It's a simple equation too easily forgotten by cynics: Susan Eastman makes the point that the black Miami-Dade firefighters who objected to riding on fire trucks with huge American flags -- and who say the flag may not carry the same symbolic meaning for them as for others -- should not be penalized by their department or vilified by the public and the media. She's right, of course. The very essence of our freedom is the right to dissent from what may be the majority or favored view. And especially in these times it's important that we encourage rather than stifle all expressions of freedom.
My problem with her article was this: Why did she slam every public figure and public sentiment along the way to making her point? She chided Dan Rather for breaking down on David Letterman's show and Larry King for wearing red, white, and blue, implying that both reactions were somehow disingenuous.
She described the public's flag-buying spree as catering to a "market for schlock." When Katie Couric pointed out how, during the week following the attack, people were being nicer to each other (a truism), she accused Ms. Couric of "waxing on like a Hallmark card." She even had the audacity to imply that it was somehow Pollyannaish to hail the deceased firefighters and cops as heroes ("And suddenly we had heroes after decades where they all seemed to have gone the way of Joe DiMaggio -- 369 firefighters and cops who'd raced into the Twin Towers and lost their lives").
The vast majority of public reaction to the horrific events of September 11 is heartfelt. For Ms. Eastman to imply otherwise is patently offensive and cynical. My advice to her is that she wake up and check out the latest "What's Hot and What's Not" list. Cynicism is the number one "not."