What should have been a major story yesterday was buried in part because it involved Donald Trump. During his morning tweetstorm, Trump promoted a ban on flag-burning, calling it a “no brainer!”
All in for Senator Steve Daines as he proposes an Amendment for a strong BAN on burning our American Flag. A no brainer!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 15, 2019
That wasn’t even his first time saying something like that; he also did it the month he was elected president.
Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag – if they do, there must be consequences – perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 29, 2016
It came in response to Republican Senator Steve Daines of Montana introducing a likely-dead-on-arrival Constitutional amendment to ban flag burning… on Flag Day, of course. It was co-sponsored by seven other Republican senators.
“The American flag has been a symbol of hope and freedom for centuries and ought to be respected,” Daines stated. “Our nation’s flag must be set apart as a protected symbol worthy of honor.”
The actual proposed amendment says: “The Congress shall have power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States.”
Republican Rep. Steve Womack of Arkansas introduced the same legislation in the House along with 14 co-sponsors.
Congressman Womack said, “Our flag is more than a cloth painted red, white, and blue. It is a symbol of worldwide freedom, unity, and liberty. It has guided troops into battle, flown during our triumphs and challenges, and is placed over the caskets of those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice. Generations have fought to defend our stars and stripes — and the American people have simply given too much for the flag to not have the ability to protect it.”
Needless to say, the people who claim to love the Constitution so damn much can’t seem to wrap their head around the First Amendment. Symbols of patriotism are not synonyms for patriotism.
It shouldn’t matter if you’re kneeling during the National Anthem, staying seated during the Pledge of Allegiance, or burning an American flag in protest. Part of being a patriot and loving the country means criticizing it in the hopes that it can get closer to achieving its ideals. Banning people from desecrating the flag is no different than forcing people to say they love the country — if you can’t handle criticism to the point where you forbid any, the love doesn’t really count.
And those are just the ethical problems with the amendment. Legally, the Supreme Court already said in 1989 that desecrating the flag was a legal exercise of free speech. Just this week, the city of Cleveland paid a man $225,000 to settle a case after officers wrongfully retaliated against him for burning a flag in protest in 2016. That man, Gregory Johnson, was also the defendant in the 1989 Supreme Court case.
We should be far more disturbed by a president who dry humps the American flag while his administration locks kids in cages than a citizen who destroys the flag in the hopes of drawing attention to a particular problem.
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) June 14, 2019
Trump’s tweet and the Republicans’ resolutions are just cheap attempts at suggesting they love the country more than everyone who opposes the amendment. Don’t fall for it. There are legitimate debates to have over the effectiveness of flag burning, and the message it sends, but there shouldn’t be any question over the legality of the action.
What matters are the values the flag represents, not the piece of cloth itself.
As usual, Republicans are ignoring the former while championing the latter. They have their priorities completely mixed up.
(Featured screenshot via YouTube)