Earlier today, during a conference call with governors, Donald Trump urged states to pass laws to ban flag-burning, as if that would resolve any of the underlying issues inspiring recent protests.
He added that if any governor was concerned such a law would be struck down, they didn’t need to worry because he’s stacked the courts with right-wing ideologues who will bow down to his every whim regardless of legal precedent or how the law actually works.
“Flag burning is a disgrace… We have a different court. And [I] think that [it’s] time to review that again,” he said. “They wanted to climb up flag [poles] in Washington in order to burn flags, but we stopped them… If you wanted to try and pass a very powerful flag burning statute, anti-flag burning, I hope you do it because we will back you 100 percent, all the way. I hope some of you do it.”
It’s not the first time he’s done this. Almost a year ago, he said such a ban would be 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
He also did it the month he won the Electoral College.
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
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. That was a 5-4 decision with Antonin Scalia, one of the most conservative justices in recent memory, in the majority. And one year ago, 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.
Look, we should be far more disturbed by a president who wraps himself in the flag, at least when he’s not groping it, than a citizen who destroys the flag in the hopes of drawing attention to a particular problem.
Trump’s statement and those from Republicans who will inevitably support it are just cheap attempts at suggesting they love the country more than everyone else. Don’t fall for it. There may be legitimate debates to have over the effectiveness of flag-burning, and the unintentional messages that 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.
Republicans only ever seem to care about the cloth. They have no problem with Trump destroying American values but they’ll raise holy hell if a liberal points out that hypocrisy.
(Image via Shutterstock. Large portions of this article were published earlier)