Amendment to Protect the American Flag
Regarding the Proposed
to Protect the American Flag
Many people want to create a new constitutional amendment to prohibit desecration of the American flag. I agree with the sentiment that our flag is meaningful and should be respected. I have low regard for those who would trample our flag or disrepect it in any way. Nevertheless, creating a new constitutional amendment to protect the flag is wrong for a multitude of reasons. This amendment should never find its way into our constitution.
When I hear about the proposed amendment, the first thing I wonder is, "Which flag?" Which American flag would we protect? What about the flag with thirteen stripes and thirteen stars in a circle? That was our first flag. Is that one to be protected also, or can we burn that one but not the current flag? In our nation's 230-year existance, we've had several official flags, each with a different arrangement of the stars. Do we protect them all, or just the current official flag?
Let's suppose the amendment only protects the current flag, the one with fifty stars. Do you remember recently we had a 48-star flag for many years? Did you know that someone could burn the 48-star flag and from a distance nobody would know it was not a 50-star flag? Yet it would not be unconstitutional. If the current flag only is protected, what if somebody sewed a fifty-first star onto the flag and then burned it? Again, from a distance, nobody would know it was not the real flag. The effect of burning a look-alike is just as potent and meaningful as burning the real thing.
If the amendment protects only the current flag, will we need a new amendment when we get a new flag?
So, let's suppose the amendment protects all representations of the flag. A 13-star flag would be protected just as much as a 50-star flag. What about Uncle Sam's hat? Remember the characature of Uncle Sam wearing a top hat made to look like the American flag? Is that desecration or is it protected? Have you ever attended a political rally and saw red-and-white stripped hangings on the railing around the speaker? That is a representation of the American flag. Sometimes they even have white stars on a blue field. That is definitely the American flag. Is that desecration or is it protected? If it is desecration, we can't do that any more. If it is protected, then we must dispose of all these representations in a proper way.
What about school children? If a child draws a picture of the flag and then throws it in the garbage, is he desecrating the flag? If not, why not? After all, some communities put five-year-olds in jail if they draw a picture of a handgun or even hold a stick as if it's a gun. Any child drawing a picture of the flag and not properly disposing of it would be committing a federal crime. Perhaps their parents should go to jail.
In addition to defining what a flag is, we must also deal with proper treatment of an old flag. How do we dispose of an old, tattered flag? It is improper to throw it into the garbage. So how do we dispose of it? Today, the proper disposal of an American flag is to burn it. In fact, burning a sacred object has been considered the proper disposal method for thousands of years. You can read about it in the Tenach (i.e. Old Testament). So now some people want to create a constitutional amendent to prohibit burning the American flag. How are we supposed to dispose of our old flags?
Perhaps the new amendment would outlaw burning the flag with the improper intent (thought) but allow burning it with the proper intent. Are we supposed to start regulating people's thoughts in our constitution now?
How are we supposed to enforce such a constitutional amendment anyway? Do we really want to create a police force to make sure everybody respects our flag? Do we really want to bring these cases to court and encumber our legal system further? Would we not all prefer that our police and our courts focus on other matters, such as stopping terrorists and other dangerous criminals? Do we really want to start enforcing thought control? I, for one, don't.
I disagree with the thought of creating new constitutional amendments for minor matters, such as descration of the American flag. I believe the constitution should be used to structure the government. How does the federal government work? What can it do? What may it not do? How do the state governments work? That is enough. Using the constitution to regulate actions of people is too much. That is what we have other laws for.
Amendments to the constitution have frequently been used to guarantee rights to the people. An exception to that was the Prohibition amendment, which was repealed thirteen years later. Other than that, constitutional amendments have traditionally been used to structure our government (e.g. limiting presidents to two terms) and to guarantee our freedoms (e.g. no more slavery) by prohibiting government from taking them away.
The government itself has the right to make laws that regulate people. Creating a constitutional amendment to do that is frivolous and does nothing but stroke the egos of misguided patriots.
Long live the American flag! Long live the American constitution! Let's not demean them both by trying to create a new amendment to protect the flag!