The desecration of principles: flag burning

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The desecration of principles: flag burning

photo by Perez/Tribune News Service

photo by Perez/Tribune News Service

photo by Perez/Tribune News Service

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Since the Vietnam War, Americans have burned the flag as a form of dissent and as a way to express their disapproval of the state of this country. In response to the failure to hold police officers accountable for incidents of police brutality in the past months, protesters have taken to the streets and burned the flag. This is a powerful, effective expression of one’s First Amendment right that must be protected.

Many have strongly opposed flag burning, claiming that the flag is a sacred symbol of this country and burning it is sacrilege. However, it is not the piece of cloth that is sacred, rather it is the values that the flag stands for that are sacred. It is the right to speak out against authority without being persecuted. It is the right to burn the flag. If America fails to live up to the standards it has set, then the people of this country have every right to express their disapproval by burning the flag. It shows that the values that the flag stands for are being violated, that we expect more from this country. This act is not disrespectful to the people who have served their country; it is a statement that says that our troops didn’t risk their lives for this country only to have its core principles destroyed.

As opposed to vandalizing cop cars, public buildings, looting stores or other crimes with victims, there is no victim in the symbolic burning of the flag. There is no shop owner whose business is temporarily stifled. The taxpayers do not have to pay for the damages done, as there are none.

One does not need to approve of desecrating the flag in order to believe that preserving the right to do so is absolutely necessary. Some people may find it shocking to see the flag destroyed, but the sight of this scene is far less appalling than the possibility of limiting the American people’s right to free speech. Although flag desecration is protected by the Supreme Court decisions of Texas v. Johnson and United States v. Eichman, Congress has repeatedly introduced constitutional amendments attempting to ban it, including an attempt by the U.S. Senate in 2006, which failed to pass by only a single vote.

Any attempt by the government to silence the people is a step in the wrong direction. It is a step towards censoring speech solely because it is disrespectful. It is a step towards an oppressive society without the right to dissent. There is a choice to be made between permitting the desecration of the Constitution or the desecration of the flag.

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