It’s been often commented, in this blog and elsewhere, that Trump is ideologically untethered, that he shoots from the hip far too often, given the importance and power of his position, and that it’s sometimes hard to figure out what he’s thinking and wants to do.

There are times, however, when it’s as easy as figuring out that kids prefer ice cream over broccoli. Matters to do with the American flag is one of those. This past Friday, which happened to be Flag Day, witnessed the (re)introduction of a measure to prohibit flag burning, via Constitutional Amendment, by Montana Senator Steve Daines (R). Trump promptly cheered the proposal, calling it a “no-brainer.” And, of course, right on cue, some Trumpists in the media shouted concurrence.

More thoughtful conservatives figuratively muttered and shook their heads, recognizing that such a proposal runs directly afoul of the First Amendment and the basic tenets of free speech. It makes it harder to criticize the Left for their anti-free-speech ways when such an obvious infringement is being advanced by a member of the Republican party and supported by its titular head.

Obvious infringement? Yes. Without doubt, question, or reservation. Even Daines tacitly admits so, by proffering his prohibition in the form of a Constitutional Amendment.

Burning the flag is constitutionally protected speech. The Supreme Court affirmed thus in Texas v Johnson, relying on earlier decisions that affirmed non-speech acts as forms of speech, and was correct in doing so. For it is in our defense of the free expression of that with which we disagree that we demonstrate our principled defense of liberty itself, and it is in our failure to do so that we show ourselves to be no better than those whom we criticize for attempting to oppress, control, and subjugate us.

Does the Flag deserve an exemption from the First Amendment? No. Flags are inanimate objects, no matter that they are symbols. Symbols matter within the context of human thought, and it is the freedom of human thought that is protected by 1A. Besides, banning flag burning will do nothing to change the minds of those who’d burn the flag. It would only mean that those people would be locked up for offending someone else’s fragile sensibilities.

Don’t like flag burning and flag burners? Guess what? I don’t either. I consider the American Constitution to be the greatest achievement in governance in the entirety of human history, I consider the flag a symbol of that achievement, and while I’m not fanatical about its treatment, I do find deliberate desecrations offensive.

That means I’ll call you an asshole for burning the flag.

Provided, that is, that it’s your flag. Burn someone else’s flag, you’re destroying another’s property, and I’ll happily advocate that you be dealt with accordingly. But, if you paid for that flag, do with it as you wish. Just know that you’re not protected from criticism if you do something that others find wrong or offensive. I won’t violate your rights or liberty, but just as none of us has a right not to be offended (forget that the Left insists that such a spurious right exists), none of us has a right not to be derided. With vulgarity of whatever sort strikes my fancy in the moment.

Conservatives, this is exactly the sort of issue where you need to walk the walk. If you reject the Left’s belief that personal offense or affront is actionable, you cannot make an exception for this, no matter how affronted you are. If you don’t, you forego any moral ascendancy you may otherwise claim in your defense of rights, liberty, and the Constitution against its aggressors.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.


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