And Now It Begins…Trump’s Ignorant and Un-American Opinions and Plans…
According to Associated Press news reports president-elect Donald Trump said on November 29 (2016) that Americans who burn American flags should face “consequences.” Here is the reported quote: “Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag—if they do, there must be consequences—perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail.”
*Sidebar: The opinions expressed here are my own (or those of the guest writer); I do not speak for any other person, group or organization; nor do I imply that the opinions expressed here reflect those of any other person, group or organization unless I say so specifically. Before commenting read the entire post and the “Note to commenters” at its end.*
Ironically, I recently read an article in the same local newspaper (that published the AP story about Trump’s comment) about a group of Young Marines who, under the guidance of a veterans’ organization, burned American flags without controversy. The proper and respectful way to dispose of old, worn out flags is exactly that—to burn them in a ceremony.
Of course, Trump (and his defenders) would simply say that there’s a difference between burning an American flag in a ceremony of disposal and burning an American flag in a protest event. But, of course, criminalizing the latter while permitting, even celebrating the former, amounts to criminalizing intent—something most conservatives have opposed (viz., with regard to “hate crimes”).
More importantly than that, however, is the fact, pointed out by the AP reporter, that the U.S. Supreme Court decided in 1989 that burning an American flag (that the protester owns, of course) in protest is protected speech. Conservative justice Antonin Scalia sided with the majority in that decision which struck down a Texas law. When interviewed about that Scalia said that the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution exists to protect “speech critical of the government. That’s the main type of speech tyrants would seek to suppress.” And the Supreme Court equated burning an American flag (owned by the protester) with free speech.
Either Trump doesn’t know about that Supreme Court decision or he doesn’t care. Both explanations are truly frightening. Apparently Trump either doesn’t know or doesn’t care that the U.S. Constitution explicitly forbids removing citizenship from any natural-born American.
And then there’s Trump’s public statement, supported by a commenter here with a link to a CNN article, that he will support the torture of suspected terrorists’ families. That, to me, would be the ultimate barbarity—to drag a small son or daughter of a suspected terrorist in front of him (or her) and torture the child to make the suspected terrorist reveal information. Like all torture, it wouldn’t be productive. (People being tortured will say whatever they think their torturers want to hear—whether it’s true or not.) But worse, it’s barbaric, uncivilized behavior that, if practiced, would give permission to countries and organizations that, so far have not sunk this low, to do it to American children of their captive Americans.
We Americans rightly scream “barbarism” at terrorist organizations (the countries that support them) who burn captives alive (as recently happened and was the subject of a “60 Minutes” episode) or behead them publicly while filming the barbaric act. But if Trump gets his way, we will have sunk to their same level of uncivilized, indecent, unethical and inhumane treatment. I would say that torturing a suspected terrorist’s family is a crime against humanity. Trump is apparently advocating that the U.S. engage in crimes against humanity.
I would never burn an American flag in protest. But if I have an American flag (and I own two) that is worn out and needs to be “retired,” I will take it to an appropriate organization such as the Young Marines for proper disposal. However, I will recognize and acknowledge other people’s right to burn their own American flags in protest—as the Supreme Court decided.
The really great irony here is that the American flag symbolizes Americans’ freedom to protest. Criminalizing such protest is more un-American than burning one.
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