Thursday, June 08, 2006

Forcing the Flag Desecration Amendment Toward Consistency

Guest Blogger: Statisticasaurus Rex

If we are going to amend the U.S. Constitution to protect the U.S. Flag from the despicable act of burning, it should be protected from ALL abuses, not only one egregious but rare abuse.

The U.S. Flag Code was designed to protect the dignityof the U.S. Flag as a symbol of unity and respect that all Americans could share. Any constitutional amendment should harken back to the U.S. Flag Code and prohibit the following:

1) the U.S. Flag shall not be used in any commercialor political advertisement;

2) no commercial product may use the U.S. Flag in any way that violates the U.S. Flag code.

Both of these activities already violate the U.S. Flag code, yet they happen all the time. Every time theU.S. Flag is featured in a politician’s advertisement, they are violating the U.S. Flag code and showing disrespect for the U.S. Flag. These violations of the U.S. Flag code are much more common than the despicable but rare acts of burning the Flag. Also, ironically, the only approved way of disposing of a damaged Flag isburning, so some provision must be made to protect such patriotic burning of the Flag.

It’s only been a few short years since the atrocity committed on 9/11, but already the unity that the attack inspired is a fading memory. The U.S. flag, in the weeks after the attack, was a universal symbol ofcitizenship. Since then it has become a divisive symbol to be used for political or commercial gain. The amendment to ban the specific abuse of burning the Flag seeks to use the Flag to further divide Americans. An amendment with broader protections for the Flag—one that bans disrespectful uses of the Flagin commercial products and advertising, such as U.S.Flag bikinis and speedos and t-shirts—would make clearthat loving the flag means respecting all that it stands for.

This approach is the right thing to do to show respect for an important symbol of our democracy. From a purely tactical perspective, it is also a useful move to demonstrate the patriotism of the Democratic Party.

Even this revised amendment raises serious First Amendment concerns. We need to always remember that the Flag is a symbol of our country, but the Constitution is its soul. Despite these concerns, a broader amendment that protects the Flag from commercial and political abuse may be the best opportunity to improve the U.S. Flag desecration amendment.

(Thanks to the brilliant Michelle K., whose earlier comment inspired these thoughts.)

Statisticasaurus Rex


Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

For the record, I'll go down against protecting the flag in favor of protecting the First Amendment.

I'm usually not one for extending the constitution to abstaractions, but if political contributions are a form of free speech, and I believe they are (Buckley v. Valeo, [1976], the Buckley being interestingly enough, William F.'s brother James), then certainly burning a flag is.

BTW, I think Ann Coulter's latest phrasings are disgusting, but carry truth. I feel the same way about Ward Churchill's "Little Eichmanns."

This is what the Founders were after. All things must be given the freedom to be thunk and said, even the unthinkable and the unspeakable.

11:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


My preferred choice is to leave the Constitution alone regarding flag desecration, but a certain political party seems to raise this issue every even-numbered year. When they do, this political party paints anyone who opposes the amendment as un-American. The proposal I suggest above would, I think, create a more balanced debate about how best to show respect for the Flag and the country.

5:56 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...


Best option: Drop this insane, anti-American amendment entirely.

Only other even quasi-sane option: enforce a coherent ban against any kind of disrespect to the flag...i.e. make the provisions of the Flag Code law, a la Michelle K and S. rex.

Completely idiotic, demagogic, politics-over-principle option: Go with the GOP's current amendment.

8:02 AM  
Blogger Random Michelle K said...

Wow. And err... thanks! (blinking in surprise)

I think y'all have been far more eloquent in saying what I did initially than I was, and I appreciate it.

And I really would like to see current regulations regarding flags enforced, and that includes stopping or shaming people who leave out raggedy flags, and going after people who use flags commercially. I mean, if flag burning as a political protest is wrong, then why is it okay to throw away a flag t-shirt once it's worn out?

(Insert incoherent rant about flag products here)

And I'm pretty sure that US Flag speedos should be illegal as an offense against good taste and common decency.

6:04 PM  
Blogger James Redekop said...

BTW, I think Ann Coulter's latest phrasings are disgusting, but carry truth. I feel the same way about Ward Churchill's "Little Eichmanns."

No argument there. Coulter apparently recently said that she's not "the Right's Michael Moore", she's "the Right's Mark Twain". It struck me that she's neither: she's the Right's Ward Churchill.

9:37 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

She compared herself to MARK TWAIN???

That is the #$*%!@ stupidest thing I've ever heard.

7:54 AM  

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