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Anti-Flag: Flag Burning Ban Amendment Passes U.S. House

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A constitutional amendment to ban the burning of the United States flag may have its best chance of being passed in many years. In order for any amendment to the U.S. Constitution to become law, it must pass a series of steep bars: two-thirds approval in the House of Representatives, two-thirds approval in the Senate, and, finally, the ratification of two-thirds (38) of the states.

Today, the House approved the proposed amendment, 286-130.

“It’s going to be really close (in the Senate), within a one- or two-vote margin,” said Terri Schroeder of the American Civil Liberties Union, which has lobbied against the measure. It must also be ratified by the states to become law.

The increasingly conservative nature of the Republican-led, 100-member Senate along with a renewed sense of patriotism fanned by the Iraq war have made proponents optimistic.

I have several strong reactions whenever the subject of an anti-flag burning amendment comes up. The first and strongest reaction I have is that this is a silly issue. Our elected leaders surely must have better things to do with their time (how about Iraq? Seems like that might take up an afternoon or two of not-so-idle deep pondering and debate) than a law etched in stone about lighting up some material that happens to have some colors dabbled on it.

Secondly, however, I’m offended.

I’m offended because I believe the right to free expression is such that we must allow for all non-violent forms of protest – especially those we find most distasteful.

What about burning crosses? What about the Klu Klux Klan?

What about banning white pointy hats?

What about banning placards that read “God Hates Fags”?

How about banning all flags, hats, planks of wood, and placards?

And magic markers, felt-tip pens, and highlighters?

You know, just to be sure.

I consider myself a patriot. I love the flag of the United States, and I get emotional thinking about our soldiers dying to preserve our freedom under its banner.

I love everything that the flag represents, including the freedom of self-expression, assembly, and protest. I love that you’re free to express yourself in the United States in ways that just might piss other people off.

Am I into burning flags? Absolutely not. I find it distasteful, actually.

All the same, I hope this amendment doesn’t pass. And I hope our lawmakers can try and get back to doing something useful for a little while.

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  • http://spaces.msn.com/members/dorksandlosers Tan The Man

    Although I understand why people would see why flag burning can be both liberating and hurtful to burn in protest, today’s world hasn’t been kind to this country, for reasons both right and wrong. This country needs to show its unity, and flag burning shows too much hate than it does love for this country. I am always reminded of the film The American President and how Michael Douglas protects the right to burn flags. (I’m putting this on both pages)

    Nice questions. You could consider flag burning a hate-crime.

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com/ Eric Berlin

    You could consider flag burning a hate-crime.

    I just don’t see the reason in protecting freedom by symbolically taking it away.

    Where do you draw the line? That was the intent behind the questions I ask above.

  • http://ultrablognetic.blogspot.com berkeley joe

    i agree, it’s completely ridiculous, if i want to burn material, and am not harming anyone, what the hell? but this is the same country that doesn’t let you burn a plant and inhale it because, um, you might go crazy and slash up old ladies?? but drink up, cap’n. oh, and here’s a gun. sigh.

  • http://ultrablognetic.blogspot.com berkeley joe

    not that i think guns and alcohol should be illegal, far from it; another example of haphazardly drawn lines.

    and yes, guns is a way different story, but it seems that people with firearms are more dangerous than guys with the munchies watching nice dreams and/or pissed off possible patriots lighting up flags.

    bah!

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com/ Eric Berlin

    Berkeley — You’re reminding me of a great song by The Streets, that is perhaps the best (artistic) argument I’ve ever heard for the legalization of marijuana. I believe it’s called “The Irony of It All.”

  • Bennett

    Great take on this Eric. I agree with you and berkely joe, too much fuss over a symbol, of something that will never burn. While real issues cry out for attention.

    Let’s hope the Senate has more sense.

  • http://www.mondoirlando.com Aaron, Duke De Mondo

    Well said, Eric. exceptional, is what. and that streets song is fantastic.

    i’m reminded of the brilliant routine Bills Hicks did concerning it all (and it’s actually available on my site at the minute, if memory serves, in the mp3 digest).

    “my daddy died in Korea for that flag.

    What a coincidence! Mine was made in Korea!”

  • http://gratefuldread.net Natalie Davis

    There goes the first amendment, slip slidin’ away. What a fuckin’ great country. Home of the free, my ass.

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com/ Eric Berlin

    Thanks Bennett and Duke… it’s really nice to hear from people out there on this subject.

    And I’ve got to get my hands on some Hicks one of these days.

  • http://gratefuldread.net Natalie Davis

    Bill Hicks rocked. I am so sad he is gone, but things like this prove my favorite comedian ever is in a better place than we are.

  • http://homepage.mac.com/donfrancisco864/iblog/index.html alphah

    Way back in the Counterculture days of the 60’s and 70’s wearing the flag was also a crime; burning or not. Does this “amendment” protect us against flag patches on backsides, flag tattoos, flag bikinis (tops or bottoms), flag shirts, unburned flags flown upside down, flown right side up with respect by the “wrong people?”
    I don’ t usually wear a hat but must I buy one so I can take it off when I see a flag?
    I remember parades in the South in the 50’s. How many honor guards requre your hand over your heart? Is the hand over the heart to be a legal requirement?
    Can you burn other country’s flags? Sweden, for instance. They are always making trouble.
    Sure sounds vague and troublesome to me.

  • dee

    I have no problem with flag burning. I too love to fly my flag in my yard and I do feel a certain amount of sadness at the thought of anyone doing such a thing. But I am a firm believer in freedom to express how we feel about things. I would not want someone burning my flag which flies in my front yard but if he buys his own flag and burns it on his front yard, it is his freedom to do so. At least he is not hurting anyone.

  • http://www.mondoirlando.com Aaron, Duke De Mondo

    maybe it shoudl be illegal for, um, physically unappealing people to get the flag tattooed on them. you’re too fat! desecration of the flag, that is right there.

  • http://draven99.blogspot.com Chris Beaumont

    And I’ve got to get my hands on some Hicks one of these days.

    Careful… that may lead to a hate crime! LOL

    Anyway, nicely put Eric, I am against flag burning but the whole issue is silly, if someone wants to burn it, let them.

  • http://www.mondoirlando.com Aaron, Duke De Mondo

    hahah! Chris, that was some fine hilarity right there!

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com Eric Berlin

    Great points, alphah — you bring out how silly it is to legislate this issue.

  • http://parentheticalremarks.blogspot.com Pete Blackwell

    Nice post, Eric. Of course, you’re right that great minds think alike (re: your comment on my similar post that I didn’t check until this morning). I think we’re actually a lot closer politically than you think. Maybe?

    PS. Flag burning is not a hate crime per se because it would be offensive to the majority, not to a minority. Let’s just let the little anarchists have their fun and not validate them by taking them seriously.

  • http://www.templestark.com Temple Stark

    I’m not sure you said it, but are you saying burning a cross in someone’s front yard isn’t a violent crime?

  • Nancy

    If the problem were truly that congress wants to prevent flag-burning, there are already very effective laws to put a stop to it, that make even liberals think twice: burning a flag pollutes the atmosphere and contributes to greenhouse gases. So there, an agonizing choice for the Leftie: do you really want to pollute the already critical ozone layer just to make a passing political statement?

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com Eric Berlin

    About cross burning: if you burn a cross on your own property or in some kind of controlled area, it’s theoretically legal. The symbolism behind it is sinister, of course — perhaps much more sinister than that of burning a flag.

    Nancy: Are there really state laws in place that ban flag burning on environmental grounds?

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com Eric Berlin

    By the way: I read on another site earlier today that there has been something like one recorded incidence of flag burning in X amount of years…

    So like much of what Congress takes up nowadays, this is way to much ado about nothing.

  • td

    If they don’t want it to be burned.

    Why don’t they just have them made out of non-flamable materials?

  • Nancy

    Eric, no laws about not burning FLAGS on environmental grounds per se, but I know in the MD/DC/VA area, burning anything (including leaves, trash, brush from clearing your fields, etc.)without a permit is a BIG no, and burning anything that will produce smoke/pollution (like most flags, tires, furniture, garbage, and the like) will really get your butt canned and land you in court courtesy of the fire marshal at the least, and possibly in the hoosegow if it gets out of hand. I belong to a vol. fire dept. and we’ve helped prosecute. You wouldn’t believe the stupid stuff people try to burn.

  • http://parodieslost.typepad.com Mark Schannon

    Eric,

    Very thoughtful piece & you raise great dilemmas re: cross burnings, wearing white pointy hats, etc.

    Things are rarely neatly divided into right & wrong (except my divinely inspired opinions, of course) but cross burnings are violent acts designed to threaten and create fear.

    If all the KKK did was march & rant & rave, as much as I hate what they stand for, I’d support their right to say it–as long as it didn’t inspire violence.

    What violence does flag burning portend–except for those who worship it beating the shit out of those who burn it.

    If America is just a flag, we’re cooked!

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    “We do not consecrate the flag by punishing its desecration, for in doing so, we dilute the freedom this cherished emblem represents.”
    -William J. Brennan

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com Eric Berlin

    Thanks for the kind words, Mark.

    And I’ll drink to that, El B — That’s about the size of it, as my old San Fran pal used to say.

  • http://adamash.blogspot.com adam

    Why burning? What about blowing your nose with the flag? Or pissing on it? Or wiping your ass with it? Or feeding it to a goat? Or masturbating with it, and splooging all over it? There are worse things than burning that can happen to a flag. How would you like to be a flag, and have someone puke a fat fried egg and bacon vomit all over you?

  • http://willbradyjournal.blogspot.com will brady

    Hey! Let’s stop equating NATIONALISM with Patriotism. the two couldn’t be farther apart. History shall prove this correct and, in fact has, dozens of times in the past, albeit in other nations.

  • http://www.sphinxmontreal.com SphinxMontreal

    Burning a flag is so “old school”. Pete’s post said it all: why even bother giving these pseudo rebels any air time?

    And I thought the purpose of a constitutional amendment was for societal issues of at least some significance. Silly me.

  • http://gratefuldread.net Natalie Davis

    Whenever I use a postage stamp featuring one of those red, white, and blue pieces of cloth on it, I always make sure it is affixed to the envelope upside down. From now on, I am going to add a drawing of big, yellow flames to it.

  • http://pop jimmy

    u r the greatest

  • tim

    wow.
    fuck all you damn hippies. making an ammendment to prevent burning the flag isnt going to ruin the country.. you guys are really stupid. you shouldnt be able to burn the flag if your going to live in this country and take all of its benefits. people fight and die for the country not for losers like you who don’t value your freedom and realize what you have, but for the flag and what it represents. theres better ways to protest then disprespecting the country you live in and anyone who fought and died for it

  • zingzing

    hey tim-the great thing about this country is that you CAN burn the flag. that’s the spirit of the freedom that needs to be protected. not a damn cloth flag. if you don’t understand that, you don’t understand what people fought and died for at all, and you’re the one that is stupid.

    they should make an amendment that says “no amendment shall be made concerning the burning of flags, excepting this amendment, and any amendment amending this amendment but that does not concern the burning of flags in it’s amending, other than to amend all amendments not including the spirit of this amendment, but in amending the amendments before and after this amendment, excluding the word “amendment” in the amendment of the amendment of this amendment.” damn right.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    zing,

    where do these guys crawl out from? Unfucking believable.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    LOLOLOL(OL). OL! OL, I tell you!

    zingzing for President.

  • Cindy

    president? with that talent i was hoping to use him as my contract attorney.

  • Cannonshop

    It strikes me as a great back-door pathway to smashing criticism of the President or Congress, really.

    I find it rather interesting WHO managed to get it through, as well…

    (censored) sunshine patriots, every one of ‘em. “Flag Burning” isn’t “Speech”, it’s “Stupid”, but that doesn’t mean we need a LAW to make it illegal…unless someone’s worried that their popular revolution might turn on them at some point…or hoping to claim “patriot Points” for “Protecting the Flag” when they routinely wipe their asses with its meaning. (a game I thought only Falwellites and other right-wing-version nannystaters pursued…ah, well…)

    #36-and Cindy, I thought zingzing was a gal? (am I wrong??)

  • Cindy

    I’m afraid so Cannon. :-)

    He’s a he. Not that he probably wouldn’t eat a buttercup or a daisy with Dr.D. Cuz he’s a cool he.

    Hmmm, for all I know he might even eat an ostrich, a lemming, or a gnu, or whatever other weird things Dr.D might be serving for dinner.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Speech, as far as I’m concerned, is any word or deed that sends a message – like wearing a t-shirt with a cartoon of Obama snorting coke, graffitoing Fuck the Pope* on a restroom stall, or even building a ten-foot-high wall round your house and cementing big ugly bits of broken glass along the top. As such, flag-burning, like all speech that does not harm anyone – and by ‘harm’ I mean personal threats or libel, not saying or doing something that might piss somebody off – is protected under the 1st Amendment of your Earth Constitution.

    * Old sectarian joke:
    Q: Why do people write ‘fuck the Pope’ on toilet walls?
    A: Because it’s easier than writing ‘fuck the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland’.

  • Clavos

    even building a ten-foot-high wall round your house and cementing big ugly bits of broken glass along the top.

    Standard property enclosure in Mexico City; every house I lived in (4) as a child and adolescent was so equipped, and not to make a statement, either — they are necessary.

    Notwithstanding, I once had a beautiful, nearly new Raleigh ten-speed racing bike stolen in less than ten minutes from a carport inside such an enclosure, and with the added protection of a bad dog trained to attack strangers roaming the grounds.

    The thieves in Mexico are that good.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Jack Bauer* probably needed a getaway vehicle.

    * Or his Mexican counterpart, Juanito Granjero.

  • Clavos

    Heh.

    I probably shouldn’t confess this, but I had to Google Jack Bauer.

  • zingzing

    cannonshop… what would ever make you think i’m a woman? OH, I KNOW… it’s because you thought i was zedd. those “z” names really confuse a lot of non-“z” named people. they think we all look the same.

    fucking letterists.

  • Clavos

    Get used to it, zing.

    Z names are one of the few (along with rich white men) acceptable targets for discrimination these days.

  • zingzing

    a change iz gonna come

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Iz? He’s dead, isn’t he?

  • zingzing

    who iz iz?

  • Clavos

    if he’s dead, iz izn’t anymore, iz he?

  • Clavos

    Damn!

    –if iz’s dead…

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Iz, a.k.a. Israel Kamakawiwo’ole – mountainous and beloved Hawai’ian crooner, best known on the mainland for his ukulele-accompanied version of ‘Somewhere over the Rainbow’.

  • Cindy

    Sadly IZ iz dead. :-(

    IZ waz a lovely person.

    I was married in Hawaii, where my mom lived at the time, and this was one of the songs by IZ that we played.

  • Cindy

    Ah Dr.D,

    I’m always so slow.

  • Marcia Neil

    Instead, blue-eyed, sun/burned redhead females are lying around dead.

  • Cindy

    Why females Marcia?

  • Nick

    If the anit-flag burning amendment is voted through then how do we dispose of an old flag respectfully? Burning a flag does not always mean irreverance…

  • michael belcher

    My take on this is, I hope they do make it illegal burning flags is not only disrespectful to our country and our ancestors who founded this country but also tells people that our own citizens dont respect this country. So if you dont like the U.S and wanna burn our flag then feel free to get the hell out!!! we dont want or need you!! hell, ill pay for your boat ticket out.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    If disrespect is the qualifier, then how about a constitutional amendment banning people from burning US currency? Or using it as a T-shirt? Or protesting a veterans’ parade? Or taking a dump on the White House lawn? Or doodling in the margins of a copy of the Declaration of Independence? Or saying that the Founding Fathers were a bunch of crack-smoking traitors? Or shouting out ‘you lie’ during a presidential speech?

    Do you see where this is going?

    America is a big, grown-up country, Michael. I think it can survive a few people making a bonfire out of some bits of dyed cloth. It also makes a big noise about not giving a damn what the rest of the world thinks of it, so why are you so worried about whether the rest of the world thinks Americans don’t respect their motherland?

  • michael belcher

    That Dr. dreadful actually makes alot more sense to me than i thought it would when i started reading it, and yes i agree we should be strong enough to make it through this. I just have a hard time thinking if we dont pull together soon we are going to be in deep poop. And sometimes i let my anger at this get the best of me and go off half cocked.point taken and appreciated! As far as the “you lie” thing goes, I will say i did somewhat agree that he(obama) was lieing but, that was very disrespectful and in bad taste and showed that even well educated congressmen and senators need to get past anger and personal vendettas and be a part of the solution not the problem.