Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Protecting The Flag: A Burning Issue

The US Senate is planning to run a law against flag burning up the pole this week to see how many lawmakers salute.

The vote is expected to fail. And it should.

The flag burning law is much like the proposed gay marriage ban amendment: wholly unnecessary. It seeks to protect something that doesn't need protection.

I should make it clear I don't support flag burning. The symbolism of such an act is lost on me, as I ceased worshiping that American idol years ago. But if others want to do so it's not my place to interfere. There is a difference in not supporting something and actively campaigning against it, no matter what some angry consternatives say.

As I see it, there are two elements to the flag:

The physical. The material. This is the thing you buy in the store.

Flags aren't typically free. Well, sometimes the little ones are, but I'm talking about the full-sized ones that people salute. When you buy a flag it belongs to you. It's an article of commerce like any other. So while the flag may belong to all of us, this flag belongs to you.

If you buy a lamp and then take it home and smash it to pieces, whose business is it? Admittedly, that'd be kind of psycho, but not criminal.

The patriotic. This is a thing you can't buy. And this is where the contention begins in earnest.

People have died for the US flag over the years. People hold the flag precious and sacred. They don't want you messing with it. Problem is, by outlawing flag burning you're legislating a belief. You're saying, "This is important to me, so it has to be important to you, too - under penalty of law."

A lot of people hold crucifixes in high regard. That doesn't enable them (so far) to prevent a Satanist buying one and affixing it to his dining room wall upside down. He doesn't see the object the same way, and he doesn't have to.

Now Bogs, you say, what about all those radicals overseas burning US flags? Don't you want to take a symbolic stand against them? Well, symbolism is the issue here. They can destroy the cloth, but that shouldn't destroy its value for anyone who holds it dear. There are more flags where that came from, anyway.

You also have to consider the source of some of these flag burnings, like those overseas radicals I mentioned. Some of them kill and destroy over the Sunday comics, for God's sake. There's no sense in most of their actions, so just take that as some small comfort.

The best bet for anyone who wants to outlaw flag burning is probably to pursue some "unlawful incendiary display" statute - not specific to flags - that addresses the danger of lighting things on fire in public places. But that'd never pass on a national level; it's more the kind of thing you see in local statutes.

I do hope Congress stops taking symbolic election year stands and gets on to important, impactful issues soon.

19 comments:

Bird said...

if we make it illegal to burn the flag, can we please, please, please make it illegal for

a politician to wrap himself in the flag?

drunkards at 4th of july picnics to wear clothing which depicts the flag?

personally, i think flag-burning has it purposes - it's an expression of opinion. properly done, it is also safe.

i love the irony of it all - make it illegal to burn the flag - which supposedly represents our freedom.

i'd love to organize a flag-burning beach party for the weekend. think i'll get going on that.

in the meantime, i wish congress would tend to more important matters.

Pete Bogs said...

I am thinking back to '76, when one of Hef's Playmates sported a Stars and Stripes/Uncle Sam outfit... I would allow that kind of expression for sure... now, that Hebrew National hotdog guy, he's a traitor!

K9 said...

/bark bark bark

i agree. I'll see your bush league flagburners, and raise you one puffy pompous NYT anonymous source spewing prick and call.

/grrrrrrr

Anonymous said...

Im going to burn an american flag next to a gay marriage.

warvigilent said...

ok i know how to solve this, get all the congressmen and everybody else in a tiff about this whole flag burning thing and make them watch that futerama episode where zoidberg eats the flag. even cartoons are more mature about this than politicians

Pete Bogs said...

war - perhaps anyone who desecrates an American flag should be sent to Australia to face "The Boot"

CROAK said...

No one 'dies for a flag,' Bogs. They die because they joined a service and were sent to fight somewhere dangerous for something they were told was important somehow to some people somewhere. Or they died believing in what they were doing and in what they were doing was going to help somehow with something like freedom or to change or protect something.
There are many reasons to die but 'for a flag', I really doubt it.

What's 'The Boot' in Australia?

Pete Bogs said...

croak - I was using the language of the people I was seeking to address, you see... people believe that they and other die for flags... to me, dying for a cloth is asinine... some of you on here don't need convincing; others do... I was speaking to their beliefs... (in hindsight, maybe I should have put quotes around "died")

the Aussie reference was from an episode of The Simpsons... it was a takeoff of the caning incident in Singapore in the 90s, when an American teenager was whipped... they spoofed it with Bart making a collect call to Oz, and going there to apologize for it... once there he's sentenced to "The Boot," which is a huge boot some guy puts on and kicks you in the bum with... hilarious!

Bird said...

the amendment failed of course. and thank goodness - but what a huge waste of time.

i think it'd be glorious to burn a flag while a hot marching band is playing Stars and Striped. or better yet, while a Kazoo band is playing Battle Hymm of the Republic.

and hey - if that amendment did pass - then how the hell would one properly dispose of an old flag? according to flag etiquette - you're suppose to burn it.

Mr Q said...

I can only say that I agree with you on this Bogs, you managed to make this post an undisputable truth of logic, reasoning and agreability (new Quord?).

Pete Bogs said...

bird - good point... you're not supposed to drop a flag, and if you do you're supposed to burn it... WTF??? I thought that's what all fuss was about... people who want to burn flags should just "accidentally" drop them first, then they have no choice but to burn them, right?

Q - not sure it's a word, but I'll take it! thanks...

CROAK said...

Ah yes, I remember.
A 'boot' in Australia can actually be the 'trunk' of a car (hence my confusion).
BTW the accents whenever Americans try to do Ocker always come out 'cockney'.It sounds silly to us.

Pete Bogs said...

yes, some people mix those two together... whereas Aussies (Watts, Collette, Bana, etc.) do very good American accents... bahstids!

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