Firefighters suspended for displaying American flag stickers

One of the lasting legacies of Barack Obama will be this notion that behaviior or symbols cannot be tolerated if they offend one, single person. Unless, of course, your symbol or your behavior is connected to one of the protected classes. Ergo, you can't wear an American flag in many high schools, but proudly displaying the Mexican flag is permitted. Or, a soldier's uniform might offend someone, so you can't wear it to school.

This is the most insidious kind of political correctness because it is, at bottom, giving in to fear. The fear of offending someone should never trump First Amendment protections of freedom of expression. But that's just what happened to firefighters in Maywood, IL. The men wore American flag stickers on their shirts and put them on their lockers at the firehouse. But their commander, who had banned stickers of all kinds, ruled arbitrarily that the firefighters should be sent home.

NBC 5:

Four suburban Chicago firefighters say they were suspended after refusing to remove patriotic stickers posted on their helmets and lockers.

The Maywood firefighters say they were ordered to go home for refusing to remove stickers of American flags after their fire chief implemented a ban on all stickers.

"I'm floored that he would even consider this two days before 9/11," said firefighter Dan McDowell. "It's ridiculous."

Some said the stickers were sentimental.

"My dad served here for 26 years, an ex-Marine, ex-Vietnam vet," said Dave Flowers, Jr. "I took his locker."

Flowers said he was ordered to take a sticker off his locker or he would face discipline.

"We are the first African-American father and son on the Maywood Fire Department," Flowers said. "It has sentimental value."

Don Albanese agreed to remove several stickers, including a memorial flag from his helmet, but kept an American flag on his locker.

"I said, 'You know what? The one thing I won't do is I'm not going to remove the flag on my locker,'" he said. "No one sees it but us. We're all brothers here."

The firefighters said they were shocked to hear they couldn't keep their patriotic stickers.

"You'd be hard-pressed to find a firefighter who doesn't have strong feelings about 9/11," McDowell said.

Evergito Herrera came to the U.S. from Cuba and said he's been with the department for 25 years. He said American pride is something he cherishes.

"I come from a country where I couldn't do that," he said. "The government would tell me what to do and that's why my parents took me out of Cuba."

No doubt symbols of American patriotism are going to offend someone, somewhere. The question of why this should trump FIrst Amendement guaratees isn't so cut and dried. In 2010, a California school banned the wearing of American flag T-Shits on Cinco de Mayo because of a past history of violence between whites and Hispanics on that day. The court upheld the decision saying that safety trumped free expression.

All a minority has to do is threaten or commit violence against someone expressing patriotic sentiments and the fear of disruption will make a mockery of the FIrst Amendment. This will be a legacy of the current administration whose attacks on the First Amendment continue to this day.

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