Lee P Butler

Desecration Of The Flag: Burning America In Effigy

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Scott A. Baber and Brian A. Richard III, both 18, told deputies they burned the flags because they are anarchists and disagree with the war in Iraq and other U.S. government policies.
They set fire to six flags Sunday and tried to firebomb a car, the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office said.

Desecration Of The Flag: Burning America In Effigy


For the sixth time since 1995, the House of Representatives passed an amendment to the constitution prohibiting the desecration of the American flag, specifically addressing the issue of flag burning.

When the reports went public that the House had voted in favor of the amendment, a division instantly took place among political pundits like a philosophical parting of the Red Sea. Constitutional traditionalists and liberals suddenly became strange bedfellows, and many conservatives were simply conflicted.

Most of the men and women who have served this country and defended the very idealism that the American flag represents across the land support the banning of flag desecration, including liberals who were once members of the military, such as retired Army General Wesley Clark.

A spokesman for Clark said, “The flag is something that is very deep and personal to him, as he has led men into battle and combat under the flag.” Another Clark aide said he saw flag burning as a, “very, very, very particularized form of dissent that he simply can’t abide. I guess he is carving out a little bit, but not very much. For the most part he is a very strong proponent of civil liberties.”

Being a proponent of civil liberties has very little to do with supporting a ban on flag burning, but many political polemists, particularly the ACLU, don’t see it that way after the unfortunate 1989 Supreme Court ruling that flag burning was protected as free speech.

That would be the same Supreme Court that also ruled the auspices of McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform doesn’t infringe on the ‘civil liberties’ of free speech even though it had already ruled that campaign contributions equate to free speech!

Part of the opposition to flag desecration argues that the Constitution is what it is and shouldn’t be changed because it would somehow conflict with the intentions of our Fore-Fathers and that the issue is just not important enough to become part of the Constitution.

“I don’t believe a constitutional amendment is the answer,” said Hillary Clinton. “Those few who would destroy a flag are not worthy of the response of amending our founding document.”

Somebody should remind Senator Clinton that in 1992 Congress ratified that pay raises passed by Congress can’t take effect until after the next election. Millions of Americans would consider the ‘few’ members of Congress wanting pay raises to not be ‘worthy of amending our founding document’.

As for constitutional traditionalists, our Founding Fathers didn’t create a document that could in no way ever be amended. They did, however, make it extremely hard to get amendments passed. That fact is evidenced by the more than 11,000 times it has been tried with only 27 that were actually ratified.

In over 200 years just 27 amendments have been added to the Constitution, so the principle intended by our Fore-Fathers seems to have worked just fine to date and proves that when an issue has a justified importance, making it part of the Constitution is acceptable and can happen without it taking place every day.

That’s not good enough for some.

Senior lobbyist for the ACLU, Terri Ann Schroeder called the issue a ‘non-problem’, and Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) wondered, “Where is the epidemic of flag burning?”

A more salient question is, ‘Where is the epidemic of under-paid Congressmen?’ or more pointedly, ‘Has there been an epidemic of terrorists flying planes into buildings killing thousands of innocent Americans’?

People can debate all day the value of flag burning as free speech, but the atrocity of 9-11 should be all the evidence an American needs to understand that the two acts are philosophically reciprocal. The only difference between flag burners and the terrorists of 9-11 is the ultimate motivation to hi-jack planes.

When someone burns an American flag, they aren’t just destroying a symbol, they are symbolically destroying America.

Trying to elaborate that flag burners are just expressing their frustration or displaying their dissent of America and what she represents is following the same misguided attitude that existed during the Nineties where the expressions of hatred towards this country were ignored and dismissed.

Trying to equate the free speech of someone who burns the flag with the free speech of someone who makes a sign for a sporting event is as asinine as calling the President a terrorist and could be just as deadly as the actual terrorists who fight for the destruction of America.

If you think that is over-stating the reality of the issue, then answer this question, ‘Is burning a cross an expression protected by freedom of speech?’

It’s doubtful you can find one man or woman who served to protect this country and the freedom she harbors who will say they fought to protect the burning of a cross. It is, after all, just a symbol, yet burning a cross is a crime in most places, albeit, not a constitutional amendment.

Why isn’t burning a flag held in the same regard? Isn’t the vitriolic display of hatred as expressed by the burning of a cross just as abhorrent as someone burning a flag? Should the visceral threat espoused by cross burning be ignored the way some want flag burning to be?

Don’t ignore the implication.

If a person takes the time to set aflame the ‘symbol’ that is the American flag as a sign of dissent, desecrating the very representation of America and does so in the faces of every man and woman who put their lives on the line to protect what that ‘symbol’ embodies, they aren’t simply crossing their arms over their chests and saying their mad.

Finding enough bravado, those same individuals could ‘symbolically’ set fire to Americans in buildings and an amendment preventing flag desecration won’t end that threat, but it will put those people on notice that we are watching and we will take action.

Defend the flag today, or tomorrow Newsweek will have a picture of the American flag in a trash can on the front of the magazine. Oh yeah, that has already happened.

Free speech has limitations, people. Where do you draw the line?

Lee P Butler

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