Steel City Cowboy

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Does That Star Spangled Place Mat Yet Wave?

I know the flag burning stupidity is over and done, at least for this election cycle, and even though my writing time has been severely lagging behind everything else I'm doing, I thought I'd weigh in, albeit late.

The notion of an anti-flag burning law is, at best, completely untenable. And as a Constitutional Amendment, it's even worse. I don't discuss internecine politics here because it's pretty much always the same old crap, recycled every couple of years, and hardly bears comment, so I won't address the internal political aspects of this issue except to say that when laws (or Amendments) like this are proposed that have such glaring faults, the cause is almost always petty politics. But, it's about protecting our institutions! Or something. Yeah. Don't piss down my back and tell me it's raining.

Let's suppose for a second that there is a Constitutional Amendment allowing the states to enact laws banning the burning of the American flag. Let's say that Pennsylvania enacts such a law.

What if I burn an old-style stars-in-a-circle flag? Illegal? It's not our current flag. What if I burn what looks like an American flag, but actually has little white Care Bear patches on it instead of stars? What if I fashion a stars and bars but use the colors of the Dallas Cowboys and burn that at a Steeler tailgate party? Should those be covered by the law or not?

Well, after crap like that, the lawmakers get pissed that people are circumventing the spirit of the law by burning pseudo flags. So they expand the law. Now, burning these kinds of almost-flags is illegal.

I throw my Fourth of July picnic trash in the burning barrel. One of the disposable place mats had a large image of the American flag on it. My neighbor, whose had a grudge against me ever since I called him a "feckless turd burglar" at the town council meeting, catches it on video. I've just burned an almost-flag. I'm busted.

Okay, say the lawmakers, when my case gets trumpted on the local news. It's all about intent! We'll add an amendment to the law that allows law enforcement and the courts to scrutinize intent. Was the person burning the near-flag intending the act as political speech or simply going about their daily business? That ought to fix it!

So, the only people who would be prosecuted for burning flags or for defacing pseudo flags would be those who did it with the purpose of making a political statement. There. That should... work... oh wait. Crap. We can't do that. Pesky First Amendment.

Roll it back, then, to the point where only burning an actual American flag is against the law. Now, once again, any protester who wants to burn the flag and get on their local news can just burn an extra large flag place mat, or a flag with forty stars, or a flag with slightly wiggly stripes instead of straight ones. And from the viewpoint of most bystanders, including television cameras, what's the difference? Curses, says the legislature. Foiled again!

And that's the basic flaw with this sort of law. Unless it is made untenably broad -- covering all variations and incarnations of the flag -- it becomes desired effect can be easily circumvented. What's the difference between a retired flag being disposed of in the accepted fashion (burning) and a Hamas supporter torching Old Glory in the town square? Clearly, it's the intent of the participant. It's the point they're trying to make. And certain politicians try to say that this isn't about political expression. That's all it's about.

And I thought the Democrats were the jackasses. Well, they are. But.

Here's a thought to turn the mutliculti's weapons back on themselves (note -- this is an ironic theoretical, not a call to action. If you do this, I will not be paying your legal bills. But if you do it, please post the video on the Internet so we can all watch). The next time you see someone burning the flag, punch them in their stupid head. When you get hauled in front of a judge, claim that burning the flag in your presence constituted "hate speech" and that, as it was a form of expression, it was tantamount to "fighting words". And if the local magistrate is a cantankerous American cowboy who isn't familiar with the actual "fighting words" doctrine, he might just give you a wink, take that as legitimate and let you off.

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