Tuesday, November 18, 2008

No disrespect intended

Flags are funny things. Colored scraps of cloth that represent a military regiment, a people, a state, a country, an ideal, or any number of other things.

Because of that, flag desecration is serious business. If you damage or destroy a flag to which a person has an emotional attachment, that person might react irrationally. For the past twenty years, politicians in the United States have been able to score cheap political points by promising to amend the constitution to prohibit desecration of the national flag. Countries like Denmark make it illegal to desecrate foreign flags so as to avoid offending foreigners. Pretentious art students damage or destroy flags as art.

I went to a Mexican restaurant today. This restaurant, like many such restaurants, puts a little Mexican-flag-on-a-toothpick onto every meal as a decoration.

I'm never quite sure what to do with this flag. Any other decoration would be casually set aside once I begin eating, but with a Mexican flag - in a restaurant staffed largely by Hispanics - it seems vaguely disrespectful to just toss it onto the table for it to be thrown away. I'm not sure what the rules for the Mexican flag are, but an American flag is not supposed to touch the ground and should only be disposed of (ironically enough) by burning.

So, to the Mexicans of the world, when I take your national symbol, stick it into the coleslaw that I'm not going to eat and then let it get thrown in the trash and covered with my uneaten enchilada sauce, I didn't mean any disrespect to your country when I did it.