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June 26, 2005

Performance Art

Powerline refers us to the story of former Cubs outfielder Rick Monday, who famounsly rescued the American flag from a couple of flag burners.

After seeing the thugs douse the flag with lighter fluid, Monday reacted:

He reached them about the time they got the second match lit and were about to torch the flag. "There's a picture that I think won a Pulitzer Prize and it showed me reaching down and grabbing the flag," he said.

He was not alone in trying to protect it. Tommy Lasorda, the Dodgers third base coach at the time, ran onto the field and, as Monday laughingly recalled, was "yelling every expletive in the world." This was the same Lasorda who had tried to sign Monday to a Dodgers contract while he was still in high school in the pre-draft days.

Monday got the flag and handed it to Doug Rau, a Dodgers pitcher. That was the last Monday saw of it until a month later. The Dodgers came to Wrigley Field and Al Campanis, a Dodgers executive, presented the flag to Monday. "It's displayed very proudly in my home," he said.

Again - I think grabbing or extinguishing burning flags is a form of performance art, protected by the First Amendment.

UPDATE: Cap'n Ed remembers something I'd forgotten in the intervening 29 years, proving there is a purpose to following the Dodgers:

Watching Monday rescue the flag from two lunatics who tried to hijack a baseball game for their protest, which would have provided the perfect nadir of American morale at that time, the crowd did something no one expected. Lasorda recalled in his book that starting softly, the crowd started singing "God Bless America", completely unprompted, until all of the tens of thousands of Dodger fans had joined together to sing it. It was one of the few unscripted and spontaneous patriotic displays in our Bicentennial, and one of the most moving at any time.

Posted by Mitch at June 26, 2005 03:45 PM | TrackBack
Comments

Thanks for the memory. But I must point out that Rick Monday was the Cubs Centerfielder that day.

Posted by: Richard at June 26, 2005 06:04 PM

Again - I think grabbing or extinguishing burning flags is a form of performance art, protected by the First Amendment.

Agreed. But it doesn't apply. Not on someone else's restricted entry private property.

Posted by: likwidshoe at June 26, 2005 08:58 PM

I don't like seeing burning flags. However, I'm not sure how you can properly make the determination that the symbol of the flag is deserving of added protection if it does not pose a threat to life or limb or if it cannot be determined to be obscene.

The flag is important because it is the ultimate symbol of why we are the greatest country on earth. It's greatness comes from the thoughts and ideas that we stand for. It is a symbol. How can you say that one symbol is any more deserving of protection than another if it doesn't threaten anyone's safety?

Posted by: cleversponge at June 26, 2005 10:14 PM

I'm NOT saying flags deserve "additional protection"; I think a flag amendment would be completely wrong. I absolutely oppose laws, especially constitutional amendments, that ban flag burning.

All I'm saying is that extinguishing burning flags is performance art, and is also protected speech.

Posted by: mitch at June 26, 2005 11:55 PM

Gotchya. My bad completely. I couldn't tell if you were being serious or not. I have a built-in reaction to anyone who uses the term "performance art". My first reaction is that they must be joking or they can't paint, draw or sculpt.

Not only is it performance art. It's bad performance art.

The Scalia decision on this matter is one of my all-time favorite SCOTUS decisions. Hot damnit that guy can write.

Posted by: cleversponge at June 27, 2005 08:13 AM

Sponge,

My first exposure to performance art was via Leonard Pinth-Garnell. Thirty years later, I don't know that a count of the "good" performance art I've seen would fill the fingers of one hand.

And it doesn't matter. Whether smearing grape jelly one one's buttocks while singing "Goddess Bless America" to elucidate man's inhumanity to man, or turning fire extinguishers on burning flags as a statement about the permeability of fire, it's all protected by the first amendment.

Which is why the next time I go to a rally where flag-burning is likely, I shall go in my capacity as an artist. No, an artiste.

Let the madding exchange of ideas begin!

Posted by: mitch at June 27, 2005 09:17 AM

I subscribe to the belief that if there is not a guitar playing somewhere...it is not performance art.

NOTE: Exceptions are made for White Lion and Poison. The presence of a guitar in these cases should not be mistaken for "art".

Posted by: cleversponge at June 27, 2005 11:49 AM

Don't blame us for performance art.

Although you're right about White Lion and Poison.

Posted by: The World's Guitarists at June 27, 2005 01:07 PM

As much as I knock it...I have a soft spot in my heart for When the Children Cry

Posted by: cleversponge at June 27, 2005 02:04 PM

We don't want it. You can have it.

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