22 Jun 05

If flag burning is your thing, they've got an open slot in Tehran.

Today, the House of Representatives passed what I feel is an important piece of legislature.

"The Congress shall have power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States."

I realize this is a touchy subject for a lot of people. Most current political issues in the United States are either a clear case of good vs. evil (i.e. abortion) or intelligent vs. stupid (i.e. Social Security). With flag-burning, however, many people feel that if we take away that particular "freedom of speech", who knows what's next? So even though they may not condone burning the flag, they respect another's right to do so.

Well, I don't. All the freedoms specified in the Bill of Rights must be viewed through the filter of common sense. The freedom of speech and the freedom of the press give everyone in this country the right to speak their mind- within reason. It means that the Republicans can't go to the WaPo and the NYT and tell them to stop anklebiting everything that President Bush says or does. It also means that I can say what I want on this humble li'l blog and no left-wingers in the government can come stop me. They do not give anyone the right to threaten other people, publish blatant lies (although libel and slander have taken a back seat to *spit* bipartisan politics *spit* and *more spit* political correctness *more spit*), or advocate open treason against the United States. Even this blog has certain limitations and restraints- for example, I could never use SITYSK™ or any other forum to insult or question anyone in my chain of command. That's the Army, and I accept it. I don't feel that my First Amendment Rights!!!™ are being trampled because of this- I simply realize that everything in this world has limits.

The freedom of speech has been misunderstood, twisted out of context and reason, and heavily misused lately. Could I use my freedom of speech to shoot irritating liberals in the head? I could refer to it as "me expressing myself". Of course, the answer is NO, the First Amendment doesn't cover your "right" to murder. If that's your definition of free speech, you can't claim that the Constitution supports it- you just need to change your definition.

All the rights granted by the First Amendment (and the Constitution as a whole) are expected to be dealt with according to reason. You can't organize human sacrifice by claiming your religion to be that of the Aztecs- while you have the right in this country to worship Aztec gods, it is simply no excuse for killing people. Nor can you use your freedom to petition the government by tackling elected officials in the street and screaming your demands in their face. Technically, the Constitution doesn't say how you may or may not "petition the government", but it's assumed by people with functioning brains that the way I've just described is not a First Amendment right, but assault and battery.

So. Burning my flag. The question is, is it freedom of speech or not? I guess it all depends on whether you look at from the standpoint of a normal, thinking person, or as an America-hating hippie who hides behind technicalities. What we should be thinking about is, is this action constructive or destructive? Just because I don't agree with something doesn't make it a bad thing- if the other individual is trying to do good, not harm, well that's what makes America great. We look at all the angles and possibilities and decide on the best one. But if a person or group of people is being deliberately destructive- at most to simply draw attention, more often simply out of spite- then why do we let them do it? And by "destructive" I don't mean just destroying the flag- what I'm talking about happens in everyday life. That moron you work with whose entire existence seems to be based on covering up his/her own shortcomings by pointing out or making up faults in others. Destructive. In a perfect world they would be fired. That idiot who cuts you off in rush hour traffic, almost causing an accident, just for the opportunity to get to the red light first. Destructive. In a perfect world their license would be revoked.

Those America-bashing "citizens" who make their points known by setting American flags on fire in the street. Or stomping on them. Or spraying them with graffiti. Or flying them upside-down and then using that lame excuse that they're "under duress". Destructive. Pointless, senseless destruction. What are they accomplishing? What good are they doing? What is their expected end result? These are questions that every mature adult can be called upon to answer with pretty much any of their daily activities.

If you're unhappy with your government- fine. Who isn't? Seriously, is there anyone who has no complaints about the government? But taking our very symbol of freedom and smearing it isn't a very good way to get your issues worked out. You call your Congressman. You write your Senator. "But that didn't do anything!" you whine. Fine then, vote their non-public-serving self out of office. It's called democracy. If you don't think it works well enough, there's plenty of more "enlightened" democracies on the other side of the Atlantic. Your ancestors came over on a boat, go back to the old country and return the favor. Or, if flag burning is just "your thing", they've got an open slot in Tehran. Go live there and see how well your "dissenting opinions" go over.

But before you light that flag on fire, consider your actions. Are you going to impress anyone? Is anyone going to care more about your cause du jour because you're making a fool of yourself? Well, seeing as people who would consider burning the flag probably don't have an open enough mind for this to make a dent, let's go back to the amendment. "The Congress shall have power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States." Is this a good idea or not?

What are its risks? Is it crushing anyone's free speech, signifying the opening stages of a move toward totalitarianism? Are the Thought Police next?

Well... no. Not at all. Everyone who would choose to desecrate the flag to get their point across can pick another method. One that is civil. One more in line with human decency and respect for this country. One that they actually have a chance of getting other people to listen to. Because believe me, if you're standing at Haight and Ashbury, dousing Old Glory with gasoline, screaming about warforoil and censorship, nobody worth anything is going to listen to you. Trust me on this. You might have a flock of people watching you saying "right on, man," but ask yourself this: What in the world are you actually going to improve? Nothing.

So- what's the potential downside to this amendment? None, not that I can see. By all means, if there is any reason to allow morons who mooch off this country to trash it like that, let me know.

What's the upside? Well, it would protect the Flag, if nothing else. And the Flag deserves our protection. If the Flag doesn't mean enough to you to wonder why it should be protected, then let me paint you a couple of pictures.

As I was walking across Camp Bondsteel one chilly October morning, I noticed the flag on the towering staff was at half-mast. Again. It was the third time since arriving in Kosovo that had happened. Neither of the first two had meant much to me. I voiced the question: "Who died now?" When I got to work, I found out: it was 17 of my comrades-in-arms, slain victims of the USS Cole bombing. Incidentally, don't tell me the War on Terror started on 9/11. That was the last time I ever regarded a flag at half-staff with cynicism. That flag at Bondsteel was a beacon for me, literally. At night the thing was lit up like a baseball stadium, and you could see it from just about anywhere around. I used to love walking past it on the way to the other side of post- it was nice to know that even in a war-ravaged place like the Balkans, the flag would take care of me. That's why nobody gets to mess with the Flag.

Or we could go earlier in my career, to when as a young PFC I helped fold many a flag over the coffins of WWII veterans. If you've never heard a widow weep when the tri-corner flag is presented to her, while Taps is played piercingly on a bugle, then don't presume to think you have the "right" to burn it. That's sacrilege. That's why nobody gets to mess with the Flag.

Or- how about the obvious- how about the FDNY guys who hoisted the flag on that twisted chunk of World Trade Center? Or the massive flag draped over the side of the Pentagon? Or the flag they brought from New York so they could fly it over Afghanistan? That's why nobody gets to mess with the Flag.

And if you don't get it yet, read this. Because seeing that flag flying means we're still free. That's why nobody gets to mess with the Flag.

The Bill of Rights protects the rights of this country's citizens. This amendment, if passed, wouldn't protect any person's rights, at least not that I can see. It would protect the rights of the Flag. And believe me, she has rights, and they're being trampled. Literally. Trampled, engulfed in flame, peed on, hung upside-down, you name it. Isn't being hung upside-down a form of torture? Where's the outcry from the Democrats?

Well, this post has rambled and flowed. I've been writing it on and off all afternoon, so it's time to finish it off and close it out. I guess the main issue is that people will scream about their rights being abused, when in reality nobody should have a right to openly disgrace their country. Peacefully protest policies you don't like, vote with your feet, even tell your leaders that they're wrong. But remember that they are your leaders, whether you like it or not. And the flag represents America- it is worthy of respect. It deserves better than to be disgraced. If that's the best you can come up with, to set the flag on fire- just leave the country, now. You've forfeited your right to be here.

A bit more on this tomorrow. I've got more points to make, but they don't fit with this post- and I'm tired. G'night.

Army NCO Guy decided you should know this at 2114 | TrackBack
Loyal Readers™ have spoken up!

Some good points. Like I said on SIT, I have more of a "shine the light of day on the cockroaches" approach to the flag burning issue, but I can definitely see where you're coming from.

If you want to see a really good debate on this, check out LGF.

CD decided we should know this on 23 Jun 05 at 1303

Thanks. I've been looking around the 'sphere a bit but hadn't really found anybody weighing in on this yet. (Except you- as to your idea, I think they should have signs around their necks and big flashing red lights implanted on their heads.)

I'm not so sure any more that something as drastic as an amendment is necessary, but I do think it should be illegal. More on that whenever I get around to writing the update.

Army NCO Guy decided we should know this on 23 Jun 05 at 1314

I don't want a constitutional amendment. I want a law which says "if you do this, you are staging a form of protest that is not acceptable and you will be subject to any penalty that the law -- or your fellow citizens -- may choose to exact for your act."

Barring that, I'll take a law that says you can't do it. I know that seems silly to some people, to say you can't burn a flag, but dammit, there are things that are just over the top and offensive and you simply should not be able to do them. And burning the flag is one of them.

I'd rather see someone burn a bible, frankly. THAT doesn't bother me because that bible doesn't represent what I know, feel, believe and love about God. That FLAG, on the other hand, does represent what I know, feel, believe and love about America.

Maybe it's the fact that the first 19 years of my life were spent as a military dependent. A piece of government property ... alternately a representative of the United States of America. I don't know ... I just know that some things are wrong and that's just how it goes.

Kate decided we should know this on 27 Jun 05 at 0331

It is wholly irrelvant if burning a flag promotes any good. It si a piece of material that represents ideals and values. It is cloth. Burning it does not lessen the ideals at all. In fact, by disallowign that act you do more to hurt the actual meaning of the flag - liberty to express yoursefl without retribution from your government. As long as it does not infringe upon another's rights, why shoul dit be disallowed? Becuase it offends someone? Now THAT is political correctness *spit*.

I would tell anyone to their face that are blithering idiot and to get hte hell out of my country if they don't like it. But, I would hate to see the US turn into the type of place that would make it illegal to express that idiocy.

Aaron decided we should know this on 27 Jun 05 at 0933

Kate, I'd say you just stole my thunder, but the Followup Piece!!!™ I swore I was gonna write is still a dormant thought in the back of my mind.

Army NCO Guy decided we should know this on 27 Jun 05 at 1045
Speak up, you!

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