Wednesday, June 22, 2005
There has been ONE flag-burning incident that I've been able to document in the past year. Do they really believe the inability to burn flags will turn people into republicans? Doesn't the House have anything better to do? Couldn't they be getting more equipment for the kids in Iraq? Or getting them the hell out of Iraq? Alive, I mean.
If I buy a flag with my money, it's my flag. My private property, just like a shirt, a car or a house. What I do with or to it is none of anyone else's business, including the federal government's, provided it doesn't harm another person. Harm is the operative word here. For example, in order to win a lawsuit, the plaintiff must prove harm. Not a difference of opinion, but harm. Not annoyance, but harm. Not offense to sensibilities, but harm. If I burn my own flag without harming someone else, it's my business, no one else's.
If I fly a flag to express, say, my patriotism, support for a war, in celebration of July 4, or if I just wave it at a president as he passes by in a parade, I'm expressing a political opinion protected by the First Amendment. Conversely, if I burn a flag to express, say, my patriotism, objection to a war, or a president's behavior, I'm expressing a political opinion protected by the First Amendment. The First Amendment exists specifically to enumerate and protect freedoms colonials didn't have under their King George, but that the founding fathers determined to ensure new Americans would have forever.
Under English rule, if you said, "The king is fat," even though he was, you could be imprisoned. The Supreme Court has ruled time and again that, in principle, the First Amendment says that we may say that the king is fat so long as it's true. If we say things that aren't true, then we can cause--here's that word again--harm, and move into the realm of libel (written) and slander (spoken).
Flag burning is neither libel nor slander. It's just unpopular with a lot of people. The First Amendment is crystal clear in protecting unpopular and even offensive political speech. We may dissent any way we choose. What we may not do is shout, "Fire!" in a crowded movie theater (when there isn't a fire) because it can cause--wait for it--harm in the ensuing stampede.
A soldier's oath includes, "I solemnly swear to defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic." Not a word about the flag. It is in defending the Constitution--all of it, even the parts we don't agree with--that we guarantee our freedoms and everyone else's freedoms equally. To date, 1728 soldiers that we know of have died upholding their oaths. The flags on their shoulders represent the Constitution they swore to defend. I wonder how many of them realized that.
The flag is a magnificent symbol of my country, the greatest place to live on Earth. I would never burn a flag, and would discourage others from burning flags. But while the flag is a great symbol of a great nation, it's still only a symbol. The flag didn't create this great country. The Constitution did. The Constitution is infinitely more important because it's a specific document, the very one that expresses what our nation is meant to be. The flag represents the name of our great country. But the Constitution IS the country. We can live without a flag. We cannot live without the Constitution.
Congress would do better to pass an amendment against wiping one's butt with the Constitution as republicans are wont to do. We're now fighting another King Goerge, this time not to gain independence from tyranny, but to maintain it. The flag is not what's at risk of disappearing. It's the Constitution that's being ignored, trampled and used for toilet paper by a tyrant and his followers who would turn out country back in time to the pre-Revolution days of feudalism and theocracy.
It's a tragic day for our country when the flag means more to certain people than the Constitution does.
I wonder how many compassionate, patriotic, chrixtain hate groups will promote the slogan, "Burn fags, not flags."