Thursday, July 06, 2006

Vexing logic about the flag

The only thing stupider than burning the flag is siding with those who want to put a stop to it.

As far as political statements go, flag-burning is lame. It's reactionary and it accomplishes nothing. It's also overdone, which is saying something considering that there are fewer than 20 documented incidents of American flag burning in the past decade. Among most intelligent activists, flag-burning ranks somewhere between "pancake benefit" and "Sean Penn" in terms of efficacy. Progressive Americans, the generally accepted stereotype for banner-burners, have much better ways of exercising their freedoms, thankyaverymuch.

So, clearly, flag-burning is not that beloved by either side of the aisle. So why should anyone care about the proposed flag-desecration amendment that just lapsed into its latest coma? Because, ultimately, the amendment has nothing to do with the flag.

As the government of a country gets more paranoid and incompetent, it will try to distract people from pressing issues with abstract concepts such as patriotism. Put more succinctly, politicians will hide behind the flag. They will attempt, just as they have done successfully for decades, to equate the symbol with what it represents. But never forget that the American flag is but a visual representation of all that we have put together over the past 230 years. This country and its freedoms would exist even without the flag, whereas it would not without the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, the two documents that the anti-desecration amendment threatens the most.

Put another way, the flag does not deserved to be burned, precisely because we have the right to burn it! Free speech hurts sometimes, but it's better than feeling nothing at all.

Beyond the obvious Constitutional crisis that would erupt from this amendment's passage, consider also the staggering lack of thought put into it. U.S. Flag Code specifically states when a flag MUST be burned. That's right--MUST be burned! Even the Boy Scouts agree with me on that. I realize that a lot of you view a worn-out flag as some kind of sage symbol, as if a faded banner with separating stripes flagellating from your SUV's cell-phone antenna is a sign of resolve. But what you're really saying is, "I'm a true patriot who won't let the events of 9/11 sway me from my proud ignorance of vexillological protocol!" Assuming you know what "vexillology" even means. Look it up.

But I digress. The flag-burning amendment does everything that no proposed amendment ever should: it directly contradicts established and uncontested American law; its success will result in diminished freedom; and its premise is entirely emotional rather than logical. And that is not what anyone should want the American flag to represent.


BeerMan said...

Just so you know, there are no conditions under which the flag MUST be burned. Get the dick out of your ass and read the flag code again.

The preferred method of disposal of a flag no longer fit for service is burning. It is not the only acceptable method. You fucking ass gobbler. Why don't you get your facts right before you write this shit?

danc said...

It does not say must be burned. It said preferably. Why link to something that proves you wrong.

Ian McGibboney said...

Sure, you can bury the flag too. I know that. But you're supposed to cut it up and burn it. That's always been the proper way to do it. How often do you hear about a flag being buried?

And how exactly does that change my point that the flag-protection amendment directly contradicts the U.S. Flag Code? Do you have anything to say about that? That IS the point, after all.

Violet said...

Woo-hoo! Thanks Ian - I remember learning this when I was a kid (my grandad was in the service), and I think it's a terrific idea (even if "flag protocol" has changed). What would you rather do - honor a worn flag by burning it or let it go, ratty and torn, into the trash? Seems like the former preserves the integrity of the flag. Also, in response to BeerMan, you should feel free to put your dick wherever you want to within reason.

danc said...

"Beyond the obvious Constitutional crisis that would erupt from this amendment's passage, consider also the staggering lack of thought put into it. U.S. Flag Code specifically states when a flag MUST be burned. That's right--MUST be"

If it had nothing to do with your point then why include it in your article. You referenced the U.S. Flag Code to support your statement that the flag MUST be burned when it is no longer worthy of display. As usual you deflect the attention away from someone pointing out something wrong in your article.

Cajun Tiger said...

Ian...I agree with you 100% on this issue. As much as I'd have to restrain myself from punching someone in the face if I saw them burning a flag, I don't want to see an amendment to the constitution that would stifle free speech. Conservatives who supported that admendment were wrong and approached a very slippery slope.

Ian McGibboney said...

Danc, how about this: in order to properly dispose of a flag, you MUST desecrate it. That's the point I'm making. You're just splitting hairs.

Cajun Tiger, exactly. This isn't even a partisan issue, just a common-sense one. If you start making exceptions to free speech, who knows where it'll stop?

danc said...

if you think that someone burning the flag in protest and someone (a veteran maybe)burning an old tattered flag is the same thing, then you truly are near sighted in your views.

Ian McGibboney said...


I'm not the nearsighted one here. The real myopia is among those who support an amendment that would erase the rights of both protesters and flag-retirees in the name of "preserving freedom."

Even Cajun Tiger agrees with me on this. What's your position, danc? In between all of your nitpicky criticism, you have not even articulated a position.

danc said...


let me start by saying that i appreciate your views even if I disagree with most of them. I've never thought burning our flag was really about freedom of speech. i guess my view of of it is more avout hatred of the US than anything. I realize that protecting the flag is not one of the most pressing issues today, but i do believe that protecting the flag in some ways protects those that defended and died for the beliefs that that flag represents. i am in no way as articulate at expressing my views as you are, but i hope that i have atleast explained my view. i do realize that you could argue that those same men and women fought and died for the freedom to burn this flag. i just feel like it (the flag) is more than a symbol. to me it's who w e are as Americans.

Ian McGibboney said...


I appreciate your take. It helps me better understand where you come from.

Cajun Tiger said...


I had the same thoughts and feelings at first, but being here in Iraq has changed that. America is way more than a flag, and that in no way is meant to place any disrespect on it b/c I would fight to the death defending the principles it represents. However, I would be fighting for the principles not the cloth.

Trust me that you would be hard pressed to find someone who has more respect for our flag, but I can't see tarnishing the constitution by removing a guaranteed right, to protect a piece of cloth.

tony said...

I'm jumping in on this late, but have you ever noticed that the folks in such a rush to pass a flag burning amendment never seem to think adding crosses.

No, burn the Christian cross all the lovelong day. *That's* freedom of speech. But the flag is more important than the symbol of the Christian messiah.

I think you should be able to burn whatever the hell you want as long as its your property to burn.

It just doesn't make much sense that people are more interested in protecting a piece of cloth than the symbol of their god.

Cajun Tiger said...

Tony...that is an extremely interesting point. Most cross burnings are done in other people's yard for intimidation which would make the act as a whole illegal already which may be one reason. I've never seen or heard of anyone burning a cross at a public protest, so that may be why no one has attempted to try and stop it by law.

tony said...

Cajun Tiger:

You're right about the intimidation factor. That's what makes many flag burnings illegal.

However, a few years back (2002 or 2003), the state of Virginia passed a law that banned *ALL* cross burnings, even "ceremonial" ones that the Klan still does in the middle of fields during their rallies.

Someone got clipped for it, and he challenged the law all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, where the court ruled that as long as a cross was not being burned to threaten or intimidate, then it was protected speech, and Virginia's law was overturned.

Someone refresh my memory. Was there an outcry about activist judges and a rush to pass a constitutional amendment to protect the cross? I don't recall such things, but perhaps I was too busy worshipping the devil to remember.


tony said...

*Oops. In the first sentence, I used "flag" instead of "cross." Sorry for the confusion. In fact, in all my comments on this site, just know that the term flag and cross -- for me, at least -- are synonymous.

Cajun Tiger said...

From what you said about the case, I agree with the SCOTUS ruling. The only reason I can think that it hasn't risen to the level of the flag is that it isn't done as often and is only associated with a very small fringe group that nearly everyone condemns, so it doesn't have the same emotional tugs as the flag.

Ian McGibboney said...

In Lafayette, there used to be a public-access show put on by the regional chapter of the KKK. Someone called in once and asked the Klansmen why they burn the cross if they claim to be preserving the Christian heritage. Their immediate answer was, "We love the cross!" They went on to say that the burning symbolized the fires of their hearts or something. Kind of like how some parents beat up their kids "for their own good."