Speech will only take you so far


Not surprisingly, I’m a huge freedom-of-speech guy.

I’m a big believer that the KKK should be able to espouse their vile hatred to the insipid people who want to hear what they have to say, that people who have a problem with the war in Iraq should be allowed to march in Washington, D.C., or other places to try to bring a peaceful end to the conflict and that rappers should be able to express their homophobic, misogynistic lyrics without the hand of the government slapping them down to what they feel urban messages should be in their eyes.

In short, I believe department stores shouldn’t censor music, “patriotism” shouldn’t be used to stifle the freedom of expression that true patriots have — and do today — fight for, and that people shouldn’t be trying to put hot pants on Michaelangelo’s David because their narrow little minds might find it pornographic.

Sometimes, it’s good that people get mad over what others say or do, because that’s where real conversation begins.

However, I do have a fundamental problem with people burning the American flag.

The U.S. Senate will be soon studying a measure to amend the Constituion regarding flag burning. If passed with two-thirds of the vote, the amendment will be sent along to the individual states for ratification. If it does not pass, the measure will sit in mothballs until the next go-around.

Look, I know the arguments. Burning a flag is a non-violent method of expressing an individual’s displeasure with the government at any given time. If people can say they are for segregation or write that women should not have equal rights or any other incidiary comments, then people should also be able to destroy their own private property to get a point across without physically hurting anyone.

Nope. Not buying it.

I’m sorry, I don’t. Marching as a group is protest, carrying signs or writing letters in newspapers is protest. Shoot, wearing a T-shirt with inflammatory wording is protest. Burning a flag is, well ... final. You burn wood. You burn receipts or statements with your personal information on it. You burn photos of yourself with spiked hair and stripes shaved in the side of your head from the 1980s because you just can’t believe you ever went through that “phase.”

You do not burn the American flag. The argument that it is a non-violent form of expression? I’d suggest that my reaction to watching somebody burn the flag in front of me would be a quite violent response. Would I punch or kick the person doing it? Probably not. But I’d guess that the individual would have a hard time sitting down for a few weeks with a burning flag stuck in ...

But I digress.

I do value the rights of an individual to say or express whatever thoughts he or she might have. In fact, I hold it as close to my heart as any belief I have. I believe an individual has a right to say the government is not doing right by the people, or that one race is better than another, or that people’s sexual orientations are not accepted by their own beliefs.

Just don’t burn a flag or cross, or go out gay-bashing to express your individual rights. At that point, you are trampling the rights of others to enjoy “the pursuit of happiness.”

The Washington Post — a storied and celebrated newspaper with a proclivity for extreme liberal thought — recently wrote an editorial against the proposed amendment. In it, the editorial writer opined that, “If you haven’t noticed a rash of flag-burning incidents sweeping the nation that’s because, well, there isn’t one.”

And, using that logic, since there isn’t a wave of pedophilia in this community right now, there shouldn’t be laws against it.

Do we need an amendment in the Constitution making desecration of our national symbol a criminal act? Probably not as much as other things need touched right now. However, I find the Post’s argument later in the editorial that passing this amendment does more damage to the nation than “a few miscreants with matches” to be pure garbage.

The amendment would not put an end to public debate or freedom of speech, it would put a stop to people burning the symbol of freedom and national pride that so many of our citizens enjoy. I’m not going to throw out one of those “Love it, or leave it” comments, but I will suggest, “Say what you want, just don’t desescrate anything that people die for.”