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Mike Rowe responds to critical fan: Our American flag is more than a 'mere symbol

TV personality Mike Rowe , host of "Dirty Jobs", takes part in a roundtable discussion on manufacturing with Republican presidential candidate Mitt RomneySeptember 26, 2012 American Spring Wire in Bedford Heights, Ohio. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/GettyImages)

A fan of TV host Mike Rowe recently called him out for being "blindly patriotic" after he inquired in a recent episode of "Hot Under the Blue Collar" why colleges that refuse to fly the American flag still receive federal funding from taxpayers.

Rowe's inquiry was directed at a Massachusetts college that flew its American flag at half-staff — and then removed it completely — after President-elect Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton on Election Day.

But one disgruntled fan, identified as Suzanne McDaniel, wanted to know why Rowe was so "blindly patriotic," while instructing him to take a civics course and recognize that the flag is a "mere symbol." She wrote:

How did you become so blindly patriotic? First of all, the college you were referencing in your rant about the American flag is a private college and doesn't receive federal funding. However...the very essence of freedom in this country is our right to speak out against the flag, which is a mere symbol. If you take away that right, then we have lost all freedom. You really need to take a civics course, Mike Rowe. I used to like you; but, you have really become very annoying to me in recent years. I thought you were more intelligent. But, I guess appearances aren't everything.

In his response, Rowe writes that he's never thought of himself as "blindly patriotic," but instead "a fan of the United States, the founding fathers, and the men and women who have served on my behalf," who is lucky to live in the United States.

He continued:

Having said that, I think you’re correct about the flag; it’s only a symbol. So too is the Crucifix. And the middle finger. And the Swastika. And the compressed chunks of carbon that millions wear on their ring fingers as expressions of timeless love and eternal devotion.

It’s easy to make anything feel small and silly by reducing it to its chemical composition or its various component parts. But if you really believe our flag is nothing but a “mere symbol,” equally suitable for flying or burning, ask yourself if you’d be comfortable if the people you work with suddenly started coming to the office in pointy white hats fashioned from bedsheets? Would that be a problem for you? Or how about The Rainbow Flag, favored by the LGBTQ community? Would it be OK if people started burning that? If not, why not? I mean, it’s only a symbol, right?

"The thing about 'mere symbols' Susanne, is that they represent 'mere ideas,' and 'mere ideas' are the backbone of 'mere humanity.' In the case of the flag, we’re talking about ideas that are wrapped into the Constitution – a document that separates us from every other country on the planet," Rowe added.

Those ideas, Rowe wrote, are the reason people "fight and die" and have many of the rights Americans get to enjoy, like free speech, carry guns and desecrate symbols that represent those freedoms.

"I didn’t suggest that you or anyone else be denied your right to fly or burn whatever flag you wish," he concluded. "What I failed to do, is quietly accept behavior I don’t care for. Which, if I’m not mistaken, is the same compulsion that motivates others to publicly express themselves in whatever ways they choose."

You can read Rowe's full response to Suzanne here.

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