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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Flag Burning Amendment

I am of two different but far from dissimilar minds on this issue. On the one hand, I'm very happy to see that the proposed amendment failed in the United States Senate today. On the other hand, I'm more than a bit concerned that it was by the smallest margin ever. One more vote, and the measure would have advanced. Furthermore, the very fact that 66 Senators out of a Senate comprised of 100 members voted in favor of the proposed amendment is, frankly, terrifying. One of the cornerstones of this representative democracy is the concept that all speech, no matter how offensive, is protected, in whatever form it may take, as long as said speech does not lead to the direct harm of others (such as shouting "Fire!" in a crowded theatre), and with other very proscribed restrictions. In fact, as numerous points of case law and our own nation's history attest, offensive speech, or rather, the right to it, is particularly critical to the health of our society. In the earliest days of the United States, we had very vicious personal attacks during the course of campaigns for public office or by various newspapers against public officials they disliked. Look at some of the early "broadsides", which have evolved into today's pussified editorial cartoons.

My response to this was going to be some utterly brilliant quote I heard once. However, I was unable to locate this gem, so instead, I'll go with a lesser one that starts to express my opinion, a gem from Doug McLeod: "I still say a church steeple with a lightening rod on top shows a lack of confidence." Or perhaps this quote from Ambrose Bierce is more apropos: "In our civilization, and under our republican form of government, intelligence is so highly honored that it is rewarded by exemption from the cares of office."


Snave said...

I agree with just about all of your post, MC. In fact, I'm just assuming there might be something with which I might disagree... and I might have to use a fine-tooth comb to find it. Your second point, about the smallest margin yet, is the frightening part about it for me, too.

This seems like just more American politics as usual... another one of these damned "hot-button" things gets brought up in an important election year, so the perpetrators of this time-wasting stuff can point their fingers at those of the 34 who voted "nay" who are up for re-election in November and fallaciously say "Ha! My opponent is a flag burner! He supports burning Old Glory!!" I think the "gay marriage" stuff was of the same mentality... "Let's see you vote "No" and then avoid being figuratively tarred and feathered for it come election time!" Ick.

You wrote:
"One of the cornerstones of this representative democracy is the concept that all speech, no matter how offensive, is protected, in whatever form it may take, as long as said speech does not lead to the direct harm of others ..."

Right on. This is where I have no patience with those who would attempt to argue that things like kiddie porn fall under "free speech".

The Bierce quote is marvelous! He is one of my all-time favorite curmudgeons, along with H.L. Mencken.

Mandelbrot's Chaos said...

If I were a Senator voting against this bill, I would hold a press conference and ask if those in favor of the proposed amendment felt that this nation were so weak that simply burning one of its symbols did irreparable harm to it. I would then say that the reason I voted against the amendment was that I had far more faith in this nation than that. On that note, I would take a flag, douse it in lighter fluid (or better yet, a dilute alcohol mixture that would allow flames to surround it without actually burning the flag itself), and set a match to it, while I was standing on a second flag encased in bulletproof glass. I would close the conference by dousing the flames and saying, "Oh say does that star-spangled banner yet wave, o'er the land of the free, and the home of the brave." Let's see the flag burning amendment people top that one.

You've read my comments about the "To Catch A Predator" series on Dateline, so you know exactly where I stand on this issue, and it's one of those areas where we strongly agree. Since those stings, we've had at least one similar operation set up by various local law enforcement agencies with a pretty nice success rate, and for that, I congratulate them and offer them my sincerest thanks.

This post is really where my libertarian leanings, which I do sometimes hide, comes out. Of course, my nonconformism is patently obvious at all times. lol

Snave said...

Right on! I think about the only worse thing than burning a flag would be taking a dump on one. If they ever change the constitution to disallow flag-burning, they surely ought to include a provision that forbids defecating on it or soiling it with human waste. Heh! You could always take a dump on one too, but the bulletproof glass case would be a must.

Sheryl said...

This is just what happens when the basis for domestic and foreign policy is purely promoting xenophobia. It's all about making enemies of people, including those who are concerned about the direction our nation is heading.

It should be considered patriotic to burn the flag because it is done to show that you care about where America is heading. If you feel that we are not living up to our potential, I think you can't get much more American than to make a stink about it.

Of course, burning the flag is symbolic. I think it's not enough. People also need to organize and throw the bastards out who are flushing our country down the toilet. And I think people need to start running for office, so that we don't just replace them with worse bastards as well.

Mandelbrot's Chaos said...

As a regular gesture, possibly flying the flag upside-down would be more practical. I think the problem isn't always about bastards being replaced with worse bastards, but rather, good people becoming that which they attempted to remove. I'm sure at least a good number of those in power did so with the very best of intentions, but I'm equally sure that more than a few ended up losing their way. I believe the oath of office for members of the military includes something about defending this nation from enemies foreign and domestic. What some fail to realize is that we all have the potential to become our own worst enemies.

1138 said...

Flying the flag upside down destrys the value of it's LEGITIMATE use in thaat manner to indicate an emergency.
Flying it upside down is akin to making repeated calls to 911.

I'm inclined to say that I would never burn a flag (except in the approved manner for disposal) - BUT I'm inclined to go burn one the day they become stupid enough to outlaw it in defense of my right to free speech.

Proponents of this idiocy the day of the vote trotted out Miss America of all people to make an argument to stop flag burning...
Little Miss said to an astonished audiance (possibly not exact but what I remember) "Did you know that it is a federal crime to burn a dollar bill, but it's perfectly legal to burn the symbol of our nation?"

I was astonished, but not like the idiot audiance.
I was astonished that she would have been fed such a lame argument.
Burning money is not a violation of constitutional ammedment, it's a violation of a federal reserve regulation - because the paper currency is the property of the federal reserve, not the person that believes they own it.
The flag on the other hand has been purchased and is entirely the property of the person who chooses to fly it, burn it, or display it in a case.

Yes I am very disturned that this got to one vote.
It shows that the law makers in our country are nearly at the point where they will usurp all of our rights as free citizens.
VERY frightening.

Mandelbrot's Chaos said...

Thanks, Paul. I didn't really think about the meaning of flying a flag upside down. Perhaps, instead, flying the flag properly but beneath another flag would be more akin to my intended meaning, perhaps a flag with the Bill of Rights on it. That would allow for my silent protest without causing havoc. Still, I like the dilute alcohol solution idea as well. I think that would make a point in a manner people would be unlikely to forget.