Respect for the Flag

Flag burning is protected as freedom of speech under the First Amendment. - photograph by Davepape - Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

BY LAURAINE NICHOLLS

I always thought of the United States of America as the home of freedom, dreams, hope, and opportunity. With all the things happening in the world, I am happy to be an American citizen. Unfortunately some of the people who also live here do not have the same beliefs as I do.

Every night at dinner time, my family and I sit and watch the news together. Although there is often so much disturbing news, I am particularly dismayed by reports of angry protesters rioting in the streets and on campuses when a speaker with whom they don’t agree goes to talk. While watching the smashing of property, vehicles, and buildings, what gets me the most is watching American citizens burning their own flag. The flag that represents the nation that they live in. The flag that represents freedom. That very same flag that our veterans have fought for and our soldiers are still fighting for.

Some argue that the American flag is just a piece of fabric and it does not have any meaning. However, many  people have lost their lives fighting for this “piece of fabric” in order for Americans to have freedoms people in other countries do not have. Ironically, one of these freedoms includes having the right to burn the American flag.

Despite the fact that Americans are free to burn the flag, I take offence for the 3.8 million service connected  disabled veterans and soldiers, the  1.1 million Americans who have died fighting, the 49,933 homeless veterans, and the soldiers who are still missing. Those servicemen fought for the American flag in different U.S. wars, but many who burn the flag do not take that into consideration.

I feel for the veterans who are back home and take offence to the flag burning as well.  In his testimony against the flag burning amendment before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Gary May, a Vietnam war veteran who lost both of his legs while fighting stated that he is offended whenever he sees the flag burned or treated disrespectfully, stating how painful it is to watch the flag’s desecration.

The flag is not just a piece of fabric. Charles Thomson, Secretary of the Continental Congress, spoke about the significance of the flag’s design in 1782:  ” White signifies purity and innocence, Red, hardiness & valour, and Blue, the color of the Chief (the broad band above the stripes) signifies vigilance, perseverance & justice.”

Typically, the desecration of a flag means that someone wants to protest their government or insult the people of the country who are represented by the flag. In other countries, the desecration of the flag results in huge penalties. For instance, in Israel, flag desecration is a criminal offence and comes with a fine of $15,000 or three years in jail. In addition to that consequence, the criminals can be denied of scholarships and of health benefits for up to six years.

However in the United States, flag desecration is protected under the  First Amendment  as freedom of speech. Although there have been different attempts in making flag desecration illegal, they were not successful. The most recent attempt was June 27, 2006 when the fight for flag amendment failed by one vote.

I disagree with the burning of the American flag because I believe that it holds so much meaning to my nation and to me. The American flag is not just a flag; it represents our country and our values.

3 Comments

  1. I disagree with the content of this article. Before you call me unpatriotic, I will declare that America is the best country in the world and I am so proud to be a citizen of this great nation. My parents came to the United States in the 90’s looking for work, knowing that the USA offered more prosperity than other nations. Many countries do not grant citizenship to foreigners, but the US is an exception. Besides the economic side of things, the USA offers something that many other places do not: Freedom of Speech. The United States is one of the only countries on earth that guarantees the rights of the first amendment to all citizens. There are many countries in Western Europe and around the world that do not grant this essential freedom to its residents. If you do not think that flag-burning is an example of free speech, look no further to the landmark court-case called Texas V. Johnson (1989), which ruled that flag-desecrating was in line with the first amendment. This was agreed on both sides of the aisle, including Staunch Conservative Judge Antonin Scalia. He is a strict constitutionalist, and found nothing unconstitutional about flag-burning. It may be somewhat wrong in a moral sense to burn the flag of a nation, but it is not illegal.

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