It's that time of year again!
July 17, 2001 12:29 PM   Subscribe

It's that time of year again! Yes kids, it's time once again for the annual introduction of the Flag-Protection Amendment, currently being debated in the House of Reps. Last year the bill passed the House 305-124 and was defeated in the Senate by only six votes. It's again expected to pass the House and again expected to get shot down in the Senate, but considering the zany sitcom that 21st century American politics has become, who knows what that wacky Legislative branch will do?
posted by Shadowkeeper (26 comments total)
There couldn't be a more patriotic act than to burn the American flag in celebration. Every patriotic American should do it every July 4th, until we become a police state and our freedom is taken from us.
posted by fleener at 12:51 PM on July 17, 2001

isn't that the idea of the amendment?
posted by tolkhan at 12:59 PM on July 17, 2001

..because as everyone knows, every American is calling for a flag-burning amendment. Yup, forget that talk of patients' rights bills, or energy prices.. let's focus on issues that really impact society.
posted by zempf at 1:00 PM on July 17, 2001

Hmm.. that reads badly. Let me make a footnote that I'm knocking Congress for putting stupid bills like this through instead of ones that actually matter..
posted by zempf at 1:02 PM on July 17, 2001

In the words of Jed Bartlet, "There is a population of this country that seems to focus a great deal of time and energy on this conversation; so much so that I am moved to ask this question: Is there an epidemic of flag burning going on that I'm not aware of?"
posted by harmful at 1:19 PM on July 17, 2001

Is there an epidemic of flag burning going on that I'm not aware of?"

That's so not even the issue. There isn't an "epidemic" of necrophilia going on in this country either, yet it's still illegal. That kind of talk is just a way to dance around the real issue at stake, to say "even though I oppose this bill, I think flag burning is evil and wrong, so don't penalize me politically for it."

These elected officials should be standing up and proudly opposing this bill. If anything actually separates the US from the riff-raff (something I believe less and less these days, but still...), it's the First Amendment. I'm with fleener. There's nothing more American than burning a flag.
posted by jpoulos at 1:36 PM on July 17, 2001

. . . execpt for maybe burning a necrophiliac. Wrapped in the flag.

posted by Skot at 1:56 PM on July 17, 2001

While you're at it, do your part for aesthetics and burn Georgia's flag too. Bonus: it would remain to legal to burn if this misguided amendment actually makes it.

Scratch that. It's got a little tiny picture of the American flag on it. Better not, then, just to be safe. :)
posted by Vetinari at 1:57 PM on July 17, 2001

So, if I burned a good-sized post office, I wonder how many counts they could charge me with.
posted by mrbula at 2:11 PM on July 17, 2001

This goes along with crazed nationalists’ belief that America is morally superior and is wronged by would-be usurpers. To minimize anti-American speech — which is clearly deluded since God himself has bestowed the title of “world’s only superpower” on the nation — is to squelch thought. Only right-thinking people are allowed to express themselves; Only those intent on boosterism have speech protected by the first amendment.
posted by capt.crackpipe at 2:33 PM on July 17, 2001

(Or so they’d have it, I mean.)
posted by capt.crackpipe at 2:34 PM on July 17, 2001

[twiddling thumbs, whistling, looking up and around]


[john takes one giant step away from mrbula]
posted by jpoulos at 2:59 PM on July 17, 2001

Amendment = passed.

"Burning a flag is a hate crime, because burning the flag is an expression of contempt for the moral unity of the American people," said Rep. Henry Hyde
posted by Shadowkeeper at 5:18 PM on July 17, 2001

On the off chance 3/4 of our senators lose all brain capacity and finally pass this amendment, I'll be heading down to a tattoo parlor and getting the most offensive flag tattoo possible.
Oh, who am I kidding, I'm going right now anyway....
posted by Doug at 5:48 PM on July 17, 2001

Burning a flag is a hate crime...

Is it me or is that GOP-ese for "in your liberal faces. you want hate crime legislation, we'll give you hate crime legislation"?
posted by jpoulos at 5:57 PM on July 17, 2001

The GOP has been trying for years now to redefine "hate crime" to mean "disliked political speech".
posted by dhartung at 6:05 PM on July 17, 2001

Every time this issue and associated amendment come up in Congress, I get nervous. Being in the US military, I am prohibited from doing anything to desecrate the US flag, and in fact I am proud to pay respect to the flag at appropriate times...but if they ever take away the right to burn a US flag, it would add an element of shame & sadness to my service. On the positive side, I seriously doubt (hope?) that this loony issue will never become law. Congress may be stoopid in many ways, but there remain too many lawmakers who at least can feel, in their bones, that this is just wrong.
posted by davidmsc at 6:31 AM on July 18, 2001

Rep. John Conyers of Michigan said it best: "I am strongly opposed to this resolution because it ... elevates a symbol of freedom over freedom itself.''
posted by goto11 at 6:37 AM on July 18, 2001

Exactly. It is a SYMBOL. Symbols are important and...well, symbolic, but they are not reality.
posted by davidmsc at 6:56 AM on July 18, 2001

What they don't seem to get is that outlawing flag-burning just makes flag-burning a MORE POWERFUL STATEMENT.

Conyers was on it: elevating a symbol of freedom over freedom itself.
posted by mac at 7:11 AM on July 18, 2001

Saddam Hussein was wise to that: he added a couple of verses of the Qu'ran to the Iraqi flag, just so he could transform flag burning into blasphemy.

But I'm with davidmsc: the American constitution is built upon enabling its citizens, and representatives should really be debating more ways to enable those citizens to serve, and show pride, in their country.
posted by holgate at 7:34 AM on July 18, 2001

he added a couple of verses of the Qu'ran to the Iraqi flag, just so he could transform flag burning into blasphemy.

Isn't adding verses of the Qu'ran to a flag, itself, blasphemous?
posted by jpoulos at 8:13 AM on July 18, 2001

I recall a raging debate in my office back in the early 90s. I asked the "no-burners": what if they were locked in a freezing cold warehouse with nothing to set fire to but a stack of American flags?

What if someone made them an American flag birthday cake? Could they light the candles?

What if a really gross, filthy, stinky guy puts on an American flag t-shirt? Isn't that disrespecting the flag too?
posted by mac at 8:19 AM on July 18, 2001

Sometime in the late 80s, when this was before Congress, my father, who then was an active-duty Colonel and devout ACLU-er, gathered his staff in his office, lit a match, and held it directly under a small paper flag on a toothpick. Several of his staffers refused to watch and fled, or turned their heads in disgust. He didn't light the flag, but he wanted to make a point. I'm pretty proud that he did that, and admire his guts.
posted by davidmsc at 9:19 AM on July 18, 2001

You're right, jpoulos, and I stand corrected: the Arabic on the Iraqi flag (added in 1991) reads "God is great", rather than anything specific from the Qu'ran. But it still turns the flag into a religious object. When checking it out, I also came across this story:

For the opening of their stores in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, McDonalds made special wrapping paper for the sandwiches showing regional flags, including the SA flag. However, the flag includes words from the Koran which are considered sacred and not to be thrown in the trash. The outlets closed within a day.

But that's to do with the sacredness of "the word" in Abrahamic religions, not the symbolic value of the flag.
posted by holgate at 9:51 AM on July 18, 2001

What about the mechanics of enforcing such a law? What would define the particular flag that is protected? Number of stripes & stars? Exact colors? If I burned a crimson, egg, and navy flag, would I be penalized? Is it a cloth flag or does paper count? If it's the symbol that counts, can any collection of red, white & blue stars & stripes be considered symbolic of the flag?

Most of the people voting for this amendment already realize that it would never make it into law. The House depends on the Senate to save them; if the Senate screws it up, there's still the states that have to ratify it. Finally, there's the actual intent: per the cited article, the amendment simply gives Congress the power to enact legislation. If by some series of accidents the amendment actually came to be, would these same House members have the courage of their convictions to pass such legislation? (By the courage yardstick, probably not. By the looking-good-in-the-polls meter, they'd be on it like hens on a junebug.)

There might be a few who actually believe that such an amendment and legislation would actually be good things. I disagree with them while respecting their integrity. The majority, however, are hypocrites using the guise of patriotism to gather votes. One can only hope that the flags these clowns are wrapping themselves in are the flags that get burned in protest.
posted by joaquim at 11:30 AM on July 19, 2001

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