Flag amendment goes down in flames
In a minor triumph of common sense, the Senate failed to approve the flag-burning amendment by one vote yesterday. I believe this amendment is not only unnecessary but a violation of the spirit of the First Amendment. Burning the flag is a hateful action, but a protected action that happens maybe three times a year. The point of the First Amendment was not to protct popular speech, but to protect unpopular speech.
When you burn my flag, you offend me. But my offense does not justify the abandonment of wise principles embodied in the Bill of Rights. This is why we also have to occasionally tolerate people parading around in sheets and other political and yet offensive behavior.
But you know, someone has spoken of this issue far better than I ever could. From Quaker Dave's blog:
Most of the time, when we see a flag being burned on television, it's being done in some other country. For some reason, somebody over wherever gets mad at us, and out comes a ratty looking faux flag and some lighter fluid. This happens most often in places like, well, Iran. Did you know that no democratic nation on earth has a law in place banning desecration if its own flag? Most other countries don't, either. Know which ones do? Iran, for one. You can burn an American flag there, but you will be in a whole lot of trouble if you burn an Iranian flag. It's illegal - and probably really dangerous - to burn a flag in Communist China. Same in Cuba. Iraq had a law like the one now being debated here under Saddam. Nazi Germany banned flag desecration, too. That's it. Now, I really don't like the idea that our country would be added to that short list if this proposal became law. Do you?
And in answer to those who claim that our fallen soldiers fought to protect the flag, I would simply say that I think they also fought to protect our way of life and our Constitution-- at least that's what my dad told me his reasons were. We are one of the few nations on Earth that allows people the freedom to speak as they wish, so long as they are not physically harming someone. Every time we have abrogated these principles-- John Adams and the Federalists in an attempt to stifle political debate in 1798, the Wilson administration during World War I-- the verdict of history has been opprobrium.
Do not grandstand with the American flag. It is too precious for that.