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Reheating the Hot Button of Flag Burning ^ | December 1, 2016 | Mark Davis

Posted on 12/01/2016 7:56:25 AM PST by Kaslin

Well, look what’s back: the instantly compelling and ultimately confounding parlor game of “What do we do about flag burning?”

Dormant for years, largely because this is something virtually no one ever does, the flag burning issue is back. You could hear it knocking lightly when several idiotic pro athletes decided to lodge their concerns over policing issues by showing public disdain for the flag that is a symbol of the nation that has made them free and wealthy.

Throw in the Donald Trump victory, which has dredged up some of the most hateful and juvenile reactions in election history, and the atmosphere thickens. The final ingredient: a Tuesday Trump tweet proclaiming that “Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag -- if they do, there must be consequences -- perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!”

My head hurts.

Memories rush in from the talk shows I was doing in 1989, the year of the infamous Texas v. Johnson case, in which a cretinous young Communist named Gregory Johnson burned a flag at Dallas City Hall during the Ronald Reagan second-term nominating convention down the street.

The Supreme Court’s job was to determine whether flag-burning is constitutionally protected free speech. The 5-4 decision, made possible by the late Antonin Scalia’s reliance on his libertarian DNA, found that laws against “desecration” of the flag are a violation of rights.

It is always perilous to compile a list of things Americans should not be able to do simply because they are so infuriating. The thing that angers me may empower you; the thing we outlaw today may silence you tomorrow. If you envision banning only the things which are truly poisonous, hurtful, hateful and without merit, I invite you to meet the American Left, which is marching toward defining your Biblical beliefs and mine in exactly those terms.

The four dissenting justices did make a strong case against free-speech designation for flag-burning, calling it a substantial stretch to elevate a vulgar gesture to the level of the protected speech the founders sought to protect. They were right to point out that Gregory Johnson and every other flag-burning idiot since are not exactly the philosophical descendants of Thomas Paine.

So my desire today is to sidestep completely the gnashing standoff over whether the execrable act of flag-burning should be forbidden by law. Instead, I’ll share why it is a useless exercise to try.

The Trump tweet surely energized millions in his base who enjoyed the notion of consequences raining down on the chowderheads who choose to communicate through flag desecration. I confess that it struck a chord with me as well.

But if we examine how such penalties might be crafted, we run into multiple brick walls of impracticality. The moment we put our toes into the pool of outlawing flag-burning, requirements instantly arise. The first if the definition of terms.

So what is an American flag, anyway? Would the law define it as a fabric rectangle featuring thirteen alternating red and white stripes with fifty stars in nine offset rows in a dark blue field in the corner?

Great. Meet the scrubby entrepreneurs who would immediately manufacture completely burnable flags, manufactured to skirt the law by virtue of eleven stripes, or forty stars. But wait, you may say. Let’s just make it illegal to burn things that look like a flag.

That should work out just great. I’ve seen clothing items that feature just enough striping and starring that some malcontent could torch one and spark a torrent of 911 calls. The precision necessary to make flag-burning laws coherent is the very characteristic that makes flag-burning laws impossible.

So is there no recourse for those of us interested in stemming this disgusting behavior? Sure there is. Setting fire to anything in a public place would seem proscribable on a safety basis. If I were at your town’s city hall, could I set fire to a bedsheet in public?

But we all know it’s the flag imagery that makes this issue both literally and figuratively incendiary. On that point, I go back to a talk show call I took from a veteran in Memphis, where I was working at the time of the ruling. “I have a feeling I went to war to protect all kinds of things that might infuriate me,” he began. “But I wonder if this couldn’t be included under laws we have against inciting riots.”

I asked whether he thought a flag-burner could be broadly defined under law as necessarily seeking to spark violent unrest. As the issue returns to the headlines, I can still hear his reply to me: “Mark, I can’t tell you what lawyers might say about what does and does not incite a riot, but I’ll tell you this: if somebody burns a flag in front of me, I’ll start a riot right on top of his ass.”

Might not be a helpful story, but I sure enjoy telling it again.

TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Culture/Society; Editorial
KEYWORDS: 1989; 1stamendment; americanflag; flagburning; law; regulations; scalia
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1 posted on 12/01/2016 7:56:25 AM PST by Kaslin
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To: Kaslin

I actually think flag burning helps identify what Anarchy is as a world view. I believe it is a primal tangible visual that at root level causes one to deeply contemplate the concepts of chaos versus order.

I think it helps us make our conservative case without saying a word

2 posted on 12/01/2016 8:00:18 AM PST by Be Careful
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To: Kaslin

While I strongly disagree with flag burning, I don’t think it should be illegal. Besides, there is great conservative PR value in having a bunch of Leftwing, America-hating lunatics burning the flag.

3 posted on 12/01/2016 8:05:13 AM PST by Opinionated Blowhard ("When the people find they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.")
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To: Be Careful

Instead of outlawing flag burning, maybe we should amend the constitution to prohibit the prosecution of anyone who does violence to someone for burning the flag.

4 posted on 12/01/2016 8:06:44 AM PST by dsc (Any attempt to move a government to the left is a crime against humanity.)
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To: Kaslin

What do we do about flag burning?

Twenty public lashes sounds about right to me.

5 posted on 12/01/2016 8:07:12 AM PST by GoldenPup
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To: Kaslin

All it took was Republican in the White House for the flag burners to return because we all know who they really are and we all know they had a soulmate in the White House for eight years.

America “acted stupidly” for eight years. Now, it’s getting itself back on course so, naturally, here come the roaches needing to be stomped.

6 posted on 12/01/2016 8:08:24 AM PST by OrangeHoof (Get used to it - President Donald J. Trump)
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To: Kaslin

At least Donald Trump’s tweet about flag burning brought pictures of idiots being idiotic into the media, and they weren’t Republicans! I think the more the mid-western working Democrats see those Black Lives Matter protests, the more they question their Democrat affiliation. So I am glad they are allowed to burn the flag. Shows everyone who they are!

7 posted on 12/01/2016 8:09:00 AM PST by Old_Grouch (69 and AARP-free. Monthly FR contributor.)
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To: Opinionated Blowhard

I agree 100% - as long as the flag in question was purchased, or otherwise legally acquired, by the “burner(s)”.

8 posted on 12/01/2016 8:11:57 AM PST by WayneS (An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last. - Winston Churchill)
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To: Be Careful

I’m a libertarian, and I’m all for personal freedom.

For the life of me, I don’t understand/fathom/comprehend why anyone would ever want to burn the flag of their country. Are there other ways to express your displeasure, perhaps more articulately?

The logical limitation of free speech seems to be the proverbial “shouting fire in a crowded theater”, where the consequences of your actions could result in people being hurt (trampled as patrons scramble to flee the flames.)

I’m not sure that burning the flag reaches that point? It’s extremely, extremely offensive... try to burn a flag in front of a veteran and see what happens... but that’s the same arguement that left makes regarding southern states flying the confederate flag. And if I’m going to say that I want the southern states to be able to be free to fly whatever flags they choose to honor, logically, shouldn’t I allow the idiots who want to burn the flag to do so?

I agree that allowing the left to burn the flag helps the conservative cause, makes them look petty and foolish while showing that we are tolerant.

“Never interrupt your enemy while they are making a mistake.”

9 posted on 12/01/2016 8:13:28 AM PST by Ueriah
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To: Kaslin

The way I see it, if you have an American flag, it is not really your flag. It is America’s flag and you have to treat it with respect according to American rules.

10 posted on 12/01/2016 8:16:50 AM PST by ari-freedom (The Social Justice War is over and we won!)
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To: GoldenPup

Is anyone here old enough to remember a favorite story from grade school called THE MAN WITHOUT A COUNTRY? He was put on a ship and never, ever again allowed to set foot on U.S. soil.
A magnificent story that should still be taught to our children.

11 posted on 12/01/2016 8:16:56 AM PST by Mollypitcher1 (I have not yet begun to fight....John Paul Jones)
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To: Kaslin

Flag History: (maybe not the best source but does give some insite)

In antiquity, field signs or standards were used in warfare that can be categorized as vexilloid or ‘flag-like’. Examples include the Sassanid battle standard Derafsh Kaviani, and the standards of the Roman legions such as the eagle of Augustus Caesar’s Xth legion, or the dragon standard of the Sarmatians; the latter was let fly freely in the wind, carried by a horseman, but judging from depictions it was more similar to an elongated dragon kite than to a simple flag.

During the High Middle Ages flags came to be used primarily as a heraldic device in battle, allowing more easily to identify a knight than only from the heraldic device painted on the shield. Already during the high medieval period, and increasingly during the Late Middle Ages, city states and communes such as those of the Old Swiss Confederacy also began to use flags as field signs. Regimental flags for individual units became commonplace during the Early Modern period.

During the peak of the age of sail, beginning in the early 17th century, it was customary (and later a legal requirement) for ships to carry flags designating their nationality;[1] these flags eventually evolved into the national flags and maritime flags of today. Flags also became the preferred means of communications at sea, resulting in various systems of flag signals; see, International maritime signal flags.

Use of flags outside of military or naval context begins only with the rise of nationalist sentiment by the end of the 18th century; the earliest national flags date to that period, and during the 19th century it became common for every sovereign state to introduce a national flag.[citatio

12 posted on 12/01/2016 8:25:23 AM PST by PeterPrinciple (Thinking Caps are no longer being issued but there must be a warehouse full of them somewhere.)
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To: Be Careful
Interesting discussion on local talk radio. If flag burning is free speech, does that mean that for public safety reasons and to also exercise free speech you can “extinguish” such a fire?

Another caller said that yes it is free speech, but that it should be regulated just a some parades are. The Fire Marshal should be advised and approve a “burning safety” plan, that there should be mandatory required extinguishing equipment or that the “protester” should have to pay the local fire department to have “expert fire fighters on hand” in case the fire gets out of hand. That flag burning should be banned on days when air pollution is high. That the ash, should be carefully removed and disposed of so as to not litter or pollute, etc.

I do think that flag burning is horrible, but to the extent that the Supreme Court has declared it “free speech.” Then it should be regulated in an appropriate manner.

For all those flag burners that don't comply with the regulations, I think that serious fines and/or jail time would be appropriate for endangering public safety and our environment. (two can play the game.)

Perhaps in the spirit of the 2nd Amendment, we can also require a federal instant check requirement for all flag burner permits to insure that they are citizens, with no criminal records, and no history of domestic abuse or mental health issues. I mean both the 1st and 2nd Amendments are Constitutional Rights.

13 posted on 12/01/2016 8:28:56 AM PST by Robert357 (D.Rather "Hoist with his own petard!"
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To: All

This subject has been exhausted. Given how hard the MSM grilled Hillary during the campaign re her 2005 anti-flag burning bill, what’s left to say? Sometimes it was almost painful watching reporters hound Hillary with flag burning questions. They just wouldn’t let up!

Time to move on; it’s all been said.

14 posted on 12/01/2016 9:20:10 AM PST by Fantasywriter (Any attempt to do forensic work using Internet artifacts is fraught with pitfalls. JoeProbono)
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To: Ueriah

I remember being read this story in grade school just after it appeared in Readers Digest, a 4,300 word 15 pp. short story by James Clavell, I believe.

Excerpt: Johnny put up his hand. “It’s our flag,” he said fiercely. “We always pledge.”
“Yes,” the New Teacher said. “It is a very pretty one.” She looked at it a moment and then said, “I wish I could have a
piece of it. If it’s so important, I think we should all have a piece of it. Don’t you?”
“I have a little one at home,” Mary said. I could bring it tomorrow.”
“Thank you, Mary dear, but I just wanted a little piece, of this one because it’s our own special classroom one”.
Then Danny said, “If we had some scissors we could cut a little piece off.”
“I’ve some scissors at home,” Mary said. “There’s some in Miss Worden’s desk,” Brian said.
The New Teacher found the scissors and then they had to decide who would be allowed to cut a little piece off, and the
New Teacher said that because today was Mary’s birthday (How did you know that? Mary asked herself awed) Mary
should be allowed to cut the piece off. And then they decided it would be very nice if they all had a piece. The flag is
special, they thought, so if you have a piece, that’s better than having just to look at it, because you can keep it in your
So the flag was cut up by the children and ... “

Justify it as you like, it’s illegal flag desecration.

15 posted on 12/01/2016 9:59:58 AM PST by tumblindice (America's founding fathers, all armed conservatives)
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To: tumblindice

Dirtbags like mad bomber Bill Ayers should have ben jugged for flag desecration.

But a lot of laws have gone unenforced in recent years, while a lot of other things have been done without authority of law—by executive fiat—while the USSC and Congress have dithered.
That could be called `tyranny’. Thank G_d that Hillary Clinton won’t be appointing any more SCOTUS judges.

16 posted on 12/01/2016 10:14:55 AM PST by tumblindice (America's founding fathers, all armed conservatives)
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To: Mollypitcher1
"The Man Without a Country" is a short story by American writer Edward Everett Hale, first published in The Atlantic in December 1863.[1] It is the story of American Army lieutenant Philip Nolan, who renounces his country during a trial for treason and is consequently sentenced to spend the rest of his days at sea without so much as a word of news about the United States. Though the story is set in the early 19th century, it is an allegory about the upheaval of the American Civil War and was meant to promote the Union cause.

Plot summary

The protagonist is a young United States Army lieutenant, Philip Nolan, who develops a friendship with the visiting Aaron Burr. When Burr is tried for treason (historically this occurred in 1807), Nolan is tried as an accomplice. During his testimony, he bitterly renounces his nation, angrily shouting, "I wish I may never hear of the United States again!" The judge is completely shocked at this announcement, and on convicting him, icily grants him his wish: he is to spend the rest of his life aboard United States Navy warships, in exile, with no right ever again to set foot on U.S. soil, and with explicit orders that no one shall ever mention his country to him again.

More Here

17 posted on 12/01/2016 11:03:49 AM PST by Kaslin (Most humans have an attention span of about 10 minutes, after that they will revert to daydreaming)
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To: Ueriah

“The logical limitation of free speech seems to be the proverbial “shouting fire in a crowded theater”, where the consequences of your actions could result in people being hurt (trampled as patrons scramble to flee the flames.)”

And America is the only hope of the world, as we haven’t been reminded since Reagan.

If one attempts to destroy the only hope of the world, how is that different from shouting “fire” in a crowded theater, other than that the timeline is in years vice seconds?

18 posted on 12/01/2016 12:06:04 PM PST by dsc (Any attempt to move a government to the left is a crime against humanity.)
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To: dsc

the constitution doesn’t prohibit violence on another person. The states do that.

Can you give us the language of your proposed amendment so we can mull it over for the convention?

19 posted on 12/01/2016 12:08:11 PM PST by morphing libertarian
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To: morphing libertarian

“the constitution doesn’t prohibit violence on another person. The states do that.”

Yes, I know.

“Can you give us the language of your proposed amendment so we can mull it over for the convention?”

Oh, off the top of my head, how about something like:

Any person, citizen or non-citizen, who publicly burns or otherwise desecrates the flag of the United States thereby forfeits his right to freedom from violence upon his person. No citizen shall be prosecuted for committing violence upon the person of any citizen or non-citizen who publicly burns or otherwise desecrates the flag of the United States, or for the consequences of that violence.

This shall not apply to those who respectfully retire the flag by burning in an appropriate ceremony.

20 posted on 12/01/2016 12:16:55 PM PST by dsc (Any attempt to move a government to the left is a crime against humanity.)
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