How else to explain the vote this week in the Senate, which would give the Congress the power to ban flag burning? What can this be, if not pandering to the right wing before the November elections?
As to flag burning itself, I hate to see it. I do not enjoy watching someone burn a flag on TV, because of what it represents, the hatred which that person holds for America. Usually when you see a flag burned, it is happening in a foreign land, and the people there are ANGRY with America. I guess I just want to be liked, want my country to be liked, and I hate that we so often fail miserably at that. But if watching our flag burn is upsetting to us, it is because that flag is supposed to REPRESENT something, and one of the things that the flag represents is our constitution, our freedoms, and our way of life. One of the things that our flag represents is our right to disagree with our government, with the things that they do and say, and to protest that government. In other words, one of the things that our flag represents is the right to burn our flag.
Does anyone else remember this debate going around in the late '80s, and that 48 states had passed flag protection laws, before the Supreme Court stepped in and declared those laws to be unconstitutional, and against our 1st amendment rights? This is the JOB of the Supreme Court, to decide whether the laws in our nation support or oppose our constitution. The will of the people is not as much a factor as whether the laws are constitutional or not. And if the will of the people is strong enough, it can overpower the Court, by first winning the votes in the House and Senate, and then ratification in 2/3 of the states. Since all 50 states have asked Congress to send them this amendment for ratification, it seems clear to me that this amendment has a pretty darned good chance of passing and becoming a part of our Constitution.
Usually when I see an American Flag burning, it is in a foreign land. I almost never see a flag burning in the United States. But maybe I'm missing something. Has flag burning somehow gotten out of control in the United States, to the point that we need a Constitutional AMENDMENT to deal with it? Let's see, according to this news article, there have been four instances of flag burning or vandalism so far in 2006. Four. Excuse me, but this doesn't seem like a problem that warrants our Senate's attention. How many people in our country have died from hunger so far this year? How many children have lost their families and homes due to poverty? How many people have died because they couldn't get the medical care that they needed, because they couldn't afford health insurance? I'm guessing the numbers in all of those cases is greater than four. This seems like a case of Nero fiddling while Rome burns, to me. And I'm not even including those killed, maimed, and their lives destroyed by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Seriously, people, Congress has bigger issues, that they are willfully neglecting in order to consider this motion. People in our country, that they are willfully neglecting. Remember that when you vote.
One other thing that really frosts my cake here is this quote, taken from the same news article, from Utah Republican Orin Hatch: "The First Amendment was denigrated when five unelected judges took the power away from the people." Excuse me, but the Supreme Court is one third of our balance of powers, and like it or not, they are supposedly above the politics of elections. To reduce them to 'unelected judges' is to criticise the very founding of our country, and the constitution itself. I don't know that the constitution is a perfect document, and certainly the Supreme Court is anything but apolitical, but it's what we have, and so far it works in many ways. I resent Hatch trying to tout patriotism as though it is the property of the right wing, and act as though the judges are "activist judges' with an agenda at heart, when they choose to defend our constitution. I'm sure he'll feel differently if the current Court overturns Roe v. Wade. Then again, so will I.
UPDATE: Thankfully, this measure was defeated by one vote in the Senate today. Hopefully, the November elections will be such that the balance of power will be shifted, and this non-issue won't come up again for awhile. Still, one of my readers, Ann, commented that one of our California Senators planned to vote for the amendment. Be sure Diane will be getting a letter from me one day soon, and I'll be checking in on Barbara as well to see her views. And the picture up there? That's GW, desecrating the flag with a marker. Because it's not ok to burn it in protest, using our first amendment rights, but it's fine to write on it, make a bikini or a hat out of it, or strap it to the back of your truck so it gets all tattered and cool looking in the wind.