Veterans groups around the nation found themselves with challenges on two fronts last week.

First, the Gadsden flag, an early symbol used by the American colonies since 1775, was ordered removed from public display by a town council in New Rochelle, N.Y.

Last month, a veterans group replaced a tattered American flag at the city armory and then placed the bright yellow Gadsden banner beneath it.

A city council member protested, claiming it was a symbol of the Tea Party movement, of which the president of the veterans group is a member. The city manager at first decided to let the flag remain but he was then overruled on a 5-2 council vote.

Veterans argue that the Gadsden flag, which shows a coiled rattlesnake with the words Don't Tread on Me, is a symbol of our nation's fight for Independence and that the Continental Marine Corp and Continental Navy fought under it during the American Revolution. The flag was designed by and is named after Christopher Gadsden, an American general and statesman.

The use of the timber rattlesnake against the yellow background can be traced back to Benjamin Franklin who stated in his Pennsylvania Gazette in 1751 that it had been the policy of Britain to send convicted criminals to America. In a satirical commentary, he suggested that we thank the British by sending rattlesnakes to England.

During the Revolutionary War, the snake image was used as a symbol of defiance by the colonies.

In recent years, the Gadsden flag was adopted by the Tea Party movement and some towns and organizations have used it to protest a wide range of federal policies, from wasteful spending and soaring national debt to Obamacare. In 2009, the mayor of Hampstead, Md. protested anticipated cuts to local governments by issuing an executive order to replace the town's municipal flag with the Gadsden banner.

Since the Tea Party groups have evolved into a national grass roots force in exposing federal government excesses against personal liberties, it won't surprise us to see more challenges and confrontations on local levels.

On a separate front last week, a controversy erupted concerning a Hollywood decision to cast Jane Fonda as former First Lady Nancy Reagan in the upcoming movie called "The Butler." Larry Reyes, a navy veteran, immediately posted the "Boycott Hanoi Jane Playing Nancy Reagan Facebook page" and encouraged a boycott of the movie.

Fonda didn't make any new friends among many Vietnam era veterans by responding that the protesters should "get a life." She said she realized the movie would upset some on the right, adding that any hoopla surrounding the movie will only cause more people to want to see it.

Reyes said he feels Fonda'a anti-war decision in 1972 to go to Hanoi - calling Americans "war criminals" and being photographed seated on an anti-aircraft battery - bordered on treason. She regretted those actions in her 2005 autobiography but given her latest reaction to the movie criticism, many are once again questioning her sincerity.

Reyes says if his right to protest can stop a few people from seeing the movie, he'll be happy.

He also took a parting shot at Fonda and other self-serving, Hollywood elitists.

"Jane seems to love everything communist, but when it comes to making money, she's a gold capitalist," Reyes said.

There are a number of other Hollywood celebrities who fall into that category, including liberal actors Robin Williams and John Cusack, who have prominent roles in the movie.

By Jim Zbick

jzbick@tnonline.com [1]