Jackie Mason | June 22, 2005
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Amy Austin | June 22, 2005
I think this quote from the article (Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-NY) says it the best:

"If the flag needs protection at all, it needs protection from members of Congress who value the symbol more than the freedoms that the flag represents."

Scott Horowitz | June 22, 2005
Well put Amy, Well put indeed.

Scott Hardie | June 23, 2005
If he feels the urge, Kris might provide a long history of the proposed flag burning amendment. In the 1980s, an incumbent Reagan supported a flag burning amendment the way that many people accused George W. Bush of using the proposed gay marriage amendment last year: As a way to rally the conservative base behind something believed to be threatened, even though both candidates knew neither amendment had any chance of passing into law.

I can understand most conservative positions and agree with many of them, but support for the flag-burning amendment is beyond my ability to comprehend. If not the freedom of the United States, what exactly do the amendment supporters love about this country? Its strength and prosperity? Those are great things to keep, but a ban on desecration of the flag would have no bearing on them. No, I think what most people love most about this country is the freedom it offers from totalitarianism and oppression, which are exactly what the amendment threatens to cause: It would allow the government to tell you what you could or couldn't do with a piece of cloth. Do we really want to give our government the power to tell us that? And how exactly does all this fit into the broader conservative agenda of limited government, anyway?

Kris Weberg | June 23, 2005
This is one of those great ideas for an Amendment that no one's really thought through. Though, contrary to popular belief, the Flag Code doesn't specifically demand that a damaged or unflyable flag be burned (just that it be disposed of in a manner befitting its dignity, i.e., any way that doesn't lead to the sight fo a flag in a dumpster on top of last week's coffee grounds), burning is generally how people like the American Legion dispose of flags in accordance with the code. The language of the Flag Protection Act, on which this Amendment is based, states that oen cannot "knowingly" mutilate the flag, and that proper disposal is legal.

So this Amendment, unlike any other in the Constitution, intends to punish intent, not the action itself. How that's enforcible, I don't know; how attempting to outlaw the expression of certain opinions can be considered an American ideal, I shudder to contemplate. (Perhaps we'll get a new test of "harmful speech" revolving around the legality of yelling "Flag-burner!" in a crowded theater?) Why should unintended desecrations be safe? We prosecute involuntary manslaughter and criminal negligence, after all. What if someone doesn't do enough to prevent a flag being soiled? Involuntary, uhm, anti-flaggery?

Most people don't realize that the Flag Code wasn't written until 1923 and didn't become law until 1942, and even then, there was a vocal minority that saw it as a defeat for States' Rights. The flag is, after all, a symbol of the Federal government, and it's that symbol that gained special protections (of a sort) through the Flag Code. (I say "of a sort" because the Flag Code contains no penalties despite claiming that certain acts concerning the display and design of the American flag are illegal.)

Why was the Flag Code passed? Anti-immigrant paranoia, mostly. The influx of Irish, German, and Eastern European immigrants gave rise to fears that America would lose its identity to those nasty foreigners. (Sound familiar?) Prior to this time, the stars on the flag stood for nothing and there wasn't much interest in how it was displayed -- even the Minutemen, the real ones from the 18th century, flew all sorts of numbers of stars and stripes, and even into the Civil War era you were likelier to see a muddy, 16-starred flag than what we'd consider a "proper" banner.

It's rather like the Pledge of Allegiance -- the Pledge is a late 19th century invention but only became official in 1923, and the "under God" only dates to 1954, when it was added thanks to a campaign by the Knights of Columbus. But most people behave as if these are the hallowed traditions of our hoariest forbears.

Me? I tend to think that the tax money paying Congressmen and Senators while they pass nonsense like this might be better channeled back into Veterans' benefits, or used to buy new equipment for VA hospitals and deployed troops, or, you know, something that would actually have a practical effect.

But then I tend to chuckle when I hear someone shout that they fought for the flag; no, friend, you fought for a country whose ideals and strength had damned well better rely on more than a nice bit of art design.

Mike Eberhart | June 23, 2005
From what I remember, the proper way to dispose of a flag is to Cut the field of Stars away from the rest of the flag. You properly burn the Red & White stripes portion of the flag, and you bury the Stars section. At least that is what I was taught on how to dispose of a damaged or unflyable flag. I could be wrong, but that's what I was told.

Jackie Mason | June 23, 2005
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John E Gunter | June 23, 2005
Kris, the facts you present just goes to show how muddled a view of history is taught in most pre-college schools. Not that they are hiding the truth, but most students or at least when I went to school, were taught partial or incorrect information as being the total truth. I don’t remember anyone going into detail about when the Pledge was originally written when it became official or when certain phrases were added.

Course, I did learn that history was written by the winner and that we are constantly re-writing our history. Through most of my pre-college education, Columbus was heralded as a great hero. Some time later, I think it was in the 80s; people started to change their views of Columbus and began to talk about some of the things that were done by him to the Indians.

Course, he wasn't the only one! Anyway, my point is, I find the information you bring to be enlightening and educational, though I wonder how long it will be before someone changes what you you’ve been taught to a view of a better history. :-D

Though I think most intelligent people who say they fought for the flag are talking about the symbol of the country and therefore the ideals of the country and not a bit of art design. At least that's what anyone that I personally know of who has made that comment meant.

John

Michael Paul Cote | June 23, 2005
Kris' 6th paragraph is the same thought that I had when I read the article...Isn't there something more important that these folks in DC could be doing? I can only picture a scene out of the movie "The American President" where a Michael J. Fox look alike is swearing at some Senator for removing his support.

Kris Weberg | June 23, 2005
I've really got to stop writing responses that have 6 paragraphs.

Kris Weberg | June 23, 2005
Naw, Mike,m the Flag Code calls burning the "preferred" way of disp[osing of a soiled flag. Of course, the Flag Code also doesn't consider a flag that's touched the ground to be soiled, just flags so tattered or dirtied that they're an embarrassment when seen.

Scott Horowitz | June 23, 2005
FYI

(link)

Scott Hardie | June 24, 2005
What shocked me today was reading that 49 of the 50 states (everybody except Vermont) have supported a flag-burning amendment, and expressed desire to ratify it. And it just passed in the House. I don't think it will pass in the Senate, but if it does, obviously the president will sign it, and it seems like the states will ratify it. I haven't spent a whole day wondering if I was only sane person in the country this badly since last November.

As Kris said, burning the flag for purposes of disposal would still be acceptable. And genuinely accidental cases would probably not be proscecuted. That leaves us with intentional desecration of the flag, which Congress would have the authority to punish with this amendment. For fucking real here: Are supporters of this amendment not chilled by the idea that one form of protest against the government is being outlawed? It's not like there's any other purpose, like public safety or reducing the cost of manufacturing more flags. It's the outlawing of protest. Somebody tell me again why our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents fought so hard in the last century against fascism and communism?

Jackie Mason | June 24, 2005
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Mike Eberhart | June 24, 2005
I have no problem with speaking out against the government. However, burning the flag in protest is a different story. If you want to burn the flag in protest, then you might as well just renounce your citizenship of this country. The flag is a symbol of this country and needs to be respected and protected at all times. If I don't like something that the government is doing, I sure as hell am not going to protest it by burning the flag in front of them. I'll find some other way to show my anger with what's going on.

Much like the illegal immigration issue, I'm protesting the government by heading down to Arizona in October to do my part on the border patrol. The government isn't doing anything to stop this problem, but would burning the flag do anything to help that issue. NO.

Michael Paul Cote | June 24, 2005
I don't think that burning the flag is the real issue here. First, I agree that there are better ways of protesting. However, the issue is the persons right and freedom to be able to burn that flag in protest. What comes next - abolish a persons right to bear arms? Don't think that would pass anyone!

Amy Austin | June 25, 2005
Yeah, and how ironic is that? After all, I don't think I've ever heard of any flag-burning-induced deaths... at least not in *our* country -- not yet anyway.

Aside from the obvious fact that burning flags doesn't really accomplish much of anything (unless your goal is simply the proliferation of *more* hate & discontent, in which case -- in light of all the stink -- it would appear to be a very effective way to "show your anger"), banning the act is really a rather ridiculous and ineffective way of discouraging it. In fact, it will probably do more to promote it as a means of protest and give power (by way of martyrdom) to those who choose to do it.

After all, how often does this sort of demonstration even go on anymore??? I mean, really, when was the last time you even heard of any major protest involving such a thing? And really, what *difference* does it make to you anyway, the law-abiding citizen, the good patriot, the proud American??? For me (and yes, I'd like to think that I fall under at least one, if not all, of the above), it would inspire little more than a yawn. In fact, I would also be inclined to mentally chuckle about the fact that "those knuckleheads just spent their own money on a flag (not cheap, BTW!) to do that!" They might as well be setting fire to their own wallets in protest, in my opinion... This is what I think when I see the crazed (usu. turban-wearing) idiots in other countries waving our flaming flag around -- with an extra hard laugh out loud for when they accidentally set themselves ablaze doing it!!! (link)

On the other hand... when I see/hear of these types of protests going on in other parts of the world -- and involving the flags & ideals of our fascist, communist, and/or totalitarian neighbors -- I think, "Wow... now that's a ballsy move there -- those poor bastards are going to pay for that! (And not with just their wallets, either...)" Anybody here remember Tiananmen Square? Anybody here pissed off enough at our government to stand in front of and get run down by a tank? No??? Not yet, anyway. Banning something as absurd as flag-burning might be a good way to get us off to a running start, however. The added bonus, of course, will be letting those rag-wearing flag-burners know just how much their idiotic actions really do piss us off.

I hope if such an amendment really does manage to pass, that it spawns a nation-wide wave of pyro-loving protesters, the likes of which this country has never seen before (or since Vietnam, anyway) -- because only then will the act of burning our stars & stripes become truly impressive.

Jackie Mason | June 25, 2005
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Kris Weberg | June 25, 2005
Here's the thing - banning flag-burning is like banning acting like an asshole. Sure, it sounds good, but it opens doors that don't need opened, and, for the most part, all it does is inspire people who otherwise wouldn't have done it.

Scott Hardie | June 25, 2005
Thank you for answering, Mike; I know we don't always make it easy for you. :-) I'm glad to see you protesting the government in your own way. However, it seems that the only difference between your protest and flag-burning protest is your approval of the former and disapproval of the latter. That the same opinion is shared by many people isn't grounds for writing it into law, is it? Many people in this country love the Bible and would hate to see it burned, but should we ban burning of the Bible so Christians don't have to see that? Many people in this country love Batman, but should we ban the burning of a Batman movie poster so fans don't have to see that? (Ok, perhaps a special exception could be made for "Batman & Robin" posters.) I realize that the logic I'm using here is a rehash of my position on gay marriage, but since when is the opinion of the majority grounds for telling the minority what they can or can't do?

When I mentioned burning the Bible, I was reminded of the recent admissions by the Pentagon about desecration of the Quran at Guantanamo Bay. If we pass an amendment to ban burning of the flag because it's too important a symbol, are we justified in continuing to desecrate the Quran? Forget what effect it has on people halfway around the world; it is deeply offensive to American Muslims for their government to allow their holy book to be urinated on or trampled. If we can tell American Muslims to suck it up while their holiest symbol is desecrated by operatives of their own military, why can't we tell ourselves to suck it up every time some anti-American lunatic wants to burn our flag?

Michael Paul Cote | June 25, 2005
Has anyone ever watched the "Penn & Teller - Bullshit" series on Showtime? Last night they touched on the USA Patriot Act signed into law shortly after 9-11. Seems that most of our diligent congresspeople and senators never even bothered reading the entire document before approving all kinds of "extra power" to the government. I highly recommend checking it out if you are able. How many other "laws" are passed without a thorough screening. I remember when I was in college in the late 70's that a group of students from another university in NH attached an amendment to a bill before the state senate that would make the state put a roof over a bike path that ran most of the width of the state (from Concord to Hanover). It was on its way to becoming law when some diligent peon happened to point it out to one senator who quickly pointed it out to everyone else. They caught it just before the vote on the bill that was bound to pass. Makes you think don't it.

Jackie Mason | June 25, 2005
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Amy Austin | June 25, 2005
Yes, Kris -- my point exactly... thank you for summing it up for me. ;-)

Scott -- EXCELLENT point about the Quran!

Mike -- That's funny... and scary.

Jackie -- Yes, and it's funny how you really only hear "liberal" outrage about those hate groups spreading their discontent, isn't it. Well, perhaps they will be next... as a generous concession to the Democrats in exchange for giving up their rights to burn our precious flag! (Of course, this is all sarcasm, for those who may not be able to tell.)

Amy Austin | June 25, 2005
Ed chooses not to be around here as much these days... too much to do, too little time. And he doesn't really enjoy political discussions anyhow. But sometimes, I force him to listen to a few comments here and there. He said something about this one that I told him he should write, but he declined and told me to just say it for him.

He says that burning flags doesn't bother him. When people (other countries included) burn our flag, they aren't saying that they hate America/Americans -- they just hate where we are right *at that moment*. And furthermore, he feels that the choice to do so is just one more thing -- one of many freedoms -- that he works so hard for the protection of every day.


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