Friday, May 05, 2006

Save the Flag, Burn the Bill of Rights

Never underestimate the ability of the Republican controlled congress to respond to the national crises we face with empty symbolism. Yesterday, with our country facing an immigration crisis, oil crisis, an unpopular war started based on misuse of intelligence, security issues on our borders and in our ports, and congressional corruption, the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Property Rights passed the Flag Desecration Amendment. That was the subject of curmudgeon correspondent Jack Cafferty's question of the hour on the Situation Room yesterday on CNN - The most trusted name in news. The Republicans need wedge issues for the coming elections in November. In 2004 it was Gay Marriage. Now they're using Old Glory pump up their poll numbers. If it's not Republicans using stuff like this as a wedge issue, it's Democrats using it as a way to pander to conservative voters. In December last year Hillary Clinton introduced an anti-flag burning bill in the Senate. Their cynical use of the issue is what is disrespectful to the flag.

Just as important to me is that this is yet another case of patriotism at odds with the true ideals of America. A distinction lost on many who call themselves patriots. The whole point of the idea of freedom of speech is that it protects even the most offensive speech and expressions. As long as it is not violent and doesn't espouse violence. Even racist, anti-Semitic, sexist and other types of offensive speech are protected. If they weren't, what would be the point? Non-offensive speech doesn't need protection. And what under the amendment would be considered desecration? A peace symbol on a flag? Some Tommy Hilfiger fashions, remember the clothes with flags on them?
Boy Scout flag retirement ceremonies that burn the flag as a way to respectfully retire it? After that would it be speech that advocates flag burning? If the flag, as a symbol of our freedoms, is used to limit one of our fundamental freedoms, in the same act it becomes an empty symbol. If we protect the flag from burning, we in effect burn the rights it stands as a symbol of.

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