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Ross Mackenzie: Freedom to Burn the Flag? No It Is Our Defining And Most Essential Symbol
The Richmond [VA] Times-Dispatch ^ | July 4, 2005 | Ross Mackenzie

Posted on 07/03/2005 7:47:23 PM PDT by quidnunc

Don't burn the flag; wash it. – Norman Thomas.

In the debate about a proposed constitutional amendment proscribing desecration of the American flag, what tend to go undiscussed are the sentiments of the common man.

The great song-and-dance man George M. Cohan nailed those sentiments famously:

You're a grand old flag,

you're a high flying flag,

And forever in peace may

you wave … .

Since the Supreme Court's 5-4 ruling in the 1989 Texas v. Johnson case, we have heard arguments like this:

The right of individuals to express themselves, even by burning the American flag, is enshrined in the First Amendment stipulating — inter alia — freedom of speech as an unbridgeable civil right. In fact, the very flag itself represents the right to destroy it in free expression.

And, in the latest twist, an ACLU lobbyist said last week that especially in this poll-driven culture public opinion polls are irrelevant to debates about the First Amendment, because that Amendment protects the most extreme statements and opinions: Polls on this question "are antithetical to what the Bill of Rights is supposed to be about."

… You're the emblem of the land I love,

The home of the free and the brave … .

Yet it's important to keep in mind several things.

Free expression is not necessarily free speech: In talking about using the flag as toilet paper or burning it in view of the First Amendment, the issue is not Hustler, not Ulysses or To Kill a Mockingbird, not nude dancing or the mid-finger salute. Nor is it about a mere piece of cloth — not about just a symbol but The Symbol, our defining and most essential symbol.

-snip-

(Excerpt) Read more at timesdispatch.com ...


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial
KEYWORDS: flagburning; mackenzie; oldglory

1 posted on 07/03/2005 7:47:27 PM PDT by quidnunc
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Comment #2 Removed by Moderator

To: quidnunc

It's a private property matter. If someone buys a flag, they have the right to do with it what they want.


3 posted on 07/03/2005 8:00:10 PM PDT by ValenB4 ("Every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets." - Isaac Asimov)
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To: Lynch

Yes, and the Constitution has been redesigned. It is now "a living, breathing document," meaning anything that Souter-Stevens-Breyer-Ginsburg-Kennedy want it to mean. The Founding Fathers were a bunch of white males with old-fashioned ideas, but now everything Inside the Beltway is up-to-date.


4 posted on 07/03/2005 8:07:16 PM PDT by Malesherbes
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To: Lynch; jan in Colorado
I guess the Constitution is no longer around.

You make a good point...it's around, but only as a "symbol" these days.

Personally, I think flag burning should be legal. The flag is a symbol of the United States, not of any policy...and as such, anyone burning the flag is simply indicating his renunciation of citizenship. I fail to see what the big problem is, if we just make that clearly defined.

5 posted on 07/03/2005 8:07:28 PM PDT by Gondring (The can have my Bill of Rights when they pry it from my cold dead hands.)
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To: quidnunc

Flag burners are weasels. I do not mind if they burn the flag, as long as they stay wrapped in it when they light the match.

I've never met a true patriot that has burned the flag. This kind of liberal doublespeak proves that the First Amendment is the FIRST refuge of a scoundrel!


6 posted on 07/03/2005 8:14:41 PM PDT by Captainpaintball
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To: Gondring
anyone burning the flag is simply indicating his renunciation of citizenship.

Do they know that?

7 posted on 07/03/2005 8:22:07 PM PDT by jan in Colorado (Never Forget! Never Retreat! Never Give Up!)
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To: Lynch
It's still around, but as a "living, breathing document", it's a parchment fig leaf for whatever any five ultra liberal [that's Democrat for "mainstream"] jackass justices want to do, which then becomes "precedent", i.e holy writ that Conservatives may not tamper with.
8 posted on 07/03/2005 8:22:21 PM PDT by PzLdr ("The Emperor is not as forgiving as I am" - Darth Vader)
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To: quidnunc
People that publicly burn the flag in protest only harm their causes.

I don't think it's possible to even define flag desecration as a constitutional amendment without making an amendment longer than the European constitution.

Flag etiquette strikes me as folkways rather than mores. I was at Mount Rushmore yesterday and stopped into the tourist trap (gift shop). There were several methods they used in that store to violate flag etiquette that simply jumped off of the shelves at me, and that is a U.S. Government operation. The worst insult I saw was a set of U.S. flag coasters. It was utterly disgusting. Who are we to put in prison for such idiocy? I think George Bush is the Chairman of that board of directors.

I don't think you can criminalize bad manners.

9 posted on 07/03/2005 8:23:14 PM PDT by stevem
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Comment #10 Removed by Moderator

To: jan in Colorado
Do they know that?

Note what I wrote:

"I fail to see what the big problem is, if we just make that clearly defined."

It's simply the logical message from burning a symbol of the nation, right?

11 posted on 07/03/2005 8:38:33 PM PDT by Gondring (The can have my Bill of Rights when they pry it from my cold dead hands.)
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To: Baynative
It takes some nerve to burn a flag in a country that grants the right to do so.

Almost as much nerve as it takes for Bono to chastise WESTERN governments over AFRICA'S problems! Hey Bono, go over to Zimbabwe and tell it to Mugabe!

12 posted on 07/03/2005 8:46:07 PM PDT by Captainpaintball
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To: quidnunc

If I wrap my flag around a white cross, is it still okay to burn it? strictly hypothetical, but, if it is okay to burn stuff to express oneself, is it still okay to burn stuff to express oneself?


13 posted on 07/03/2005 8:46:52 PM PDT by bose
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To: quidnunc

I encourage leftists who want to burn a flag to do so.

Sooner or later, one of them will catch himself on fire.


14 posted on 07/03/2005 9:12:47 PM PDT by A Balrog of Morgoth (With fire, sword, and stinging whip I drive the RINOs in terror before me.)
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To: quidnunc

Burning the UN flag could be a handy "Benchmark" as to what flag burning is Okeydokey, right. Just museing.


15 posted on 07/03/2005 9:57:04 PM PDT by Waco
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To: quidnunc

This guy is a horse's ass. He should be more concerned about the slow burning of our constitution that has occurred ever since Marbury vs. Madison.


16 posted on 07/03/2005 9:58:33 PM PDT by Clemenza (Make the Homies Say Ho and the Girlies Want to Scream!)
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To: quidnunc

I remember an old time professor saying that you don't get the bill of rights so you can eliminate the bill of rights.


17 posted on 07/03/2005 10:06:39 PM PDT by longtermmemmory (VOTE!)
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To: ValenB4

I think flag burning promoted as an event in the public square is similar to shouting fire in a crowed theater. Both are designed to cause violence. Neither are protected by the 1st Amendment.

By the way, and not that it matters to the arguement, why are only lefty groups associated with flag burning? Conservatives get angry at government as well, yet you'll never see a them burn Old Glory.

Congress can take care of the problem by passing a law and denying the federal courts appellate review. No need for a Constitutional amendment.


18 posted on 07/04/2005 4:31:43 AM PDT by Jacquerie (Democrats soil the institutions they control)
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To: Jacquerie

There's no valid comparison to shouting fire in a crowded theater, which isn't a call for violence, but is something than can cause harm by being trampled on a hysterical crowd. Shouting fire like that is inherently dangerous by its very nature. Burning a flag is not inherently dangerous and is offensive only if you choose to be offended. Whether a conservative or liberal, a person has the right to do this on First Amendment grounds as well as property rights. This is a ridiculous issue to spend time on.


19 posted on 07/04/2005 5:54:52 AM PDT by ValenB4 ("Every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets." - Isaac Asimov)
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To: quidnunc

As an ultra pro-american veteran I believe in one's right to protest. I ask you, suppose another eight years of Clinton, the continuation of a ultra lib Supreme Court taking away private property, slaughter of babies,taking away gun rights etc. I have never burned an American flag but I can see the day when one can't be blamed for doing so. Even the patriot act which is allowing searches without a warrant is going to far. Yeah if I burn a flag it will be to protest that the greatest nation in the world is going down the toilet because of leftist socialist politicians, ie the likes of Pelosi, Schumer, Reid et al. Happy 4th of July!!


20 posted on 07/04/2005 6:06:07 AM PDT by KenmcG414
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To: ValenB4

I'm glad to see there's still some sense on this subject. Thank you.


21 posted on 07/04/2005 6:50:23 AM PDT by highball ("I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have." -- Thomas Jefferson)
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To: ValenB4
You ignore my points and your points are specious.

"Chose" to be offended. Sure. One is offended in our culture by the single finger salute and patriots are offended by design by Anti-American scumbags burning our flag.

So just what is a public, advertised, media gala planned around torching the flag supposed to evoke? Humor? Happy Feelings? Kumbaya? No, it is designed to evoke outrage by losers who cannot express themselves in any other fashion.

Why do only lefty groups burn the flag anyway? They do so not to oppose a governmental policy, but to show their hate for the US. Why do they need police protection to protect a right which is God given? On what other occasion does the expression of ideas require protection?

If for example, I called your mother a whore, would you "chose" to be offended? Free speech right? Wrong. I would deserve a punch to the nose.
22 posted on 07/04/2005 10:54:27 AM PDT by Jacquerie (Democrats soil the institutions they control)
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To: Jacquerie
The First Amendment and property rights are not specious points. If someone buys a flag and burns it, you would actually criminalize that?

In terms of offense, that's right. You choose whether or not to be offended. Do you have your own mind? Can you control your own thoughts? Or are you some sort of animal or automoton who will go into an uncontrolled rage at the drop of a hat, like the Muslims do?

When do the expression of ideas need to be protected? All the time. It happens very frequently because there are people who cannot control themselves who will attack those that they disagree with - again, as we see in Muslim countries.

Burning a flag doesn't hurt anyone. It may hurt their feelings, but that's too bad. Causing mass hysteria in a theatre is putting people at risk. If you can't see the difference, that's your problem, so go ahead and be bitter.

23 posted on 07/04/2005 11:07:59 AM PDT by ValenB4 ("Every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets." - Isaac Asimov)
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