Old dog? New trick.

Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens has twice voted to reject flag burning as an act of free speech. He now recognizes that our tolerance of such an act affirms our commitment to the concepts of free speech.

From MSNBC: "If one were to burn a flag today, the act would convey a message of freedom that ours is a society that is strong enough to tolerate such acts by those whom we despise," Stevens said. "Today, one could not burn a flag without reminding every observer that we cherish our freedom."

I've written before that although I would like every American to honor the sacrifice of those who have ensured our liberty, and the flag that symbolizes those acts, the greater concept is our freedom to speak our minds. Proposals to "protect" the flag are transparent attempts to play upon the emotions of voters at the expense of constitutional integrity.

Michael Smith, Republican Candidate for President

Posted by Michael Smith at December 6, 2006 9:13 PM
Comments
Comment #198054

my greatest concern is that there is no constitutional amendment to ban it… such laws are not what a constitution is intended for. whether or not such an action is protected by free speech is debatable, and in my estimation, can more than effectively be decided within a given state.

but overall; good points, good post.

Posted by: Diogenes at December 6, 2006 10:11 PM
Comment #198058

Burning the flag ISNOT speech. It’s an act. Therefore NOT protected by any part of the Constitution.
Of course there aint know law against burning it either. But I have to wonder about someone that hates their country so bad that they would burn it’s flag.

Posted by: Ron Brown at December 6, 2006 10:17 PM
Comment #198063

to each (state) their own (laws)…

…within reason, and under the constitution.

such is the nature of federalism. as it once was, so should it be, anew.

Posted by: Diogenes at December 6, 2006 10:29 PM
Comment #198068

Ron Brown-
The courts have ruled it to be speech. It is speech, an expression of an idea, no matter how obnoxious we both find that idea.

There were plenty of laws against it, but they were struck down.

The persons you have to worry about aren’t the ones who desecrate the flag willfully. Few people feel so strongly against their own country. No, the people you have to watch out for are the ones who fly their flags ragged, let them fade out in the rain. At least the person who burns the flag has committed to their expression and it means something. The person who lets their flag become worn through neglect is one whose love for their country is conditional on other people’s attention.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 6, 2006 10:42 PM
Comment #198082

Speech is speech. Action is action. According to some burning a flag falls under free speech. I disagree. If I am wrong, then standing a Main St. & First Ave at noontime and dropping my pants to reveal my genitals just to show someone I know how to say F*** You should be covered by free speech also. I also disagree that it should not be free speech only an action. The rational that flag burning and speech are the same should then carry over to any action is speech. That is certainly bending common sense and rational behavior.

Posted by: tomh at December 6, 2006 11:15 PM
Comment #198084

Burning the flag is treason.

Posted by: stubborn conservative at December 6, 2006 11:20 PM
Comment #198096

“The rational that flag burning and speech are the same should then carry over to any action is speech.”

i’m inclined to agree with you; still, i hold to my prior posts on the matter. let the states decide.

“Burning the flag is treason.”

…such rhetoric is unpatriotic, and unamerican.

such hyperbole is unproductive, as well. would you burn the flag burner? treason is punishable by death, after all.

Posted by: Diogenes at December 6, 2006 11:57 PM
Comment #198099

tomh and Ron Brown, giving money is also an action - NOT SPEECH in the way you wish to define it.

Are you for removing the right of citizens to buy influence with their representatives by contributing to their election or reelection campaigns?

Money is no more, nor less, a symbol as the American Flag. Waving the flag or burning it is no more nor less an act than giving money away politically.

You simply cannot have it both ways. Integrity demands that if political cash contributions, the act of purchase, is to be legal exercise of free speech, then the act of burning the flag is just as equally an act of free speech as political contributions.

Posted by: David R. Remer at December 7, 2006 12:06 AM
Comment #198104

Diogenes:

It is very patriotic to defend the American Flag. It is more than cloth on a stick. It is a symbol of this great country.

It would depend on the kind of treason for the punishment. Flag burning should result in a fine. Leaking government information during war should be punishable by death (not burning, that is cruel and unusual punishment).

Posted by: stubborn conservative at December 7, 2006 12:16 AM
Comment #198106

“Speech” has been extrapolated to mean political expression. Political expression is protected, whether speech, money, or flag burning. I think a recent court ruling even supported mooning. I consider it treasonous to try to limit anyone’s expression unless specific harm to another’s rights can be demonstrated.

I agree with Justice Steven’s view that our society demonstrates its strength when it tolerates distasteful acts of political expression. To suppress flag burning is to start down a slippery slope. What would you suppress next? Offensive bumper stickers? Crude t-shirt slogans? Unflattering cartoons of the President? Perhaps you’ll riot in the streets if they show a revered religious figure in a newspaper cartoon?

To provide special protection to the flag elevates a symbol of the state over the rights of the state’s citizens. That just can’t be an appropriate philosophy for a free people.

Posted by: Michael Smith at December 7, 2006 12:28 AM
Comment #198107

david,

agreed.

stubburn,

i agree with the punishment - i disagree with your phrasing. the word treason is inflammatory, and should only be applied to the most heinous crimes against our country.

“Leaking government information during war should be punishable by death…”

…and this is far too vague an idea for me to condone.

michael,

“To provide special protection to the flag elevates a symbol of the state over the rights of the state’s citizens.”

this is true, and i tend to agree with the sentiment… however, graffiti is certainly considered by many a form of expression - and carries a fine (as it should).

Posted by: Diogenes at December 7, 2006 12:38 AM
Comment #198110

Speech is an oral exercise. Giving money is to influence someone to do something that you approve of. The courts have really broadened the meaning of speech. I believe they are in error. If speech and action are the same then why have a separate amendment to cover the press. Using the courts rational, should not the press be included in that also without a separate cover? Also, should it not also apply to firing a weapon into the air to celebrate something also be a speech consideration, according to the rational of the court?

Posted by: tomh at December 7, 2006 12:50 AM
Comment #198111

Vague? This country has gotten soft and weak. 5 years have gone by and nothing is built at Ground Zero? The same thing is happening to our Justice System. That is why there needs to be more capital punishment. 200 years ago, they would hang thieves (which is too far). Now I read stories in the paper about rapists getting a few months jail time when they should be off the streets forever. I support death for treasonists (not flag-burners) that leak out secret information. One leak could change the outcome of this war.

If flag-burning shouldn’t be called treason, then it should be called Desecrating National Symbols.

Posted by: stubborn conservative at December 7, 2006 1:02 AM
Comment #198113

“One leak could change the outcome of this war.”

who gets to decide what constitutes a leak? not long ago, an utterance such as ‘i think we might be losing,’ was considered by many to be traitorous - aiding and abetting the enemy - leaking information. sounds like an exaggeration, until you are called a traitor for questioning the actions of the president.

espionage is treasonous. punishable by death. dissent is patriotic. uncovering corruption (or whistle blowing) is patriotic. the plame case is an excellent example… whoever outed plame was a traitor - exposing this corruption was patriotic.

“…it should be called Desecrating National Symbols.”

yes.

Posted by: Diogenes at December 7, 2006 1:14 AM
Comment #198117

The Flag is a piece of cloth on a stick that happens to be a symbol of our nation. It is not imbued with any supernatural force, nor is it sacred in the religious sense of the word.

To me, somebody burning it is obnoxious. It’s not treason, though. It’s an expression I disagree with, and which I can counter with my own.

The impulse here, the motivation here in character terms is “to prevent anti-americanism”. But having kept the guy from burning the flag in fact, have you taken away the sentiments that make him burn it? No. You’re trying to, you’re trying to control what he and others think. but in truth, you’re only succeeding in losing that control.

Let them burn flags. We can paint, weave, sew, and print them anew. There is no point in shutting somebody up, if you can speak for yourself.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 7, 2006 1:58 AM
Comment #198120

As a vet myself,I despise flag burning, I hate the idea of it, I dislike ppl that have to do such actions since they lack the words to get themselves heard, or those that would do it for the attention. BUT I do support thier right to do it, even though if I would see one in person, I would be facing assult charges. Their right to burn for self expression, I would only be expresing myself also. (i’m sure I’m just a brainwashed vet, but I do get wet eyed around that flag at times)

Banning flag burning would never work unfortunatly, I admit its a freedom of expression. What would do some help though is to enforce any local ordinances.. I am sure dancing around with a flaming piece of cotton or nylon is most likely already illegal in most downtown areas, prob a fire hazard someplace, or a danger to others, hell if you can’t smoke a ciggerette in the city streets a buring piece of flag prolly has some second hand smoke issues also.

Posted by: Rhancheck at December 7, 2006 4:40 AM
Comment #198131

I would trade my right to burn the American flag if you would trade your right to buy elections. Co opting the election process with contributions under the free speech banner is much more damaging to our Country than some yahoo burning a flag.

Posted by: j2t2 at December 7, 2006 9:27 AM
Comment #198135

jrt2: I’m with you there.

Posted by: womanmarine at December 7, 2006 9:37 AM
Comment #198138

It’s a symbol at best, a piece of colored fabric in reality. Such a thing should never usurp anyone’s liberty. It is more important to protect our ideals of personal liberty than it is to protect a symbol of them. People are more important than icons.

I’m glad Stevens has come around.

Posted by: Joseph Briggs at December 7, 2006 9:47 AM
Comment #198144

Stubborn:

“It would depend on the kind of treason for the punishment.”

There are no kinds of treason, there is just treason. You might read that Constitution you’re jamming into the shredder; it’s overwhemlingly clear on the matter.

Posted by: Arr-squared at December 7, 2006 10:43 AM
Comment #198149

The rationale that an act is speech is not a rational opinion. Even if our activist justices say it is.
Under this rationale I can go to Washington, burn down the Capitol, the White House, kill the President and every member of Congress, all just to express my dissatisfaction over the way they’re doing things. And then claim I have the right to do this under my freedom of speech and avoid going to prison.
Anyone that did this wouldn’t ever get by with such a stupid defense. Why should any other act be allowed under the freedom of speech defense?
The only reason someone should be allowed to get by with burning the flag is because there aint a law against it for now.

Posted by: Ron Brown at December 7, 2006 11:56 AM
Comment #198150

I’ve seen the word “desecrate” in here a few times and I like someone to come up with a definition and explain how you can ban flag burning without becoming the thought police. The Constitutional amendment that has been proposed allows Congress to ban “physical desecration” of the flag.

Does that mean I’m breaking the law if I burn some newspapers in my fireplace that have a picture of a flag? How can you judge what is illegal without judging the person’s intent? What if I burn those same newspapers in a public place? Aren’t you really telling me I’m violating the law because of my thoughts, not my actions?

Posted by: Steve k at December 7, 2006 12:01 PM
Comment #198152

Ron Brown-

Even you don’t really buy what you just said. Resorting to such obviously outlandish arguments shows just how weak your position is.

Earlier someone brought up the argument that grafitti isn’t protected under free speech, but the issue there is destruction of someone else’s property, be it public or private.

Posted by: David S at December 7, 2006 12:30 PM
Comment #198153
The rationale that an act is speech is not a rational opinion. Even if our activist justices say it is. Under this rationale I can go to Washington, burn down the Capitol, the White House, kill the President and every member of Congress, all just to express my dissatisfaction over the way they’re doing things.

Fallacious argument, Ron Brown. Allowing flag burning does not imply killing people and destroying property you do not own is okay.

Posted by: Joseph Briggs at December 7, 2006 12:35 PM
Comment #198154

Ron, et al.

The distinction you seem to miss is that speech, or “acts” like flag burning, make no physical impact on others. It’s ludicrous to compare arson, assault, or murder to the protected forms of political expression. The fact that someone’s political expression offends you does not equate to physical assault. If your convictions are so fragile as to not withstand assault on their symbols, then perhaps your convictions are misplaced.

Posted by: Michael Smith at December 7, 2006 12:40 PM
Comment #198156

What’s more important, a piece of cloth, or the ideals that piece of cloth might represent.

There is a difference between forced respect and EARNED respect.

Think about it….

A country has to force respect of it’s symbols when that is the only way get any respect. Is that what we what in the U.S. Not I.

Posted by: mem beth at December 7, 2006 12:47 PM
Comment #198162

The issue with burning the flag is that many believe this is taking free speech too far. It DOES negatively impact those for whom that symbol means much. Like burning a cross, it may even fall into the arena of “hate crime”. There is always a question of when does free speech cross the line. The flag for many IS that line.

There are some places and some symbols which demand respect and which can be desecrated. Desecration is any action which crosses the line between respect and disrespect.

The question is: Is the flag one of those symbols which demands respect? If so, then our flag should be respected by all who call themselves Americans and who wish to be seen as patriotic. And if so, then to desecrate the flag is un-American and unpatriotic. And if so, then burning the flag goes beyond protected political speech.

Posted by: Don at December 7, 2006 1:49 PM
Comment #198163

tomh-

Are you arguing that a sit-in protest, wearing colored armbands, or a hunger strike should not be protected as free speech either because they are not “oral” in nature?

Posted by: Kevin23 at December 7, 2006 1:50 PM
Comment #198169
“The issue with burning the flag is that many believe this is taking free speech too far.”

And that, Don, is the rub. It’s easy to protect liberty, free speech, etc., when we agree with the way it is used. What’s hard is defending someone’s freedom to say (or act) in a way which is in no tangible way harmful, but which you despise, or which offends you. The true test of a society’s commitment to free speech is its ability to defend the freedom of distasteful speech. I, for instance, may be deeply offended by the way pundit X or politician Y characterizes my beliefs as treasonous or vile, but I strongly believe in his or her right to call me a traitor. I am not one — I love my country. But what I love are its freedoms of expression, no matter what is expressed, unless it causes tangible harm to someone.

BTW, I think our society sometimes fails the free-speech test described above. But the fact we can debate it, that we are willing and able to discuss the boundaries openly at all, is a great testament to our ability to tolerate, and even embrace, dissent. What greater trait could a free society display?

—David

Posted by: David Nett at December 7, 2006 2:27 PM
Comment #198179

j2t2,

“I would trade my right to burn the American flag if you would trade your right to buy elections.”

done and *done*. this is a win, win for me.

rhancheck,

“What would do some help though is to enforce any local ordinances.. “

this is along the lines which i support. burning the flag should not be protected by ‘free speech,’ and yet i certainly oppose a constitutional amendment to ban it. allow the states (or better yet, localities) to deal with it as they wish. after all, you are correct that a burning flag represents a potential hazard.

david s.

“Earlier someone brought up the argument that grafitti isn’t protected under free speech, but the issue there is destruction of someone else’s property, be it public or private.”

you are correct, this was a poor analogy.

steve k.

“Does that mean I’m breaking the law if I burn some newspapers in my fireplace that have a picture of a flag?”

obviously, this is a contextual issue. it depends on the intent, the situation, the location… etc.

for example; i would be against you burning a flag in your own house - however, i would help you kick the crap out of anyone who broke down your door to find out if you were.

Posted by: Diogenes at December 7, 2006 3:37 PM
Comment #198180

“…burning the flag should not be protected by ‘free speech,’”

er… i meant it shouldn’t be protected as ‘free speech’ - i felt i had to clarify that.

Posted by: Diogenes at December 7, 2006 3:39 PM
Comment #198181

Desecration is any action which crosses the line between respect and disrespect.

So, if I yell “booooo!” into the TV when Bush comes on, am I commiting an act of desecration against the president of the United states? And, should that act be a criminal offense as well? How about if I just stick my middle finger up towards him as his motorcade passes?

Posted by: Steve k at December 7, 2006 3:41 PM
Comment #198183

it depends on the intent.

Diogenes,

Just as I said. Whether or not my burning the flag is a crime depends on my thinking. This is a crime for the Thought Police to solve. The sorts of crimes we objected to in Soviet Russia.

Posted by: Steve K at December 7, 2006 3:44 PM
Comment #198184

The true test of a society’s commitment to free speech is its ability to defend the freedom of distasteful speech

David,

Well said. Free Speech is only subject to regulation where you can point to a true public safety issue (the old yelling “fire” in a crowded theatre test).

We face borderline cases like cross burning, where one can argue people’s lives are in danger because of the act, but those cases are, as I said, right on the border.

But just because it is distasteful to some does not bring it to that border. If the people burning the flag in front of the courthouse were also trying to burn down the courthouse, then we’d be a lot closer to that border.

Posted by: Steve K at December 7, 2006 3:52 PM
Comment #198187

I guess I would have to fall back upon the idea that it is all about money and the power that protects that money. A Constitutional amendment to ban flag burning is a “gimme” issue for Republicans. It garners support from the group of voters who are passionate about the issue and costs them virtually nothing with the rest of the electorate. To a lessor extent, also true of the proposal for an amendment to “protect” marriage (from the Mary cheney’s of the world, I guess). Queers are easy pickin’s and the repub’s know it full well.
This is particularly true in the issue of abortion. There is a stunning silence on the (empowered) right about the issue of a constitutional amendment to protect the rights of the unborn. They know full well, considering the current political climate @ abortion rights, that if they confronted the head-on that the money and the power would be gone and that money and power is far more valuable than the lives of children.
So, for me, an eternal cynic, the whole issue of “flag burning” amendments is laughable. (I have to laugh, the only alternative would be to cry.) Regards

Posted by: charles Ross at December 7, 2006 4:02 PM
Comment #198192

There’s also an issue here of the effects of subversion. Limiting expression has never worked as a means to limiting thought, and when harmless means of expression are taken away it can lead to more harmful measures being used. Also, there is something to be said for allowing people to burn the flag so we can see who is doing it. And finally, treasonous speech is not illegal. I can spout off all day long about how I want to overthrow the government, and this is how we should do it, and won’t it be great, blah blah blah. I can even take action to that end, as long as those actions don’t break any laws. For instance, I can establish a militia and arm it to the teeth, but until I aquire an illegal weapon or actually attack someone/thing, I haven’t broken any laws. (Remember, when the framers included the second ammendment it was to ensure that the citizens could protect themselves from their own government.)

And finally, just to lighten things, should it also be a crime if I burn a 49-star flag?

Posted by: David S at December 7, 2006 4:15 PM
Comment #198194

And finally, just to lighten things, should it also be a crime if I burn a 49-star flag?

Yes, but not in Hawaii.

Posted by: Steve k at December 7, 2006 4:19 PM
Comment #198195

“Just as I said. Whether or not my burning the flag is a crime depends on my thinking. This is a crime for the Thought Police to solve.”

not so. as i said, this is contextual; you burn a flag in your house, and i’ll still disagree with the act - but it should be your business. you burn a flag in the street with people walking by, you should be fined and removed. (unless the local laws allow for such open fires in public places).

finally, the law very often requires that we attempt to discern a defendant’s intent. of course this is hard to do - but would you do away with the system? there is a large difference between assault and attempted murder. or do you think that they should be treated in the same fashion?

Posted by: Diogenes at December 7, 2006 4:26 PM
Comment #198198

David, you got me thinking:

Shouldn’t states be allowed to pass laws banning the burning of state flags? (only their own flag and in that state, of course.) And can states pass reciprocity laws about flag burning, like they do for traffic violations?

How about the old Confederate flag? (Only in the states of the old Confederacy). Of course, there are a lot of people who display the Confederate flag in some of the old border states (and some not-so border states as well, like Pennsylvania).

Posted by: Steve K at December 7, 2006 4:29 PM
Comment #198199

So Diogenes,

How about if I burn my flag in my front yard? (And I am not violating any public safely laws on open fires like are common out west.) legal or not?? And if I take one step into the public sidewalk? What then: legal or not?

Your analogy with “assault and attempted murder” is meaningless. I can point to a victim in both. Who is the victim in flag burning?

Posted by: Steve K at December 7, 2006 4:33 PM
Comment #198201

Steve K-
“So, if I yell ‘booooo!’”…

Go back and read my post. Your response would make no sense to those who did read my post carefully.

Posted by: Don at December 7, 2006 4:46 PM
Comment #198202

steve k.

no - it’s not meaningless. it proves my point.
the questions you ask in this post differ in topic slightly from your claim in the last. you suggested that the only way for anyone to enforce the law was by reading your mind (which has little to do with situational context). this is not necessarily the case, but in the event that it is, it is not inconceivable that your intent could indeed be sussed out.

as for your other questions, i have given my answer numerous times. let the locality decide. some localities will suggest that burning the flag in any area which can be publicly witnessed should be illegal (such as is the case with lewd behavior and indecent exposure). others will say burn it if you want, where you want, when you want. in either case, this is not a topic for national debate, and there are no grounds for protecting or proscribing such behavior in the constitution - it’s a red herring, and we have far more important things to concern ourselves with.

Posted by: Diogenes at December 7, 2006 4:49 PM
Comment #198206

Don,

I did read your post thoroughly. You are claiming that I can commit acts of “desecration” just by crossing the “line” between respect and disrespect. And you define that line with the flag. If I’m wrong about that, then rephrase your sentence.

I asked a question if Booing the President or giving him the finger is “disrespectful” and, by extension, if it is also “desecration,” in this case, to the office of president.

Maybe you claim it is disrespectful but not desecration. Fine, but then I’d like to know why behaving disrespectfully to an elected official (who also is a symbol of the country) is not criminal, while behaving that way to a piece of cloth is criminal.

Posted by: Steve K at December 7, 2006 4:56 PM
Comment #198208

Diogenes,

Your last post makes no sense, and you don’t answer any of my questions.

You’re in favor of making flag burning a criminal offense, but “let the localities decide.” What a major league cop out! We’re talking about freedom of speech here, not the speed limit!

Gotta run … I will have to pick this thread back up tomorrow …

Posted by: Steve K at December 7, 2006 5:02 PM
Comment #198209

Kevin23
My post was quite clear. No what ifs. A sit-it or hunger strike is an physical action. Speech is an oral excercise. In my opinion the judges are in error and are overbroad in their definitions.

Posted by: tomh at December 7, 2006 5:16 PM
Comment #198210

i have explained it rather thoroughly, as well as answered *all* your questions…i cannot help it if you fail to understand.

“let the localities decide” is called federalism… it’s in the constitution. read it.

i’m in favor of making flag burning illegal *here*, where *i* live - in *my* locality. understand? i would have you and yours make that decision for yourselves, and likewise, butt out of decisions which affect exclusively my state/locality. leave them to us - we’re more than capable.

we are certainly *talking* about freedom of speech here - but you’re not giving any good example. whether or not an action such as flag-burning can be protected under the first, is highly debatable… and this particular debate has *no* place on the national political stage - again, because there is no need for overarching federal regulation over such comparatively trivial matters.

stop trying to make a mountain out of a molehill. when someone arrests you for *talking* about burning a flag, come talk to me and i promise i’ll listen, and with the utmost concern. *that* is unconstitutional. clearly.

let me break it down for you…

“This is a crime for the Thought Police to solve.”

this is a ridiculous statement, as i think was evidenced by my assault/attempted murder analogy.

“How about if I burn my flag in my front yard? (And I am not violating any public safely laws on open fires like are common out west.) legal or not??”

if it violates no law where you live, then *duh* - it’s legal.

“And if I take one step into the public sidewalk? What then: legal or not?”

…if it violates no law where you live, then *duh* - it’s legal.

and one more time, for the record -

if it violates no law where you live, then *duh* - it’s legal.

or at least it’s not *illegal*

any better? are we done?

Posted by: Diogenes at December 7, 2006 5:23 PM
Comment #198220

I’ts not free Speech its….
Liberalism!

Posted by: buzafer at December 7, 2006 5:57 PM
Comment #198223

Michael

Intelligent analysis of a political ploy that flies in the face of conservative principles is not expected these days from the right. I agree with you on this one and congratulations for resisting the raw meat of this issue.

Posted by: mental wimp at December 7, 2006 6:06 PM
Comment #198225

I once displayed my flag upside down in protest of my government expecting me to pay my own disability compensation (I retired from the Marine Corps on disability, which the Veterans Administration pays me monthly, and then my government reduces my retirement benefits by the same amount). My class is likely the ONLY class of citizen who is required to pay its own disability, and it is a punishment for sticking it out long enough to retire from service to my country.

When I flew the flag upside down I was showing disrespect and the act is desicration. I only did it that way because burning it would have been too fast over. Flying it upside down gave my message more leg, so to speak.

Was I committing a criminal act or exercising free speech?

Posted by: Marysdude at December 7, 2006 6:11 PM
Comment #198226

Steve K-

You said, “You are claiming that I can commit acts of ‘desecration’ just by crossing the ‘line’ between respect and disrespect.”

Yes. And no… An act of desecration is the act of crossing the line between respect and disrespect. But my statement applies (in context) to this sentence: “There are some places and some symbols which demand respect and which can be desecrated.”

And I didn’t define that line with the flag. I merely asked a question as to whether the flag should be considered a symbol that should demand respect.

All of this should have been as clear to you, as it was to the other readers.

Posted by: Don at December 7, 2006 6:13 PM
Comment #198227

We’ve got much bigger problems than flag burning.
But, there could be valid cause for arrest for littering and potentially endangering others.
Personally, I can’t help but laugh when flag burners accidentally catch themselves on fire.
: )

Posted by: d.a.n at December 7, 2006 6:15 PM
Comment #198229

marysdude,

i am not aware of any law which prohibits flying the flag upside down. however - if you wanted to get a message out, you would have sought out the media, written to your representatives, attempted to challenge that policy… that would have been free speech. thus, i would say it was neither.

by the way, i empathize with your plight - that’s flatly outrageous.

Posted by: Diogenes at December 7, 2006 6:24 PM
Comment #198233

Flying the American flag upside down is the same as a S.O.S. signal.

Posted by: tomh at December 7, 2006 6:43 PM
Comment #198235

Diogenes,

Most protestors use burning or flying upside down as a last resort. I did all you suggested and more, but the buraucracy can be heartless and mean spirited, hense…the last resort.

Posted by: Marysdude at December 7, 2006 6:45 PM
Comment #198242

i would far rather be debating the issue which you mention than that of flag-burning. this is one of my points. i think that our representatives would much rather discuss flag-burning; it costs them nothing, and nothing will ultimately be done… all the while, they cut *your* benefits.

i’ve noticed that they do this an awful lot (on both sides). bring up issues of little import which divide us, have no easy (national) solution (if any at all), so that we will be distracted from addressing (or forcing them to address) those things which truly do matter. we spend so much time railing against each other that we don’t even notice.

the republicans suggest there be an amendment to the constitution to forbid flag-burning (absurd - such legislation has no place in our constitution), and the democrats counter that it is our very right to free speech which the republicans wish to undermine (absurd - burning a flag is simply not speech).

i’m sure you would disagree with much of what i have to say on the matter - but honestly, who cares about this issue, in the bigger scheme of things? what if it was banned? would we then not be allowed to exercise actual free speech? (no where in the first does it guarantee free expression, the courts merely interpreted it this way). and on the other side, so - some people have burned some flags… and yet our country still stands proud…

Posted by: Diogenes at December 7, 2006 7:05 PM
Comment #198244

Tomh-

What about writing an editorial in a newspaper? Not an oral act. So not protected?

I think you see what I’m getting at here. The framers did not intend for such a literal interpretation of “speech”. There is plenty to read on the subject if you are interested. What the framers said is mostly contrary to your position.

Posted by: Kevin23 at December 7, 2006 7:14 PM
Comment #198272

Kevin23
That is exactly the point I was making. Freedom of the press is a separate issue from speech. That is why it is treated separately. Freedom of the press is not limited to just editors, publishers and reporters. It is the written word and not the spoken word.

Posted by: tomh at December 7, 2006 10:44 PM
Comment #198281

David S
Just keep pushing the idea that actions are speech and watch some ACLU lawyer make the argument that murder is speech. And given the activist nature of the Supreme Court it wouldn’t surprise me none if they agreed.

Marysdude
As far as I know there’s no law against flying the flag upside down than against burning it.
Neither are speech. Both are actions. And as far as I know legal.
I know what your saying about paying your own disability. I get a small check from the VA for hearing loss in my right ear. They then deduct the disability from my retirement check.
I tried to get off disability because my hearing loss isn’t that bad and hasn’t affected my earning ability any. Although it does give me an excuse for not listening to my wife. Yeah, right. Anyway you’d think I was asking them to commit some sort of fraud or something.

Posted by: Ron Brown at December 8, 2006 12:16 AM
Comment #198288

Don,

You write:

But my statement applies (in context) to this sentence: ‘There are some places and some symbols which demand respect and which can be desecrated.’

Right. And I ask again if you believe giving the president of the united states the finger is one of those places and symbols that 1. crosses that line, and 2. should be made criminal.

Posted by: Steve K at December 8, 2006 8:06 AM
Comment #198296

Steve K-
“And I ask again if you believe giving the president of the united states the finger…”

You sure have a fixation on giving the finger!

First, I believe that anyone who gives the finger is an ignoramous. It is a rude and utterly disgusting sexual gesture.

Second, I believe that no one should use that gesture.

Third, the problem with that gesture is that it is often made in public where children are present. In those instances where it is used where children are present it should be considered a crime (exposing children to such is nauseating).

Fourth, if you wish to use such a gesture in the privacy of your own home, that’s your business. But I would guess that most people who use that gesture would find using it privately to not have the gratification that its public use would give.

As to whether giving the finger to the president is a crime… I leave that up to the legal experts.

Posted by: Don at December 8, 2006 10:32 AM
Comment #198300

Don,

Quite the cop-out you give. You still refuse to answer. You say we should “leave it up to the legal experts.”

That is exactly what we have done with flag burning, but you seem to have a problem with the decision the legal experts make. The legal experts have concluded against the point you raise that “the flag one of those symbols which demands respect.”

After all your posts I don’t know where you really stand on these issues. Do you agree that flag burning is constitutionally-protected or not??????

Posted by: Steve K at December 8, 2006 10:45 AM
Comment #198308

Ron Brown

Not to derail the thread, but if flying a flag upside down isn’t speech, then there is no way contributing money is. Speech is an action, it is action whose primary intent is to communicate. Flying a flag upside down is precisely speech. Contributing money is an action that is more than speech. It is an action intended not only to communicate but to provide tangible incentive to not only receive the speech but also to act on it. As such contributing money can be regulated constitutionally, but flying the flag upside can’t or any other symbolic act with it cannot. Hence, the push by the misguided to amend the constitution to unprotect that form of speech. An oxymoronic initiative if ever there was one.

Posted by: mental wimp at December 8, 2006 12:06 PM
Comment #198309

“The legal experts have concluded against the point you raise that ‘the flag one of those symbols which demands respect.’”

they most certainly have not. i’m guessing what you meant was that they have concluded that it is not a criminal offense to desecrate the flag (or perhaps even that such treatment did not constitute desecration) - unless you can show me where they resolved that the flag did not warrant respect…

i would not harp on such a minor semantic argument, but this is precisely the type of statement that unnecessarily agitates those who do believe the flag should be shown deference.

Posted by: Diogenes at December 8, 2006 12:08 PM
Comment #198320

Diogenes,

I suggest you read: U.S. Supreme Court UNITED STATES v. EICHMAN, 496 U.S. 310 (1990)

Posted by: Steve K at December 8, 2006 1:01 PM
Comment #198330

Tomh-

Freedom of the press has nothing to do with the medium of communication.

Posted by: Kevin23 at December 8, 2006 2:13 PM
Comment #198357

Steve K -
“Do you agree that flag burning is constitutionally-protected or not??????”

If that’s what you wanted to know then why didn’t you ask instead of being fixated on giving the president the finger??????

Yes. I believe that judges have deemed flag burning to be constitutionally protected free speech.

No. I believe the judges are wrong. They are not in charge of this nation; the people are. The people should have the last word as to whether this should be legally allowed. My vote will be “No.”

The flag as a symbol is much too important to be allowed to be burned (or stepped on) as a means of protest. Since it is a visible representation of every citizen of our country, to burn it in protest should be offensive to everyone who claims to be patriotic, to everyone who claims that individuals should be given respect, to everyone who is a citizen of this great country. Free speech comes with limits (slander, shouting “fire” in a crowded building, saying you are going to blow up an airplane while standing in line at the airport, and threatening to harm another person are examples), protest speech should have this limit, too.

Until it comes to the ballot, we have no choice but to allow un-elected lawyers appointed to decide the constitutionality of issues to make choices for us. Is that acceptable to you?

Posted by: Don at December 8, 2006 4:26 PM
Comment #198358

steve k.

thanks for the suggestion, i’d never read it in its entirety… now i suggest that *you* give it a read - because you are still dead wrong.

they registered no opinion on whether the flag demands respect. they simply stated that it is unconstitional for federal and state governments to proscribe such actions as desecrating a flag, as they are protected under the first as free speech.

“…the mere destruction or disfigurement of a particular physical manifestation of the symbol, without more, does not diminish or otherwise affect the symbol itself in any way.”

thus, they are suggesting that desecration of one flag does nothing to besmirch its symbolic status.

“If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the Government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.”

again, the implication is that they do in fact *agree* that the flag merits respect. however, it would be unconstitutional for anyone to try to enforce due respect, as it would infringe upon free speech.

give it a read. get your facts straight.

Posted by: Diogenes at December 8, 2006 4:29 PM
Comment #198387

Kevin23

“Freedom of the press has nothing to do with the medium of communication.”

The press is not communication????????

What??????

Then, with your rational, the picture of the flag in a newspaper does not apply here, is that so?

The point I am trying to make is, speech is speech absoulutely!!!

Action is action absolutely!!!

Action is speech is relativism, absolutely!!!

Anything but speech that is called speech is relatively speech, that is to say it could be speech, it may be speech, it may not be speech, and see you bounce around and dance around. Either it is or it is not, absolutely!!!

Posted by: tomh at December 8, 2006 6:08 PM
Comment #198397

tomh

Sometimes you need to dig a little deeper to understand an issue.

Speech is a subset of action. Talking requires action, publishing requires action, sign language requires action. There is no way to communicate without some initiating action. There is no hard bright line between action and speech. Speech generally is action whose primary intent is to communicate and it doesn’t have to be in words. Gestures, pictures, art, dance, music can all be construed as speech and are protected by the first amendment. Only when an action’s primary purpose is other than communication is it not speech. For example, murder certainly communicates, but it isn’t speech because its primary purpose is to harm. And that is the main exception to protection of speech: when it does society more harm than the worth of preserving that particular type of speech. Thus falsely yelling “fire” in a crowded theatre may be primarily to communicate a joke, it can be made illegal because of the manifest harm done. Truly yelling “fire” is protected, on the other hand.

Posted by: mental wimp at December 8, 2006 6:47 PM
Comment #198403

mental,

i do not believe tomh is attempting to argue that action cannot be a form of speech - merely that such a construal is relativistic and litigious. (tomh, correct me if i’m wrong).

“…when it does society more harm than the worth of preserving that particular type of speech.”

this is also equivocal, as pertains to the issue of flag-burning. when exactly does it do society more harm than good? what ‘good’ is done by burning a flag? who is to decide what constitutes “too much?”

clearly, the courts are the final arbiter. but we are also entitled to disagree in our opinions with their assessment of what the first does and does not protect.

“For example, murder certainly communicates, but it isn’t speech because its primary purpose is to harm.”

…one could somewhat similarly claim that the primary purpose of burning a flag is to incite and anguish, rather than to communicate… clearly not as harmful as murder, but certainly capable of leading to violence - potentially with that very goal as its aim.

i think tomh’s point is that ‘speech is speech’ - and it’s hard to argue that… but action as speech is not nearly as cut-and-dried a topic.

Posted by: Diogenes at December 8, 2006 7:12 PM
Comment #198418

Thank you Diogenes

If speech and all related forms of communication were equal then why not have the first amendment say protection of communication. The founders intent must be examined thoroughly and completely to get a better understanding by all of us.

Posted by: tomh at December 8, 2006 10:29 PM
Comment #198423

my pleasure.

Posted by: Diogenes at December 8, 2006 11:47 PM
Comment #198424

mental
Go back and read my posts. Have I claimed that giving money to politicians is speech?
It’s an act. It might enable someone to speak politically, but giving the money is an act.
Of course in a lot of cases giving money to a politician is bribery.

Posted by: Ron Brown at December 8, 2006 11:56 PM
Comment #198454

Diogenes wrote:[The Supreme Court] registered no opinion on whether the flag demands respect.

Don wrote: I believe the judges are wrong

I’m glad you guys are getting around to the point of expressing your views on whether you agree or not with matters of law. Because that is what matters if you want to make something illegal.

Posted by: Steve K at December 9, 2006 9:25 AM
Comment #198457

If speech and all related forms of communication were equal then why not have the first amendment say protection of communication. The founders intent must be examined thoroughly and completely to get a better understanding by all of us.

As a term to describe human interaction, “communication” is more modern usage than than “speech” or “press,” particularly with reference to government regulation or the creation of laws around it.

The founders did examine it rather thoroughly. But the language of the Constitution has to be understood with how it was used back in 1789. I bet it is exceedingly difficult, perhaps impossible, to find a written text from that time period that uses the word “communication” as we would understand it today, if at all.

Posted by: Steve K at December 9, 2006 10:10 AM
Comment #198459

Steve K
I agree that the founding fathers did examine it rather thoroughly.

Of course they did not have electronics then. So, the electronics element plays different. Electronics mainly will involve speech, as in radio and TV. So nothing there has changed. Newsprint was alive then and was addressed. So we are still down to the element of speech and physical action. Two separate elements.

BTW burning a flag represents hate. Since the left/liberal people are so intent on others being hateful, then why not include flag burning based on hate?

Posted by: tomh at December 9, 2006 10:45 AM
Comment #198466

>>BTW burning a flag represents hate. Since the left/liberal people are so intent on others being hateful, then why not include flag burning based on hate?

Posted by: tomh at December 9, 2006 10:45 AM

Burning the flag, or otherwise demeaning it may be a sign of love too. If I love my country, but hate some of the actions of its governance, burning the flag may be the best way to communicate my opinion.

Posted by: Marysdude at December 9, 2006 11:59 AM
Comment #198474

steve k.

“I’m glad you guys are getting around to the point of expressing your views on whether you agree or not with matters of law. Because that is what matters if you want to make something illegal.”

i’m sorry, you’ve lost me. did you have a particular point in mind? i really have no idea what you’re trying to say here.

marysdude,

“Burning the flag, or otherwise demeaning it may be a sign of love too.”

while this is counterintuitive, i can understand your point. nevertheless, i find it difficult to believe that burning a flag would ever be your only or best means of communication.

in the event that it were, say, *my* only means of communication, and it was that incredibly important to get my message heard - i would accept the fine that was the direct consequence of breaking the law… it shows my devotion to my message, and affords it that much more meaning.

and again, i am *against* a constitutional ban on flag-burning. that would be absurd. i am for allowing the people where you live to make that sort of decision. for all i care, in your community/locality/state you can substitute flags for firewood, and use them to heat your house this winter… if that is what your local laws permit…

Posted by: Diogenes at December 9, 2006 1:34 PM
Comment #198486

>>while this is counterintuitive, i can understand your point. nevertheless, i find it difficult to believe that burning a flag would ever be your only or best means of communication.


Posted by: Diogenes at December 9, 2006 01:34 PM

While it may not be ther best form of communication, it may very well be the only one left. But, do you agree…it IS a form of communication, and as such should be defended by our Constitution as a form of free speach?

Posted by: Marysdude at December 9, 2006 5:04 PM
Comment #198488

Since the left/liberal people are so intent on others being hateful

tomh,

What do you mean by this?

i am for allowing the people where you live to make that sort of decision.

Diogenes,

Let’s take a couple steps back. This means you believe a local law making flag burning a crime is acceptable? Yes or No.

Posted by: Steve K at December 9, 2006 5:18 PM
Comment #198512

“But, do you agree…it IS a form of communication, and as such should be defended by our Constitution as a form of free speach?”

i’m not sure why you believe my opinion on the subject will matter… but;

yes and no. i believe that it is a form of communication which may violate the aforementioned “more harm than good” concept - and perhaps not.

more importantly, i believe that local governments should decide for themselves, and such instances should be decided on a case by case basis, within a given locality.

in some instances, it may very well be that an individual had no other effective recourse to convey their message - and in others, it may be a case of someone intentionally inciting violence because they know such actions are likely to deeply offend. (both cases are the extremes, neither are likely to be the sole, or even primary cause for such actions.)

“This means you believe a local law making flag burning a crime is acceptable? Yes or No.”

within reason, absolutely yes. no one should be imprisoned for such an action - that’s excessive to say the least. i would also support the right of your community to permit such action, without exception. you pick your way, we’ll pick ours.

this is not one of those issues which clearly and incontestably involves the constitution, nor does it need to be… nor *should* it be.

i think the national political stage should focus on far more important issues than (for example) whether we should be allowed to set fires in public with american flags, or whether we should prevent people of the same sex who love each other from seeking legal recognition, etc.

these are local issues, and should be dealt with as such. let’s have our representatives deal with issues of more substance - issues that actually necessitate federal involvement.

agree or no, we are steadily moving away from a federalist system of government, as was (and is) dictated by our constitution. it seems to be the desire of both parties, these days, that all laws should be identical, and applied as such, across the nation. this was not the desire of our founding fathers, nor is it judicious.

laboratories of democracy, united under one constitution. one of our greatest strengths. the only fair, practicable, and sound application of the “separate but equal” doctrine.

Posted by: Diogenes at December 9, 2006 9:23 PM
Comment #198520

Hey I see no problem in burning the flag, to voice your dislike and opinion. Lets burn the Iraq flag, Iran flag, Syria, Egpyt, even the Texas flag, well I could go on.
Actually I do not see it is a problem burning the American Flag as a symbol of anti-what ever you want.

Oh I have served my time in the Armed Forces of the United States.

Posted by: KT at December 9, 2006 10:36 PM
Comment #198544

>>more importantly, i believe that local governments should decide for themselves, and such instances should be decided on a case by case basis, within a given locality.

Posted by: Diogenes at December 9, 2006 09:23 PM

So, one of us in Texas should be treated differently than one of us in Connecticutt for exercising the same right to free speach???

Posted by: Marysdude at December 10, 2006 7:20 AM
Comment #198568

“So, one of us in Texas should be treated differently than one of us in Connecticutt for exercising the same right to free speach???”

no. one of ‘us’ in texas should be treated according to the laws which we have consented to live by, by living in texas - laws which may disallow such forms of ‘communication’ as flag burning.

if we do not agree with the law, we may leave (without necessarily being forced out of the country to avoid it), or we can seek to change said law, locally - without dividing and distracting the entire nation (from far more important issues).

in your previous post, you asked if i agreed that it was a form of communication. i agreed that it can be, but that does not preclude it from taking other forms as well. moreover, all communication is not speech - and such forms as this are certainly not indisputably protected by the first. (again, ideally i would have this issue decided at the local level, rather than even the state level.)

it seems to me that we’re running in circles here, and getting nowhere fast. i’m not sure what you are trying to achieve by continually asking the same questions.

ponder this;
there are those who believe that it should be banned across the nation. they will not relent merely because you find their cause to be misguided. thus, there may indeed come a point when it is, in fact, nationally prohibited (which i oppose), where you would eagerly accept a compromise such as that which i proffer. should this occur, those who support the ban will be every bit as reluctant as yourself to compromise, thereafter. just think it over.

and consider this, as well; it costs you little or nothing to burn a flag when there are no consequences for doing so - your action under such circumstances is not heroic, selfless, or thought-provoking… but merely selfish, inconsiderate, unproductive, and offensive.

if your message is worth burning a flag, then it should be worth a little self-sacrifice.

now, would you rather i (and others) pursue such a change at the national level? or perhaps you should let me make, what you clearly perceive to be a mistake, at the local level - where it only affects my own kith and kin…

Posted by: Diogenes at December 10, 2006 2:36 PM
Comment #198618

>>your action under such circumstances is not heroic, selfless, or thought-provoking… but merely selfish, inconsiderate, unproductive, and offensive.

Posted by: Diogenes at December 10, 2006 02:36 PM

And, I should be deemed criminal because ‘I’m selfish, inconsiderate, unproductive, and offensive? I wonder how many citizens would survive such condemnation…

Posted by: Marysdude at December 10, 2006 10:02 PM
Comment #198620

that is a seriously deficient ‘argument,’ marysdude, and you well know that i never said anything of the sort. it appears that you are reaching for straws. your questions have become increasingly preposterous.

…it is obvious to me that you refuse to consider any perspective other than your own. unless you have any meaningful questions or points… i do not see the point, for either of us, in continuing this conversation.

regards.

Posted by: Diogenes at December 10, 2006 10:36 PM
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