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“If I were king, I would not allow people to go around burning the American flag. However, we have a First Amendment, which says that the right of free speech shall not be abridged — and it is addressed in particular to speech critical of the government”– Late Justice Antonin Scalia
It is a habit among college-age liberals, usually former Bernie Sanders supporters, to decry the horrible, racist, classist injustice of the United States, by burning the flag that represents the concept that all men are made equal.
It makes about as much sense as it sounds.
After future 45th president of the United States Donald Trump was elected, many leftists took to the streets to whine about the election, creating #notmypresident, protesting in the streets, stopping traffic, and complaining that the man who said he would keep most of Obamacare and social programs would remove Obamacare and social programs. They decided in the precious 22 days following the election to bring out their old habit of flag burning — usually reserved for horrendous occasions like the meeting of the RNC.
Donald Trump–likely reacting to a Fox special covering the issue–tweeted recently:
Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag – if they do, there must be consequences – perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!
He struck an emotional chord. Many Americans announced their agreement, while others cried their dissent. America has been arguing over this subject for three decades. Laws forbidding flag burning started with state laws, then ended with Supreme Court Decision Texas v. Johnson, then attempted again with one constitutional amendment proposed in 1990, and another one by Hillary Clinton in 2006.
The primary argument for jailing those who burn the flag is that it is a disrespect to service members and our country, therefore we need to enforce respect for those who serve us and our values. Those opposed to the fines or jailing say that it is free speech, (and it is protected under the 1st amendment ruling Texas v. Johnson).
However, I would like to bring up another reason why jailing those who burn of the flag is a horrible idea:
It doesn’t work, and for two major reasons.
Leaving out the argument that it is simply unconstitutional, jailing those who burn the U. S. flag is a superb way of giving the Left and the media martyrs to rally behind, thereby increasing the effectiveness of their narrative. This would achieve the exact opposite attempted by the ruling–increasing support for flag burning and providing those who do with a platform for preaching on American intolerance and fascism.
Secondly, enforced respect does not equal actual respect. Rather, it encourages dissent. A rather anecdotal example of this principle in action would be the Pledge of Allegiance.
The Pledge of Allegiance was originally written by Francis Bellamy, a Christian Socialist who lived from the 1855 to 1933, and published it in his book The Youth’s Companion. After several changes, it was later adopted as a national pledge by President Eisenhower in 1954to combat communist sympathy. The statute remains in place today and is practiced in most schools, despite plummeting approval of America in the youth. The pledge was implemented in 1954, and since 1954 patriotism has steadily declined in this country. At the very least, the Pledge had no perceptible effect on American patriotism. The same will likely be true with flag burning.
What is the fix, then? The answer is simple. Let it be, ignore it, and focus on teaching people the reason why one ought to respect the flag. Letting it be and ignoring it are two of the most damaging things to their cause. Burning a flag is supposed to be offensive, and the message thrives when people are offended. Treat it like the childish act that it is, and ignore it.
Teaching the reason people should respect it is equally important, even if it sounds like a level of decency most of us wouldn’t want to afford to these flag burners. Tell them why they should respect the Constitution, or the Declaration of Independence, or the immortal words: Men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.
The process is slow, and tedious, and not easy, but it is worth far more than just passing a law that provides little more than personal satisfaction.