Flag Burning a Sensitive Issue

The recent 5-4 Supreme Court decision overruling the laws of 48 states allowing individuals to burn the American flag as a form of "free speech" in protest has caused some heated debates between opposite camps, who both claim to be lovers of freedom and who, no doubt, both are. Can one side only be wrong because of an open and apparent fallacy of its own arguments, or is it possible that both sides can prove their own side is correct, as long as we look only at the little picture?

When I personally look at an issue, and try to determine the right and wrong side of it in my own mind, I try to look at the big picture, or how each position will affect our lives in the long run, and not just the short run. I also look at how a particular position will affect many groups and not just some like-minded groups of people.

I too place a high value on free speech, but I am able to draw the line when some higher principles are violated. I have no problem in my own mind drawing the line with the burning of the American flag. What, then, are the little pictures and the big picture on this issue?

I see the little picture as some malcontent person burning an American flag as a form of free speech, to show that he is symbolically destroying America "lock, stock and barrel" (as the flag is the symbol representing our country), and saying he sees nothing about the country worth saving; else he would use a lesser form of protest as the rest of us use, wouldn't he?

I can see the little picture of some professional civil libertarians, and those identifying themselves as liberals, defending a person's rights to free speech in this form, without questioning the affect on other people who are affected, and the long-term effects to America.

I see a big picture, with terrorists without a country, who claim to only use foreign countries as an operating base so we cannot militarily retaliate their destructive actions, no longer having to stand on foreign soil and burn the symbol of our beliefs as a nation.

We are inviting them into our own backyard to symbolically destroy America in total. In fact, they may be able to enlist some malcontent Americans and energize them into believing the answer is to tear it all down and let someone rebuild it again in some other image. We could not have been more inviting unless we had sent gold-trimmed invitation cards to foreign terrorists.

But we won't have to worry for long about people burning our flags. They will tire quickly of that excitement, since it's now legal, and look for a more exciting high. Everyone knows how it works once you lead someone to the path of destruction, in the name of indiscriminate freedom.

One group of people this new law of free speech affects is our Veterans of Foreign Wars, who have put their lives on the line to protect the things the American flag represents. Our vigilant National Guardsmen (past and present), as well as other warriors in the Armed Service branches, are affected. This law also has an effect on brave law enforcement agents who protect us from those who attack our country's civil laws from within our borders, as this form of freedom of speech encourages disrespect for authority.

Somebody wake me if I'm dreaming. Didn't the Supreme Court just decide in favor of the interests and sentiments of terrorists and malcontents over those of our country's past and present defenders of our way of life, as well as the rest of us Americans?

If the Libertarians and liberals can present an even bigger picture that I may have overlooked due to my own fallible mind, then I for one would like to hear it. Otherwise, I hope that the clock's alarm is buzzing, and I'm only dreaming, because I'm afraid of the rest of this dream for America and Americans of all political persuasions, except for the radicals who honestly want to see it all come down.

---Kenneth J. Wolf #03 (07/01/89)

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