With our soon-to-be Dear Leader proclaiming in yet another knee-jerk (with emphasis on the latter) Tweet regarding the burning of the flag, it brings to topic again that age-old debate about what to do (if anything) with those that desecrate the flag.
The SCOTUS folks ruled a while back that burning the flag is a form of free speech and should not be impeded. But like many of our freedoms, just because there ain’t no law against it doesn’t mean you would be wise to do it. I mean, it’s one thing if you are in a Third World Muslim country and the mobs (of men shooting their AK-47’s into the air) are burning the American flag out of hatred of everything us infidels stand for.. but to be a citizen of the U.S. and burn the flag here at home seems a bit… um… unpatriotic, to say the VERY least.
Let’s face it… seeing the flag being burned is probably the one “peaceful” thing anyone can do that will absolutely be guaranteed to piss off most others. For those of us who were born here we spent the first 8 years of school pledging allegiance to it. As adults some of us learned to serve what it represents in the military… some of us in battle. So when some clown decides he’s angry over his lot in life and wants to convey his anger to the rest of America and burns the flag it’s bound to put the emotions of others into overdrive. So here’s the question… why do it in the first place?
The idea is akin to those sport clowns who feel they need to raise fists, kneel, or whatever nonsense, at sports awards ceremonies to somehow convey their agenda by dissing the flag… knowing full well they aren’t making any friends to their cause.
Well, it’s all about the drama. If you want to put a stop to nose picking on Tuesdays and no one is listening to you then you do something dramatic that shocks people into listening to your cause. Grab the American flag and burn it. Yep.. that will get noticed for sure… and if you get hospitalized then that’s even better.. you’re now a martyr for your cause (although if you die, you can’t take any bows for your efforts… or sacrifice). Either way, given our quick news cycles, your cause will be forgotten by next nose-picking Tuesday, and you will be remembered as just another nutcase. If you were famous before, you will now suffer the scorn and ridicule of an ungrateful nation… and adios endorsements.
I hate to admit this, but Trump is not off the mark in what he is trying to say when he says flag burners should legally pay for what they do. The difference between flag burning and say, rioting in the streets, or peacefully burning your bra (I know,, showing my age here) is that we pledge allegiance to it. It’s a symbol of everything we hold true as Americans… and we embrace its imagery with meaning. To me that’s a pretty compelling argument for making a person legally responsible for his conduct concerning desecrating our symbol of liberty… especially if you are a fellow citizen who you know damn well has made that same pledge of allegiance, and is doing what we may see as a traitorous act… or certainly an act worthy of stripping of citizenship and casting out into the wilderness.
BUT… having said that much, I respect the decision of the High Court, and there is a part of me that finds this as a test of our liberty. Each of our Bill of Rights describes a freedom that has an element of not-so-good that we have to accept in order to validate that which IS good. For example, we accept freedom of speech, even if it runs against our perception of common decency or universal public acceptance. Overall it’s a strong freedom that defines a part of who we are… yet it isn’t perfect in all situations. But we accept that… to be free. Perhaps our most costly freedom is our dear Second Amendment. Thousands die each year because guns are simply available. I’m not assigning blame on who or what is pulling the trigger or morality issues. It’s just common sense… if no guns were allowed in this country people would not be killed by them, albeit it’s not practical for that to ever happen. But we have the right to own guns… at a cost. It’s definitely a freedom that is not free.
You may be free to make your dramatic statement with the flag, but remember there are others likely to risk their own freedom by making you suffer a bit in the process. Use some common sense in presenting your cause… and leave the flag alone.
A Voice From An American Who Entertains –
The following was a recent op-ed article posted at CNN the day following my post here by Vegas entertainer, Penn Jillette. Here’s is the link to validate my source… but in the event the link vanishes here is the text…
(CNN) At the beginning of this century, Teller and I made a TV show in which we traveled around the world watching street magicians. These weren’t conjurers who worked for tourists, but the magicians who performed for locals. We spent the nights in fairly nice hotels, but the days we spent on the streets in real Egypt, real China and real India.
Before this trip, we’d never considered ourselves overly patriotic; we never really thought about it. But we landed back in the USA feeling that John Wayne was a bit too hippie for our taste. Nothing can make you love the USA more than overseas travel.When we got back to doing our own magic show at our own theater in Las Vegas, we wanted to do a new magic trick that would express our newly-understood patriotism. We wanted to publicly salute the American flag and the republic for which it stands.Overseas, we saw poverty, disease and injustice, but what really struck us, what made us kiss the ground at McCarran airport in Las Vegas, Nevada, United States of America, was freedom. Freedom was what those other countries were so sorely lacking — freedom that we must never take for granted.We decided to do a magic trick that would celebrate the freedoms we could now taste so intensely. One of the standard plots in magic is a restoration. You rip, cut, tear or burn something and restore it into one piece.Usually a restoration means nothing but sleight of hand skill. You borrow a handkerchief, put in a rolled up piece of paper, burn it up, and then “abracadabra” it’s back! It’s a miracle for no reason.
Many veterans and other patriots told us after the show it was their favorite magic trick. We didn’t kid ourselves; carny trash like Penn & Teller don’t deserve that kind of reaction. These people were cheering freedom.Without the right to burn the flag, without that freedom of expression, the flag is just a piece of cloth. It means nothing. With that freedom, with our Bill of Rights, it’s the greatest symbol on earth. It’s magic.For the TV show “The West Wing” we performed our flag burning trick at the fictional first daughter’s birthday party. Within the plot of the show, some people didn’t understand our passionate magic trick. They didn’t understand that it was a celebration of freedom, and they demanded to know whether we’d burned a flag in the White House.The fictional president stuck up for us and explained that the Supreme Court and the Founding Fathers knew that for the flag to be revered, it must stand for real freedom.Do we really burn a flag in that trick? Do we symbolically burn the flag? Or do we vanish the flag in a patriotic flash of fireworks? It doesn’t matter at all. The flag burning trick is a celebration of American freedom any way you look at it.Maybe some people don’t understand what really makes this country great. Maybe they think it’s a crime if Penn & Teller burned a flag on national TV. Maybe some people will think that we should go to jail, or lose our citizenship, for a patriotic magic trick.I sure hope no one misunderstands our simple message because I promise you that although many other Americans love this country as much as I do — no one loves it more. America has always been great.