a flag raising with a political event to follow. At that point we denied the request,” Lee said.

Huh? Does the chief think this was the opening salvo of a political coup? Incipient treason? Some portent of violence?

The flag, known as the Gadsden Flag, has a long and venerable history. A coiled serpent warned tyrants even before the revolt against Britain: "Don't Tread On Me."

Shame on the Capitol Police in Hartford. Symbols are part and parcel of political speech. A group that wants to shake its fist in the very face of a government it believes to be losing touch with the people it represents should be free to fly the flag. But in this case, new tyrants say no.

I wish I had bought that flag on my last visit to Washington. I'd hoist it today, so that it would be unfurled in at least one location in the State of Connecticut.