I’ve been so determined to avoid that Jacko frenzy that I missed a crucial snippet of news. It seems that Wes Clark, who regularly preaches about the right to question and criticize one’s government, supports a Constitutional Amendment to ban flag desecration.
The sight of an American burning the American flag turns my stomach. (Rather, I should say that it would turn my stomach if I ever actually saw it happen.) I consider flag-burning a repugnant act, a rejection of everything America is and has done by individuals who hypocritically enjoy the freedoms that go along with being American citizens.
But I also found myself wondering, what would constitute an official, protected American flag in the first place? What if I were to paint the U.S. flag onto a wall, and then splatter that wall with black paint? What if I owned a jacket emblazoned with the flag, and threw it away? What if I drew a flag onto a piece of paper, and then burnt it? The flag is used in so many ways, and appears in so many forms, that any law meant to protect it would be unenforceable.
Practical concerns aside, this is a thoroughly disappointing position for Clark to have taken. The flag is an abstract concept, a symbol, not a specific object. And if I own a physical representation of the flag, then it is my personal property and I have the right to do with it as I wish. What’s next? Once we’ve inappropriately altered the Constitution to “protect” our flag, should we add provisions to protect the Bible? The cross? After all, they’re important symbols too, and this is One Nation Under God.
But let’s get to the real issue here. Looking past all the rhetoric, the core of the argument to ban flag burning is because people don’t like it. Because it offendsthem.
And here I was, thinking the true test of a free society was whether it upheld speech that offends it the most.
Someone should ask Clark why he won’t protect the ideals that his fellow soldiers fought and died for. Yeah, I’ve never served, but I still know that no soldier ever fought for a piece of cloth. They fought for the ideals and freedoms that the flag represents, including the right to express one’s political views regardless of how offensive that expression may be. And we dishonor them by taking away those very freedoms and legislating patriotic correctness.
After all, America isn’t a great country because it has a flag. It’s great because we can burn it.