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    Flag Be With You

    flag_burnin_babe.jpgQuote:  “The Congress shall have power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States.” Proposed constitutional amendment.

    Figure of Speech: gesture.

    Someday, gestures like burning the flag, spitting on it — and, presumably, wearing it as a bikini on a flabby, bikini-desecrating body — could land you in prison.

    Cicero, the great Roman orator, said that voice and gesture are the keys to delivering speech.  The power of the gesture lies behind the proposed flag amendment, passed by two-thirds of the House of Representatives and due for a close vote in the Senate.  

    To desecrate means literally to “make unholy,”  so the amendment would consecrate the flag, making it America’s first constitutionally sacred object.  Will future activist judges require us to worship it?  Still, we’re pleased that Congress has paused from its chief mission — taking dictation from lobbyists — to do its bit for freedom and liberty.  As any parent knows, banning an obscene gesture gives it great rhetorical potency. 

    At last, America’s legions of flag-burning hobbyists have something to celebrate.

    Snappy Answer:  “And Congress shall retain the power to desecrate the Constitution.”

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    Reader Comments (3)

    Here's the Supreme Court (Justice Brennan) weighing in on the same subject:

    "The First Amendment literally forbids the abridgment only of "speech," but we have long recognized that its protection does not end at the spoken or written word. While we have rejected "the view that an apparently limitless variety of conduct can be labeled 'speech' whenever the person engaging in the conduct intends thereby to express an idea, we have acknowledged that conduct may be "sufficiently imbued with elements of communication to fall within the scope of the First and Fourteenth Amendments,".

    Especially pertinent to this case are our decisions recognizing the communicative nature of conduct relating to flags. Attaching a peace sign to the flag, refusing to salute the flag, and displaying a red flag, we have held, all may find shelter under the First Amendment. … That we have had little difficulty identifying an expressive element in conduct relating to flags should not be surprising. The very purpose of a national flag is to serve as a symbol of our country; it is, one might say, "the one visible manifestation of two hundred years of nationhood." Id., at 603 (Rehnquist, J., dissenting). …"

    And here is the same court and author identifying the principle which the proposed amendment would overturn:

    "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. … We have not recognized an exception to this principle even where our flag has been involved. In Street v. New York, 394 U.S. 576 (1969), we held that a State may not criminally punish a person for uttering words critical of the flag. Rejecting the argument that the conviction could be sustained on the ground that Street had "failed to show the respect for our national symbol which may properly be demanded of every citizen," we concluded that "the constitutionally guaranteed 'freedom to be intellectually . . . diverse or even contrary,' and the 'right to differ as to things that touch the heart of the existing order,' encompass the freedom to express publicly one's opinions about our flag, including those opinions which are defiant or contemptuous." Id., at 593, quoting Barnette, 319 U.S., at 642. Nor may the government, we have held, compel conduct that would evince respect for the flag. "To sustain the compulsory flag salute we are required to say that a Bill of Rights which guards the individual's right to speak his own mind, left it open to public authorities to compel him to utter what is not in his mind." Id., at 634."

    For further reading, see Tex. v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397, 491 U.S. 397; 109 S. Ct. 2533; 105 L. Ed. 2d 342; 1989 U.S. LEXIS 3115; 57 U.S.L.W. 4770
    (1989. Text of decisioin linked at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Texas_v._Johnson
    June 22, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Humes
    and personally
    i wouldnt piss on it
    even if it was on fire ... lol
    July 5, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterashling
    Under our system of Law, may a person say or write anything about anyone at any time and in any setting without running afoul of the laws of Libel or Slander?

    Does Freedom of speech have no boundaries whatsoever? Are there no other ways for an individual to protest aside from burning the Flag?

    What about a letter to the Editor...or to a list of public officials...or voting or holding a public meeting or rally?

    What is the benefit derived from burning the Flag? Does it cause others to be inspired to make needed social changes? Does the one who burns the Flag find satisfaction and fulfillment? And, does it lead to any improvement, while adding to the pollution of the atmosphere?

    Around the world, burning the US Flag is an announcement of the desired destruction of our society.

    If someone, a citizen, is wanting to correct perceived injustice and to improve our society, government etc. by burning or desecrating the Flag and it works...then, all we need to do to bring about the world we want is...to burn the Flag...

    I wish I had thought of that first.
    November 21, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterpaul silbersher

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