We in America have plenty of opportunities to display our patriotism, from parades and holiday ceremonies to sporting events, government meetings and political rallies.
Do we really need American flags waving from the backs of emergency vehicles while they're on their way to a fire or car accident?
No. We don't.
The Arlington fire department in Poughkeepsie was recently ordered by the local board of fire commissioners to remove American flags from the backs of two fire engines.
The flags aren't the little ones kids wave at parades. They're about the size of the ones many people hang outside their houses.
The fire commissioners determined that the flags could pose a liability for firefighters and a potential distraction for motorists.
Maybe it's the Olympics. Maybe it's the election. Maybe it's the still-fresh wounds of the 9/11 attacks. But the fire commissioners' order has sent people into a red-white-and-blue tizzy.
How dare these commissioners trample on our First Amendment right to display our patriotism in any way we see fit, regardless of the potential hazards.
Must every reasonable request these days be met with a public hissy fit?
This wasn't an anti-American decision.
The fire commissioners weren't objecting to the American flag being displayed in some manner on the trucks. They weren't stomping on the memories of fallen soldiers or insulting veterans by their decision.
Decorate the truck in flag decals. Have the firefighters wear flag patches on their uniforms. Surround the fire station with 100 American flags to show your patriotism. Heck, go ahead and paint the whole truck to look like a flag if you want. They're mostly red and white anyway.
Just don't have a large cloth object flapping from a stick on the back.
Why take the risk that the pole could become dislodged or that the cloth flag could come undone and interfere with the vision of a driver behind the truck, causing an accident?
Why offer the potential for some driver to be distracted by the motion of the flag whipping by and swerve into the other lane?
Why risk the chance that the flag could somehow impede the vision of the fire truck driver or get in the way of firefighters accessing hoses and other equipment from the back of the truck?
How likely is any of that to happen? Maybe not very. But it certainly could. Why take the chance?
You can bet if you or I had a beach towel or a tarp or a flag flapping out the window of our car, a police officer would pull us over and tell us to tuck it inside for safety reasons.
Wouldn't we expect the same consideration for public safety vehicles?
Fire trucks have one job. To respond to emergencies.
If firefighters and the public want to display their patriotism, they can do it in any number of ways.
Hanging a flag from the back of a fire engine needn't be one of them.