Image Credit: Facebook(L)/Drew Angerer(R) – Getty Images
Portland, Oregon, protesters of President Donald Trump decided to kick off the Inauguration with a controversial pre-game event.
The Facebook event, called “Inauguration Day Flag Burning Extravaganza,” encouraged people to meet up Friday at 2:30 p.m. and bring “as many American flags as you can.” A description on the event’s Facebook read:
“Let’s show our disgust for this empire of blood, it’s angry orange emperor, and all of the ignorant inbred goons who make up its power base, by incinerating the cloth rectangle that they worship. Let’s cleanse with flame this red, white, and blue symbol of empire, genocide, and white supremacy, right as orange Mussolini is being sworn into his office as top terrorist of the world.”
Veteran Eric Post saw photos of the event online when he arrived home and “the Marine in him” forced him out the door and into his car to confront the flag burners.
His wife of 21 years advised him not to go, and used the ultimate weapon against him — a text from his daughter that said “I love you daddy.”
Defenseless against his daughter’s words, Post made a pit stop at Willamette National Cemetery to collect his thoughts. As he stood in an area dedicated to Medal of Honor recipients, he recalled:
“I found myself overcome with emotion that there were thousands buried there that did not have the ability to tell their stories and speak up the way I can.”
Instead of facing the flag burners head on, he took out his cell phone and recorded a video:
With tears in his eyes, he addressed the protesters:
“Hey protesters. If you want to burn the flag, that’s your right, I get that. Amongst thousands of people that fought for their country and served, I’m standing by the grave sites of Medal of Honor winners.”
Taking a moment of pause, he offered a suggestion of how they can make a better use of their time:
“If you feel like it’s your right to burn the flag, okay, maybe you can meet me up here some time and we can take a tour and you can learn a little bit about sacrifice, and pride, and honor.”
Post, who presents almost a picturesque depiction of a United States Marine, doesn’t usually get emotional, but felt sick at the footage he saw. He described what he was feeling:
“I’m disappointed. Most importantly, I’m ashamed for the people that are buried here. I know I can’t speak for all of them, but I know I can speak for many of them and many of the family members when I say, ‘that’s disgusting.'”
Again, he invited flag burners to “look him up” and get a lesson on real heroes. He said:
“I’m happy to let you read what real heroes have done. Real heroes, not cowards with a lighter and a store bought flag that doesn’t mean anything to you.”
His video highlighted the extremely contradictory behavior that flag burning presents. While people want to protest and speak their mind freely, they’re destroying the very symbol that gives them that ability. Post reminded protesters they should “cherish that, not burn it.”
Although his original plan was to confront protesters one-on-one, it’s arguable that his video which has been viewed over 2 million times is sending a much greater message.
After his message became “our message,” he invited viewers to come “hear him out” and debate on Sunday at the cemetery.
While reportedly not one flag burner showed up, the crowd was nonetheless filled with people who traveled from as far as four hours away to hear his patriotic message.
He began his speech by acknowledging that the flag which, “means so much to me,” may have different interpretations for other people. This — the multiple meanings of the flag — is “awesome.” Post then described his issue with flag burners:
“The problem that I personally have is when somebody looks at that flag and doesn’t understand the complexity of what it actually is. For a loved one, that flag covered the coffin of a loved one coming home. They don’t understand that.”
Despite the protest Facebook page’s depiction of the flag as a “piece of cloth,” the veteran declared that the flag he brought isn’t just his late grandfather’s — it is his grandfather.
Similarly, to other military families who have taken umbrage with people who hide behind free speech as they violently act out, Post wondered what they hope to accomplish. If their goal is to “piss a lot of people off,” he confirmed that they’re succeeding.
Post is fine with people airing their grievances about the president in a respectful way, but posed an important question:
“If we really want unity, how can we be unified if we don’t have a common ground? So my suggestion is that the flag become our common ground.”
If the label of a “flag” is bothersome to some people, he told everyone to rally around the gratitude that we live in a country where we can voice these opinions. For Post, one person isn’t responsible for uniting our country, we all are. He said:
“And this unity I was talking about, we can’t leave that to a president. That’s unfair to expect one person to unite a country. That’s not up to him, that’s up to us.”
With no example of successfully fighting hate with hate, his listeners were encouraged to harness their raw emotion and promote their message from a place of understanding and intelligence, in a way that maybe people can understand.
In a final video posted to Facebook, Marine veteran Eric Post encouraged everyone to set aside their hatred and express their views with compassion towards their fellow Americans.