Burning the Flag
Being one of those who gave up four years of his life for the ideals the flag represents, I feel I must speak here. It is not the flag for which soldiers suffer and die. The flag is merely several pieces of fabric, be they silk, cotton, or wool. But it is fabric that is a symbol. A symbol for the ideals upon which this nation was built - the ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; of Freedom of Religion, and the Press, and the Right to Bear Arms.But, most importantly, the flag represents the ideal of Freedom of Speech. This is why we must, MUST, defend the rights of those who wish to burn this same flag.
To defend the right to do so is not to wish to burn the flag. By no means; this is certainly the last thing I would do. I served proudly on the United States Pacific Command Joint Services Color Guard, and proudly bore that red, white, and blue standard that is our flag. To defend the right to do so is to defend the Freedom of Speech, and to carry on the work of those who gave their lives defending this freedom. To allow an amendment which in any way encroaches upon the Freedom of Speech is to spit upon the graves of all those who gave their lives that we might have this freedom to use and abuse as we see fit.
The Freedom of Speech has been hard fought throughout history. Since the beginning of language, men have fought and died for their words. Socrates gave his life rather than accepting any limitations upon his practice of free speech. Jesus Christ was crucified by the Pharisees for speaking words they did not wish to hear. Galileo Galilei was sentenced to house arrest for publishing words the Church did not wish to hear. John Locke was forced to flee his motherland, England, for fear of retribution from the very oppressive State against which he spoke. Voltaire once said: "I may not approve of what you have to say, but I shall defend to the death your right to say it." Our nation, led by great minds like Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Thomas Paine, first spoke out against, then fought against English tyranny that we might have the Freedom of Speech. Citizens of France soon thereafter rose against their government with similar cries of "Libertas."
But even our nation has attempted to suppress this liberty. It was not until 1870 that the rights of all citizens within the United States of America were guaranteed, and even then, this had to be specified by the 14th and 25th Amendments (even still, the right to vote for women was not guaranteed until 1920, with the 19th Amendment). In 1925, a Tennessee law forbidding the teaching of evolutionary theory was upheld by the nationally publicized and still controversial "Scopes Monkey Trials."
And still soldiers fought and died for the ideals represented by the flag. The bloodiest war in history was fought brother-against-brother within our nation, with these ideals in question. In the middle of the battle field stood the American flag, most often dirty, grimy and holed; many times it burned with noone to quench the fire. My grandfather, and thousands with him, walked the Bataan Death March while serving in defense of the ideals our flag represents. Marines planted this flag upon the hilltop of Iwo Jima after a long bloody battle to its peak.
And they fought, suffered, and died, not so that this Liberty might be taken away, but that it might be passed down from generation to generation. That each man, woman, and child who calls him/herself an American citizen will have the right to speak and express themselves as they see fit. For some, this is to compose poetry, or song, or even to dress in clothes that might be frowned upon by mainstream society. For some, when injustice is seen, these expressions become even more extreme. For some, who feel that the ideals of a nation are not fitting with their own, feel it necessary to demonstrate in the most striking way possible, their dissent with that nation's ideals. For those, what faster way to strike to the quick than to burn the flag of said nation. Indeed, within our nation, it is their right to voice their distaste of our national ideals by burning the very symbol of those ideals. By this act, they express an extreme desire for us to change our ideals, to become more fitting with their own. Yes, the act of burning the symbol of a nation's ideals is distasteful, but would you give that very person, the person who wishes your nation's ideals to become more as there own, the satisfaction of knowing that they struck home so deeply that indeed you tore asunder the very founding ideal? The First Amendment is the FIRST for a reason.
For those who do not remember, I shall quote the First Amendment, the very foundation of our liberties:
Congress shall make no law respecting establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for redress of grievances.
Additionally of note:
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
These are the ideals represented by the flag of the United States of America. These are what soldiers of our nation and figures throughout history have fought, suffered, and died protecting. These are the rights guaranteed to all. To allow our distaste at the way one chooses to express these rights to cause us to abridge these freedoms, is to lose the battle, and to deny and disrespect the very reasons for which these soldiers and historical figures have bled. We MUST continue the fight. We MUST fight any abridgement of these rights. And an Amendment to the Constitution is to abridge them, and to stain the very document which embodies these rights.
Without the Freedom of Speech, we cannot address crises across the globe, for it will then be all too easy to have our own voices quelled. Think about it.