PERKINS: American Pride Burning
They called it a “night of rage.” But outside the charred walls of Buffalo’s CompassCare, pro-lifers could barely get the national media to call it anything. Like the string of domestic firebombings across Wisconsin, Oregon, Colorado, Tennessee, and Washington, the blown out windows, graffiti, and trashed offices were barely a blip on network news. It’s been quite a contrast to the extensive coverage a single burned flag in New York is getting. But then, that’s the power of the Pride.
The incident that’s grabbing headlines happened in the wee hours of Monday morning. According to security footage, a woman parked her SUV, walked over to a rainbow flag hanging outside SoHo’s Little Prince restaurant, pulled out a lighter, and set the flag on fire. An employee working late inside saw the flames and called 911. Although the residents on higher floors had to be evacuated, no one was injured. There were, however, cracked windows and “external damage,” especially to the outside landscaping.
“It’s disgusting,” restaurant owner Cobi Levy said. His staff, he told the press, is shaken and scared. “These kinds of acts are desperate acts committed by people who are consumed with hate and filled with hate,” thundered Eric Bottcher, a local councilmember. The New York Times and other major newspapers descended on the scene, interviewing sympathetic neighbors and calling for the suspect to face the harshest penalties.
Within 24 hours, an investigation had been launched by NYPD’s Hate Crime Task Force and a replacement flag — larger than the one that proclaimed “Make America Gay Again” — had already been hung.
The all-hands-on-deck response was quite a contradiction to what more than 100 churches and pro-life groups have experienced over the last seven months from the FBI, which waited six of those months just to list the attackers on its Most Wanted website. Not a single arrest has been made in CompassCare’s case. In fact, the federal government has been so indifferent to the crimes that several pro-life groups have resorted to launching their own private investigation.
Meanwhile, in the Big Apple, Bottcher celebrated the LGBT movement’s resilience. “Our resolve is only strengthened when acts like this happen,” Bottcher told the community at a special ceremony to replace the colors on Tuesday. “We are standing up in the face of this hate and reasserting our pride in ourselves and our community. That’s why we hung the flag again.” Little Prince posted a photo of the new flag with one word: “Defiant.”
I want to be clear right off the bat: While there’s an obvious discrepancy in how the two sides have been treated by the media and law enforcement, no one is defending this woman’s actions. Respect for other people’s property — whether it’s a ministry or a drag bar — ought to be a reasonable expectation of every American. There’s no excuse for lawlessness in any form or against any person. That said, the hysteria over what happened in SoHo is a powerful illustration of where we are as a nation, and ignoring it only primes the pump for more hypocrisy.
There are plenty of double standards at play here, not the least of which is the excessive significance the legacy media assigns to victims of their pet political causes, while more than 100 pro-life ministries, churches, and pregnancy care centers sit smoldering in the ashes of a similar hatred, virtually ignored. Imagine if this woman had set fire to an America flag. Would the press race to the scene and mourn the lack of national pride across their platforms? Of course not, because in this age of identity politics, we’ve gotten to the point where setting fire to a rainbow flag is a “hate crime” and burning Old Glory is self-expression.
Frankly, the fact that a single act of arson can make national news is astonishing in an age when mobs can burn down entire cities with the ruling class’s blessing. During the George Floyd riots of 2020, torching federal buildings, courts, city property, and private businesses wasn’t violence, the Left said. It was “justice” — the kind that major Democratic figures publicly embraced.
It wasn’t even two years ago that Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), told the masses that if there wasn’t a guilty verdict in the Floyd murder case, then “… we got to not only stay in the street, but we have got to fight for justice.” Party leaders, like then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), defended Waters’s call to arms, saying she should not have to apologize for inciting violence. Rep. Ayanna Pressley (Mass.) flat-out called for “unrest,” while liberal city leaders from Portland to Chicago linked arms with anarchists, even going so far as to sue federal officials who tried to restore law and order.
The soon-to-be vice president of the United States, Kamala Harris, also endorsed the mobs, telling Stephen Colbert, “They’re not going to stop. … This is a movement. … And everyone, beware. …They’re not going to let up. And they should not, and we should not.”
Protestors, emboldened by Democrats, went on an anti-American rampage, toppling statues, defacing monuments, spraypainted historic buildings, and destroying private property, racking up more than $1 billion dollars in damage across the country — the most expensive riot spree in U.S. history. And yet this, the burning of a single LGBT flag, is “war in America.”
The irony is hard to miss. At a time when liberal ideologues argue against prosecuting anyone for anything, a woman destroying a rainbow flag faces double the punishment under New York’s hate crimes statute, which not only penalizes crimes but motives too. But what about the motives of the arsons in Buffalo? Where was the demand for “hate crimes” in cities where “ABORT THE CHURCH” and “DEATH TO CHRISTIAN NATIONALISM” were spraypainted across houses of worship?
If you’re starting to believe double standards are America’s only standards, you’re not alone. When burning our flag is “protected speech,” and a banner of sexual fanaticism is untouchable, we’ve passed the point of absurdity as a nation. And yet, these are the lessons our children have been taught: you can kneel for the national anthem but not refuse to wear a rainbow.
Now the bitter fruits of that indoctrination are everywhere. Today, more of Generation Z identifies as LGBT (20%) than feels proud to call America home (16%). Is it any wonder that society treats the Pride flag with a reverence it used to reserve for the country that gave activists the right to fly it in the first place?
In 1989, when the Supreme Court struck down the criminal penalties for burning a U.S. flag, Justice John Paul Stevens lamented in his dissent, “[The American flag] is more than a proud symbol of the courage, the determination, and the gifts of nature that transformed 13 fledgling Colonies into a world power. It is a symbol of freedom, of equal opportunity, of religious tolerance, and of goodwill for other peoples who share our aspirations.” It does not “represent the views of any particular party, and it does not represent any political philosophy,” Chief Justice William Rehnquist insisted. “The flag is not simply another idea or point of view competing for recognition in the marketplace of ideas.” The value of its unifying power, the four dissenting justices argued, cannot be measured.
Thirty-four years later, that unity is being tested as never before. We’ve become a people determined to wave our own flags, so comfortable in our factions that we’re trampling our country’s ideals — the same ideals that laid the foundations of self-expression the Left worships today. But if America has any hope of healing these deep divides, of ending these uncivil wars, the solution is returning — not to what divides us, but to what connects us. A national identity found, not in a spectrum of colors, but in three: red, white, and blue.
Tony Perkins is president of Family Research Council and executive editor of The Washington Stand.