June 27, 2006


So once again the Senate is chewing on a Constitutional amendment to ban flag-desecration. Of all the most worthless things your government does, this would be the most worthless. A ban on flag desecration would be the most unenforceable law ever. Good Boy Scout that I am, I know the Federal Flag Code, which is the official guide to the proper display of and respect for the Flag. Guess what?

(k) The Flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.

So what people are trying to make illegal is the burning of the flag with the wrong mindset. If I'm burning the flag to destroy an old flag in a dignified way, that's ok, but if I burn it in protest, it's going to be a crime? How will this work exactly? What about World Cup costumes? Or flag print bikini's? A few years back at a Super Bowel, Chris Rock cut a hole in a Flag and wore it like a poncho. Are the Feds going to break down his door? Of course not. This is an empty symbol of a law, and everyone involved should know better.

UPDATE: As noted in comments, the amendment failed by just one vote today, 66-34 (67 votes are needed to amend the Constitution.) Let us now praise Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, normally a Republican I dislike, but who's rather absolutist on the first amendment, leading him to oppose both campaign fiance reform and a ban on flag burning.

One more point re: T's comment - Protesters aren't arrested for saying offenses things. They are arrested for things like trespass or blocking traffic. But you can't arrest people because you disagree with the content of their speech.


Tyler said...

Perhaps, but burning the flag is pretty dispicable. It makes me mad that people can get away with it scot free. I understand it depends on the context and the situation, but I would definately want to see some jail time and/or a fine for Americans, immigrants, or anyone else burning the flag during a public protest. People are arrested for various sit-in protests and the like. You can say all sorts of things but you can't falsely yell "fire" in a crowded movie theater a (thats not protected under freedom of speech) you can kill people in self defense in some circumstances and serve no jail time. Everything is contextual. I would limit the crime to burning it in public as a form of protest. I would support such an ammendment, but it failed

Laura said...

The reason you can't falsely yell "fire" in crowded theater has nothing to do with denial of freedom of speech, it has to do with public safety. So, unless you're burning a flag in a manner that threatens people or property, you can't really compare the two.

Burning the flag has value as free speech precisely because of the strong emotions it inspires. We don't have to defend speech that is universally acceptable, because that kind of expression is never going to come under fire. We have to protect even the most deplorable forms of hate speech because they're protected by the constitution. I don't remember who said it, but someone once said "to have speech we love, we must defend speech we hate" or something along those lines.

Flag burning is a crucial symbol of freedom of speech. To those of us who love our country, it's shocking, alarming and disgusting. But, it gets our attention. It makes a point. That's why it has value

Tyler said...

Ah, Laura, its been too long. Good to hear from you again!

I need to think up a really controversial post soon so you and I can have some more fun like this!

Word to ya mutha!

larry said...

If I were in California, I would no longer have to consider whether to vote for Sen. Feinstein - always a tough choice, but this would ice it.

As far as your comment about people not being arrested for saying offensive things, that may still be technically true, but people are denied the right to assemble, such as when they set up a "protester area" far from the action, or when they throw well-behaved people out of the viewing area of Congress because of the tee-shirt they are wearing.

As you see, Tyler is ready to throw people into jail for saying things he doesn't like. How long before he is in the majority?