I avail myself of First Amendment-recognized free speech on a regular basis.
It is a natural right as natural to me as thought itself.
President Donald Trump recently said those who burn the American flag should be imprisoned for a year.
I’m sure civil libertarians will pounce and accuse him of encouraging Supreme Court overreach by hoping they overturn a 1989 ruling making it protected speech.
Some critics will accuse him of acting like a dictator, despite the fact real dictators often execute citizens who destroy national symbols.
Legal scholars will quickly argue that any penalty for burning the flag in sick, symbolic protest is itself unconstitutional and violates the freedom it represents.
Despite the inevitable pushback, I think President Trump has a point.
As a child I watched young Caucasian Vietnam War protesters on television burn the flag in opposition to that police action in southeast Asia.
It struck me then as it does now—incredibly wrong and disrespectful. Doubly so when one considers those doing it were direct beneficiaries of what America offered. One would have hoped for much better ways to protest. Clearly, they thought otherwise.
Ironically, the former Soviet Union, the main communist nation many anti-war protestors idolized, took a very hard line on dissidents and public destruction of national symbols.
Odd how that point was always overlooked and still is today regarding the Chinese Communist Party.
Not even militant black nationalists nor moderate civil rights activists stooped to flag burning. It could be argued that if anyone had reason to do this it would be slave descendants battling second-class citizenship.
To their eternal credit, that era’s black advocates didn’t adopt flag burning as a signature statement.
Burning the American flag incinerates patriotism and public safety, two things we can’t afford to see go up in smoke.
Saying it’s acceptable sets the stage for cities to be set ablaze and even fire-bombing police cars.
If ever there were a case for outlawing destructive self expression, flag burning is it.
It still mystifies me how this level of disrespect has any redeeming value. Nothing about this gesture encourages calm or a sense of community.
If anything, it urges chaos and a sense of impending doom.
Even if he knows flag burners probably can’t be locked up for a year, President Trump nonetheless expressed outrage felt by millions of Americans from every background—including me.
Don’t burn our flag.
This piece originally appeared in RobManess.com and is used by permission.
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