Bye, Baby Bunting, daddy’s gone a hunting.
To get a little rabbit skin, to wrap his Baby Bunting in.
This lullaby, surprisingly, has many elements of a current nine-day-wonder, the controversy around the picture of little Landon Clevenger suspended in the flag of the United States by his sailor father. The lullaby has the baby, the daddy, daddy’s “hunting” (his military job), the container for the baby, and wrapping up the baby.
One not-so-obvious element, at least not to modern ears, is the bunting. In the lullaby, it is a wrap for a baby. In patriotic parlance, it is the red, white, and blue material used decoratively. The entire controversy could have been avoided had the baby been suspended in bunting.
But that didn’t happen.
What did happen was that, apparently, the person behind a now-removed Facebook page commented negatively on the photo and that drew in many defenders.
To sum up many of the complaints about the complaint:
Yes, a federal law governs the use of the flag. Chapter 1 of Title 4 of the United States Code. The law is not merely guidelines.
Yes, there are many violations of that code, but, to quote Calvin of Calvin and Hobbes, “The law is on the books, but it would take all their resources to enforce it.” This is why we’ve wound up with stars and stripes bikinis, flag napkins, flag clothing, and flag anything else. This particular law depends on a populace that respects this law enough not to violate it.
Yes, the sailor has rendered service to the country. Despite that, if I informed my Drill and Ceremonies instructor in Army Basic Training that I was able to use the flag of the United States for my own purposes because I’d enlisted — freedom of speech — I can just hear her asking me who I thought I was. Then I’d have been on my hands and knees for a day, scraping up floor wax with a razor blade (a more useful activity than pushups). A Navy-version of flag etiquette is provided at Navy for Moms .com Flag etiquette, sailors and women
Yes, the Supreme Court has ruled that disrespect of the flag of the United States is protected speech. But even that ruling was not unanimous.
Writing for the dissent, Justice Stevens argued that the flag’s unique status as a symbol of national unity outweighed ‘symbolic speech’ concerns, and thus, the government could lawfully prohibit flag burning.
Yes, the photograph contains much symbolism.
a. From birth Americans are wrapped in (whatever imagery you apply to the flag)
b. Fathers are strong protectors of babies.
c. Military men are hot dads (those strong protectors).
d. Family pride
e. That military service members are protecting the country for future generations.
f. Hope for future generations.
g. The child’s involuntary sacrifice of a parent being away from home.
The symbolism acknowledged, I read the dissent by Justice Stevens as meaning that the flag belongs to all of us, not to each of us. As people who respect the meaning of the flag, if we want to set a good example, following the law would be a good place to start.
Yes, protesters exercising their First Amendment rights have used the flag disrespectfully for their own purposes: To quote a commenter from somewhere on the Internet: “If we have the freedom to burn it, we have the freedom to wrap our babies in it.” Is the worst example of free-speech usage of the flag — burning it in protest — the example we ought to use? Is this what we strive for?
A “troll” commenter made the example of the inappropriateness of the image: “It would look cuter with a cat.”
If substituting another object for the baby, would the image still be appropriate? This freedom-hating-Pharisee who is an Obama-loving keyboard-warrior (I think those were all the slurs I attracted elsewhere) doesn’t think so.
I don’t think the Old Guard would agree, either.