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What greater mockery of the flag?

What greater mockery of the flag?

In the previous post, I made mention of the language of the sacred. If the government decrees that the flag is sacred, does that violate the separation of church and state?

As may be, it’s actually going to come to a vote in the Senate. We may only be able to sit and watch our government amend the First Amendment to restrict political freedom of expression.

So this seems to be the overall plan – get as much power away from the judicial branch as possible by handing it to Congress and the executive branch. Where Congress isn’t pliant enough, then disempower Congress, and focus on executive power.

The US Supreme Court ruled in 1989 that the First Amendment to the Constitution protected Americans’ right to desecrate the flag as a means of free expression. Interesting – the majority opinion was joined by Scalia.

Back in 1997, Dr. Roger Pilon, Ph.D., J.D broke with colleagues at the libertarian/conservative think tank Cato Institute in his testimony before the Subcommittee on the Judiciary of the House. It’s worth a read – here’s my favorite part:

Sir Winston Churchill captured well that essential feature of our system when he observed in 1945 that “the United States is a land of free speech. Nowhere is speech freer–not even [in England], where we sedulously cultivate it even in its most repulsive forms.” In so observing, Churchill was merely echoing thoughts attributed to Voltaire, that he may disapprove of what you say but would defend to the death your right to say it, and the ironic question of Benjamin Franklin: “Abuses of the freedom of speech ought to be repressed; but to whom are we to commit the power of doing it?”

When so many for so long have understood the principles at issue today, how can this Congress so lightly abandon those principles? It is said by some that the flag is a special case, a unique symbol. That claim may be true, but it does not go to the principle of the matter: in a free society, individuals have a right to express themselves, even in offensive ways. Once we bar such expression, however, Franklin’s question will immediately be upon us. What is more, we will soon find that the flag is not unique, that the Bible and much else will next be in line for special protection.

It is said also that the flag is special because men have fought and died for it. Let me suggest in response that men have fought and died not for the flag but for the principles it represents. People give their lives for principles, not for symbols. When we dishonor those principles, to protect their symbol, we dishonor the men who died to preserve them. That is not a business this Congress should be about. We owe it to those men, men who have made the ultimate sacrifice, to resist the pressures of the moment so that we may preserve the principles of the ages.

After all, free expression and the right to dissent are among the core principles that the American flag is meant to represent. What greater defacement of the flag can there be than to shift its meaning into something that makes a mockery of American values and rights? Freedom of expression is one of the the truest tests of our dedication to the principles that our flag is supposed to represent.

Flag Issue History – Resources

Three countries ban flag-burning – Quick! Who are they?

Iran | China | Cuba

Oppose Flag Idolatry

Oppose Flag Idolatry

Oppose the “Flag Anti-desecration” Amendment.

First off, notice the language of religion and the sacred here. To “desecrate” is to violate the sacredness of something. To be “anti-desecration” is to be against the violation of the sacred. This assumes that the flag is holy, sacred, sanctified, blessed, consecrated.

The American flag should not be made into a golden calf, a graven image; to worship the symbol would be a grave mistake.*

Making a “holy” thing of the American flag is a form of idolatry. The flag is only a piece of cloth. It is wrong to worship a flag. (On this one issue I still agree with the Jehovah’s Witnesses.)

The flag is, at its best, an emblem or symbol of the United States of America. To focus on the symbol is a way of forgetting that to which it points. What it’s meant to stand for are things like our constitutionally-protected rights and values, our freedom, our democracy. (Unfortunately, in some places it stands for other things.)

It is also symbolic of America that we don’t worship a flag. Have one, don’t worship it. We have freedom of expression. Criticism of actions and policies of our government is also a form of patriotism, and part of a functional democracy in the land of the free.

The more important and “sacred” the flag becomes, the uglier the country becomes (including ours). There is a huge difference between patriotism and nationalism. Self-aborbed nationalism is a dead end in our world. We are crossing that line into a major fall already.

Of course, if they somehow pass this thing, a lot of Americans are going to be in deep trouble some weeks after Independence Day (you know, that celebration now referred to as “4th of July”) when ratty flags start getting reported. Maybe that’s one way to start people snitching on one another. Maybe it would even stop the practice of requiring that international students pledge their loyalty in homeroom to a piece of cloth that signifies a country that isn’t even theirs. Or not. (I wonder how many Americans would tolerate that in another country?)

Why are these pseudo-Christians so tied up with flag issues? You’d think they might see the idolatry in it, but maybe not. The current governor of Georgia got elected on the Confederate flag.

What a cowardly path to take. With so many more important issues and challenges facing us, this transparently political strategy is yet another issue aimed at igniting hate and fanning its flames. Like so many other interpretations held by this administration, it is profoundly anti-American. I suppose that anyone who happens to mention that freedom of expression is a Constitutional right, and that enforced patriotism in a democracy seems a little strange will then be called “treasonous”?

We would do better in this global economy to open up to other friendly countries, rather than set ourselves so pridefully and arrogantly above all others. We aren’t in the Crusades or the Inquisitions or the Witch Hunts (not yet anyway). We’re not going to accept Bush as a king, an emperor, or (a) god.

We’re not ready to say “Heil,” not even in Georgia.

The flag itself is meaningful as a symbol of our freedom and democracy, neither of which seem particularly valuable to this administration.

Oppose the “Flag Anti-desecration” Amendment. Oppose flag idolatry.

Oh, and Congress? Get off this constitutional amendment kick. We all know you have something better to do.

*Nelson, I rewrote this a bit after yr email (but yes, it’s a pun). Post revised June 14th.

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