A movie quote to support your point of view.
Yes, the flag is only a symbol of our country.
But the symbol stands a proxy for the actual ideals that help shape our country and make it great.
And at some point, a symbol should be held up (so to speak), it should be honored and it should be respected.
It does stand for freedom.
However disrespecting a symbol of freedom is disrespecting freedom itself and the point you make is irrelevant.
And as for something being "just a symbol" . . .
Do you not hold dear your wedding ring; would you tolerate it being disrespected?
It is, after all, just a symbol.