The Commonwealth Iconoclast

A site dedicated to covering issues relevant to the Commonwealth of Virginia, and nation at large, plus other interesting things too, as I see fit...

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Old Glory… What does it mean to you?


Is it wise to tinker with the Constitution?

Thoughts to consider as we celebrate the 4th of July.

Enforcing patriotism through Constitutional Amendment… a patently dumb idea!



I don’t know about you folks, but I will admit it. I am counting down the hours leading up to my badly needed long 4th of July week-end. Four glorious days of sun and fun, grilling grandma’s famous barbeque chicken recipe, and probably knocking back a few cold ones.

Ah! I can see it now!

But first I have a few more jobs to work on and a few loose ends to tie up with the Iconoclast… before taking off to hopefully soak up some sun … weather permitting.

So… what does the 4th of July mean to you?

More to the point of this discussion, what does Old Glory mean to you? You know... the American flag?

It is perhaps by design that on Tuesday of this week, the United States Senate took up the matter of a Constitutional Amendment effectively banning the desecration of the American flag. The measure failed to pass by the slimmest of margins… falling only ONE VOTE short of necessary two thirds majority required for a Constitutional Amendment to move ahead.

This is not a new issue. The whole idea goes back at least to the 104th Congress with House Joint Resolution 79 and Senate Joint Resolution 31, both having had votes in 1995… eleven years ago. But the fundamental debate probably goes back much further. A detailed discussion on the Flag Desecration Amendment can be examined here.

The House passed a similar measure last year 286 to 130, comfortably above the required two-thirds.

Presuming both houses get the required two-thirds affirmative votes, a proposed Constitutional Amendment still is not valid until ratified by three-quarters of the of the several States. The specific process for Amending the Constitution is set forth in Article 5 of the Constitution.

Both of Virginia’s Senators, John Warner and George Allen, voted in favor of this proposed Constitutional Amendment. Details of this vote can be seen in The Richmond Times Dispatch.

Before going further, I want to make something perfectly clear. I love the American flag and believe I understand what it stands for. It is a visually beautiful banner that still and always will inspire in me great emotions of pride in our great Nation. I know what the flag means to me and I don't really have to explain my views or try to sell them to anyone else.

I will admit, however, it kind of riles me up when somebody desecrates my flag.

But… and this is a big but… I have got problems with the idea of tinkering with the Constitution to effectively impose government policed “respect for the flag” through an Amendment of the most fundamental law of the land.

If this Constitutional Amendment were passed by both houses and ratified by the States by the necessary margins, it would just be the starting point for all kinds of new laws at the federal and state levels to spell out the exact details of how we are going to enforce the new Constitutional Amendment.

For example…what exactly constitutes desecration of the American flag? Are we going to prosecute people who wear American flags on their clothing? Also… and this is really important …how are we going to punish people who don’t show enough respect for the flag? If this Amendment comes to pass, all of the details will be sorted out by Congress and the various State legislatures in due time.

Does this prospect make you comfortable?

Something about this idea just rubs me the wrong way. Maybe it seems to be just a little bit too "Taliban-like" and a bit unbecoming of American sensibilities.

Most of the critics of this Constitutional Amendment to ban the desecration of the flag argue that First Amendment rights of freedom of speech would infringed. I tend to agree with this concern.

But this is not my biggest concern.

My biggest concern is what impact a Constitutional Amendment to ban the desecration of the American flag says about our core beliefs in the basic idea of freedom.

Do we really want to be passing laws to force people to respect the American flag and all that it is supposed to stand for?


Or would it perhaps be better if we left the people to respect the American flag out of the convictions that they hold in their hearts?


Bottom line: In my view, a Constitutional Amendment to ban desecration of the flag is unnecessary tinkering with the Constitution and a patently dumb idea! So long as those who would desecrate the flag don’t stand in my way while I fly Old Glory, let them peacefully exercise their First Amendment rights.

Freedom!

Let Old Glory long fly high over the home of the brave and the land of the free... but only so long as we really believe in freedom.

Happy 4th of July.



PS: This Constitutional Amendment will be back… Oh yes… It will be back. It is the season of politics.

9 Comments:

  • At 6/29/2006 9:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    You bring up valid concerns in regard to how to enforce this "law"...maybe we could start a "flag police"...

     
  • At 6/29/2006 10:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The First Amendment, the one concerning freedom of religion, speech, press and assembly, serves an important function as a "pressure relief valve" for honest differences of opinion. The potential consequences of damaging that function through a Constitutional Amendment is frightening. We should not be afraid of different ideas even if we disagree or find them offensive. Let us not throw the baby out with the bath water.

     
  • At 6/29/2006 12:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I don't claim to be any kind of constitutional scholar and I sure as hell ain't no bleeding heart civil libertarian. But- and please excuse me if this is a dumb question - wouldn't we be better off to let those crackpot, anti-American, jackasses continue to desecrate our flag in public - where I, my neighbors, the local police, and the FBI can see them?

     
  • At 6/29/2006 2:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    yes, I guess only crazy liberal jane fondaespe types care about civil liberties.

    I mean aren't the best nations in the world police states?

    How about Bush create a new divions on Homeland Security to monitor flag desicration and appoint George Allen to head it up?

     
  • At 6/29/2006 6:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    There are so many good examples in history where oppressive regimes have applied ever stricter measures to silence dissent. The only predictable result is that dissent goes underground and multiplies in force.

    Don't our politicians ever study history? Senator Warner? Senator Allen? Are you listening?

     
  • At 6/29/2006 9:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Why do our elected officials like to waste so much time on such issues as gay marriage and flag desecration? Haven't they got more important things to do?

     
  • At 6/30/2006 12:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Since when did we start having this big problem with flag desecration? Guess I missed it. Too busy working, trying to feed my kids, paying the mortgage, deal with real issues in my life. Maybe these Senators have a little more time to worry about what is really important. Jesus, where do we get these idiots?

     
  • At 7/04/2006 11:11 AM, Anonymous Bubba said…

    Happy 4th. Cheers.

     
  • At 7/06/2006 1:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Very much enjoyed the 4th celebration in Washington DC. Saw lots of American flag themed clothing and decorations. Many of this did not conform to the recommended protocol for American flag display. Question: is this flag desecration? If so, what punishment is needed? Just wondering. God Bless America.

     

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