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Flag-Burning Comments: March-October 1997

stuart bullion writes:
As a weary veteran of fighting the flag amendment campaigns of 1996 and the current offensive (not to mention two tours in Vietnam and the whole show in Desert Storm), I finally found your page. I'm impressed at your effort, and I agree with most of what you say.

How you say it troubles me a bit. This is not a partisan issue, yet you suggest that it's the GOP or conservatives supporting the amendment. Check the party affiliations on the list of house co-sponsors. Check some of the amendment supporters you quote, e.g., Diane Feinstein. I also wish you'd lose the burning-flag graphics, etc. They just give your opponents cause to say, "I told you so," and to condemn all amendment opponents as proponents of flag burning. (If I caught someone burning the flag, I'm the one who'd probably end up in jail!)

I've been doing as much as I can to block HR 54, but I'm not very optimistic. I'm especially disappointed with the press, an institution that has much to lose, but doesn't seem to care very much. The American Society of Newspaper Editors and the Society of Professional Journalists oppose the amendment, and they've urged journalists to speak up, but I'm not seeing much editorial activity. (I'm a journalism professor, by the way.) One thing people can do is shame their local newspaper into commenting. They can download sample editorials at http://www.asne.org and send them to their editorial page editor. To-the-point letters to the editor are very effective, because they make people aware of what's happening, and politicians' staff squirrels take note of them too.

The pro-amendment forces are not grass-roots, although they present themselves as such: They are well-funded "patriot" organizations. A handful of everyday people in every city around the country can make an enormous difference.

Feinstein and her ilk argue (actually, they just declare) that flag desecration is not speech. The counter to this is the intent of the flag burners. Are they expressing dissent? Yes, so flag burning is speech. The flag is a symbol, words are symbols: This is a SPEECH issue. All the arguments Feinstein et al make about the flag being the overarching, sacred symbol of society are true, but only as long as the flag remains the "people's flag" and not the "government's flag." The amendment would de facto take away private ownership of the American flag. (I find the property rights argument is a persuasive.)

Finally, the amendment is a sedition law. (This fact is almost absent from the controversy, but I thinks it's a critical element.) The Alien and Sedition Acts and the sedition laws passed during World War I were shameful episodes that resulted in persecutions and prosecutions of people for simply disagreeing with their government. The USA is one of the very few societies in the world that does not prosecute seditious libel (criticism of the state, its officials and its symbols). Do we really want to join China and Iran?

Terry M. Wintroub writes:

To: Senator Robert Torricelli (senator_torricelli@torricelli.senate.gov)
Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (frank_lautenberg@lautenberb.senate.gov)
Representative Michael Pappas (by paper copy)


I hear that, like a vampire, this flag desecration amendment has come back from the dead. Seems we killed it last summer, but here it is again.

I urge you to do everything you can to minimize the debate and other time wasted on this silliness. If it comes to a vote, I urge you to vote against the proposed amendment.

"Why?" you ask. The voters and non-voting constituents of New Jersey and the U.S. aren't paying congressmen to diddle around with non-issues like flag burning. American schools are rotting; people around the world are starving and being slaughtered; high school and college graduates can't read; world population growth is wildly out of control; crime and fear of crime (street AND white collar) are undermining the quality of life that is supposed to make America attractive; dirtballs are torturing dogs, roosters, bulls, horses for recreation; idiots and defectives are driving around killing and maiming other drivers and pedestrians. States can't tackle problems because "all" the tax money is going to Washington. Now the United States Congress and the legislatures of 50 states are going to piss away time and energy arguing over whether the flag needs protection from a couple of folks every few years who decide to burn one? WHAT'S WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE????

There is no "the" flag of the United States of America. There is my flag. There is your flag. There is A flag atop the post office. There is A flag hanging from the ceiling in Princeton University's Jadwin gym. There are thousands of flags of the USA. If I go to Kmart, buy a flag, take it home and burn it or wrap fish in it, that is not the business of the State of New Jersey, the FBI, the New Jersey legislature nor the US Congress. It's my flag, fer cryin' out loud! If I steal your flag, prosecute me for theft. It matters not whether I stole it so I could salute it every morning or so I could burn it in a protest march. The crime is theft.

Let's say mass hysteria actually carries this issue, the Constitution gets amended, South Carolina legislates against burning flags (I do hope you at least smile at the irony of South Carolina, home of Ft. Sumter, banning flag desecration). Some guy cuts up an old sheet, paints 12 red and white stripes on it and 30 or 40 white stars on a blue background, takes it out front of the Selective Service System office and burns it. We get him for obstructing traffic, burning without a permit, and littering. But not desecrating the US flag because it WASN'T a US flag, was it?

So now the august members of the South Carolina legislature, still having their priorities screwed up, go piss away even more time refining their stupid law so they can slap this guy with a fine or jail sentence. In the meantime, he's probably moved to North Dakota.

How many cases of flag desecration are on record? Forty-five? How many cases of official misconduct by elected officials? How many cases of abuse of office? How many of obstruction of justice by government employees? How many misdemeanors and felonies by foreign diplomats? Is Representative Solomon lining up 200 of his pals to co-sponsor constitutional amendments addressing these?

Ok, issue 1 is it's a waste of time: it's too minor an issue and it occurs too rarely to bother with.. Issue 2 is it's too vague a matter to capture and too easy to get around any law. Issue 3 is that you don't amend the constitution just because some people get all emotional over some symbol. Wife beating is a heckuva lot more common, and serious, that flag burning. Is Solomon next going to introduce an amendment to the constitution to protect Mom, just so we can properly pay national homage to the important values She represents?

Issue 4 is that flag burning IS a legitimate, and protected, act of protest. It is illegitimate of some group of people (congressmen, vets, the majority of Americans, etc.) to impose on everyone THEIR symbolic attachments. A given artifact can symbolize many quite different things.

Does a beard symbolize radical, anti-authoritarian political sentiments? To some, yes. To the rest of us, no.

Does the Stars and Bars symbolize a belief in the enslavement and oppression of blacks? Or does it symbolize a fierce commitment to states' rights and opposition to the encroachments of central government?

Does the Stars and Stripes represent courage, integrity, tolerance, honesty, opportunity, family, love, fair-dealing? To some, yes. I wonder what it represents to old Apaches. Or to Vietnamese peasants 30+ years old. Or to Branch Davidians. The American flag AND the public (public, not just the government) it is supposed to represent have been parties to some of the most heinous acts in history. It is an affront to honor and intelligence to pretend that the USA has always celebrated only noble values and conduct.

When protesters are opposing some policy or national behavior and want to stir public opinion to oppose that, what symbol SHOULD they use? When Jesse Helms, or the Ku Klux Klan, or some other group wraps itself in the flag, how SHOULD someone symbolically repudiate those flagwavers? If the wavers get to claim that the American flag represents their values, why shouldn't their opponents be able to burn it publicly? When "the bad guys" have appropriated that flag, so that it no longer represents Good, Truth, and Justice, the burner is burning the wretched elements of America's past and present, not the noble elements.

The next time one of your knee jerk patriots goes ballistic over a burning flag and starts foaming over how many brave boys died for that flag, etc., etc., try asking the burner what he's trying to say. Do you really think he is disparaging the armed resistance to Nazi brutality? Is he disparaging the Marshall Plan or the Peace Corps? Is he disparaging the Statue of Liberty's welcome to the world's downtrodden? Not likely, wouldn't you agree?

Drop this resolution, get your friends to drop this resolution, and all of you get back to work on REAL issues. You don't have time for this goofiness.

Wayne A. Coverdale writes:

Does it ever occur to these morons who we pay and pension in luxury for life that the reason there is so much contempt for law is the volume of contemptable laws?

And why is the "solution" never repeal of stupid, smothering, unenforcable law, but the addition of "patch" law to "enhance" existing law and penalty?

Henry Hanks writes:

I read most of the information on the page that you have created. I have not finished all of it because of the time constrants that I have surfing the net as I am a student and finals are coming soon. I will return, however, to finish reading what I have missed.

Your page is a labor of love for this country. Many people have attacked you and called you a "prick" etc... but I think that anyone who has done as much research on the attacks on the first amendment as you have shows much greater patriotism than those who who allow their opinons and rash judgements to blind their vision.

I support what you have said in your page as I too think that the flag amendment is a violation of first amendment rights. Congress and others are not allowed to supress speech mearly because they find such speech personally offensive. I do not agree with the opinions and actions of skinheads, the kkk, black panthers, the nation of islam, the christian colition, Rush, and many other groups/people; however, I will fight for their right to say what they want without being supressed.

Tim Cox writes:

It's truly staggering to read the comments generated by your flag-burning web page. The odd, and wide-spread notion that legions have given their life for the flag baffles me. I can imagine they died thinking they were protecting their loved ones or their country, but all of these jokers think heroes died for a flag. Hmm, how strange. How belittling of the deaths of patriots. Excellent knee-jerk response, I'll grant them....

It's a clever, interesting, and thought-provoking web page. I'm glad that in the interest of free speech and love of country you "had the balls" (to quote the good Dr.) to create and maintain it, not to mention spend the time and thought responding to legions of flaming idiots. Peace.

Justin Goodman writes:

Somehow I wandered into your little war room. My initial reaction was that of repulsion. However, the more I read, the more I wanted to read. I must give you credit for your dedication to your cause. I found your entire web page very thorough and extremely articulate. But, I felt it would receive a much warmer embrace without the virtual flag burning since, your side of the debate seems to be the stopping of an amendment to our constitution, and not to the specific right to burn a flag.

As a U.S. Marine, I take great exception to anyone burning or defacing ANY symbol of our great country. Let alone the flag. As a Marine I also take great exception to any amendment to the constitution that would take away or change an American's freedom of speech. However, I believe that SOMETHING needs to be done to prevent dissidents, terrorists, or any other agitators from maliciously destroying a truly heralded symbol of our country simply to prove a point. I realize that this one act of rebellion is such an attention getter, but I HAVE to believe that there are other ways of expressing one's discontent without defacing one of the symbols that made it possible for that person to express himself freely in the first place. This seems a little hypocritical.

I do not trust the lawmakers ability to define the word FLAG without seeding the amendment with inane articles that would simply discredit the original intent. I also do not trust the members of the House or Senate to simply vote with their hearts and leave the political agendas out of it, no matter how the amendment is worded. Therefore, I do not support the amendment for the simple reason that I do not believe it can be enacted without trampling all over all of our other rights as Americans. If this amendment were to be approved, what's next? Maybe my right to bear arms?

This does not mean that if it passes I would rush out and burn a flag, I could never do that. That flag inspires and instills a great deal of pride in a lot of people, including myself.

I truly enjoyed the thought provoking reading material and I am inspired that so many people have taken up the cause (or at least responded) to preserve our inalienable rights as United States citizens.

Eric Schwartz writes:

does anyone remember a group in germany that started in the early 30's...well if you don't they were called the nazi party...and ya know what they had laws about burning flags because they were a nationalist party that had to brainwash the country into nationalism so that they didn't realize that the country was taking away their freedom...if you support the the anti-flag-desecration act you obviously have already been brainwashed by the government and their is no way to save you...at least there is still a group of free thinkers left who support this page...

F Williamson writes:

I'm only a fourteen year old girl and a "bleeding heart liberal" (gasp), and I applaud you Warren, for taking a stand. I myself don't plan on burning a flag anytime in the near future, but I take comfort knowing that our Constitution allows me freedom of expression, thus the right to burn my own flag bought with my own money on my own property. I don't see why this is even a big issue in Congress when they should be fighting hunger and murder and homelesness, etc. instead of engaging in a silly battle over a virtually non-existant problem. By trying to mess with the rights given us by the First Ammendment, our government is making a mountain out of a mole-hill. If law officials really want to deal with flag burning, why not do it creatively? How about enforcing burning ban laws that already exsist? Or prosecute burners who burned or burned on others' property? To all who support the outlawing of flag burning: How many cases of flag burning have you heard of? How many flags have you seen burned? Not many, huh? Now, how many homeless people have you seen? How many do you see each time you walk/drive downtown? A lot, huh? So which do you think is more important to do, restrict our rights, what our country is built on, or help people who are actually suffering instead of satisfying power-hungry politicians who want to exercise their ill-given power? By the way, most of the flags you buy are made in China and Tawain, that's oh so supportive of America's economy and sweatshop workers. And exactly what sort of flags would be deamed protected? Would it be the little ones that come with drinks or just the jumbo flagpole ones? And would using a tee-shirt with a flag on it as a rag be punishable by law? Would it be desecration? My point is that is hard to draw the line at where things must stop, especially when this thing should never have been such an issue in the first place. I am happy that I live in a place where I can express my beliefs, I wouldn't have it another way. I love my country, just not un-conditionally. People who do are inviting a dictatorship. One last thing, I read with interest the comments on the Flames page, it's funny to me that so many people can't express their opinions without being extremely distasteful with their language. The comments such as "you prick" and "motherf***er" just weren't very impressing or persuasive. For the record I do not hate politicians as I alluded to earlier. In fact, I may become one, and let me assure you I will never infringe on your rights.

Richard Jones writes:

What is flag desecration? What percentage of taxpayers even know flag etiquette and what is flag desecration? I see many Americans proudly flying their flags with a sense of patriotism, but many of those flags are flown till they're tattered and shredded (that's desecration). Many people forget, or are too lazy to take them down in the rain or at night, (depending upon whether or not it's illuminated, that's desecration). I see postal workers folding their flag at the end of their day "accidentally" touching it to the ground, that's desecration.

What do we do with a flag that's expired, I.e. touched the ground or become ragged, etc? Does any body know? Do we throw it in the trash? THAT'S DESECRATION. The flag is nothing but a symbol of our country. When people see this country going off the track of what the Founding Fathers had instituted, through the Declaration of Independence, The Bill of Rights, & The Constitution, they become more likely to make a political statement by burning the flag.

The flag is not what makes this country great, nor is the Government. What makes this country Great, is the Founding Documents, i.e. The Constitution, etc. As we alter from that course, we loose our greatness. When we look at this country's leadership, what they say, then what they do, we see the reasons behind the "anti-American" sentiment of our flag burners and other protesters. What appears anti-American, in many cases is actually PRO-Founding Documents, and a futile attempt to admonish our "fraudulently" elected officials.

"Fraudulently" because they run on one set of promises, then do something other. That's where the problem lies, Weak Leadership, Hypocrisy, and Lies. That is what perpetuates the apathy of their constituency. Perhaps they profit from this apathy. Of course, the laziness & ignorance of the voters is capitalized on as well.

Which brings us back to "Flag Desecration". They pass these FEEL GOOD laws (such as the above mentioned), that effect people's emotions, and keep them off the real issues (such as the size of government). Why does PA. with only 1/3 the population of CA., have three times the amount of representatives, and make almost twice their average income ($80,000: $150,000) ?

Now we're going to have an amendment to tell us not to desecrate the flag? We already have too many laws that are not even being enforced. All these laws on top of laws only breed disrespect for the law. We need to delete the old laws when we make new ones, or when they become outdated. I believe that many of these laws being passed are not even read, i.e. NAFTA, 26,000 pages. How could anyone vote on something 26,000 pages long? It was obviously never read from cover to cover. We don't need a flag desecration amendment, we need smaller government & common sense.

Paul E. Wilson writes:

I see that those who would use "protection" of the Flag as an excuse to outlaw forms of political dissent and symbolic speech which they find offensive are at it again.

I'm an honorably discharged veteran (USN 64-68) and I believe very strongly in the principles that the U.S. Flag stands for, specifically, freedom, democracy, and the rule of constitutional law. I am totally opposed, however, to the, so called, "flag protection" amendment. I believe that support for such an amendment is misguided "patriotism" and a threat to freedom, democracy, and the First Amendment.

The Flag is not more important than the ideals it represents. To believe this and to misunderstand that the Flag is only the symbol and not the actual ideals themselves is a serious abuse of logic and common sense. Respect for the Flag is not the same thing as respect for the principles it represents. Protecting the Flag is not the same thing as protecting the spirit of freedom, democracy, and the rule of law. To amend the Bill of Rights for the first time in our history to silence unpopular and offensive forms of political dissent and symbolic speech is a grave mistake. The attack on the First Amendment is an act of tyranny not an attempt to preserve freedom and the values that Americans veterans allegedly fought for.

"The Flag" does not need protection; flags can be easily mass produced. The inalienable rights of human beings can not be so easily mass produced, as the blood and sacrifice of countless American, both veteran and non- veteran, have proved. Veterans and radical right wing political groups do not have a monopoly on the Flag; the Flag belongs to all Americans.

Our forefathers understood that the majority could become a tyrannical force in a democratic society. The Constitution was designed to protect the dissenting individual or minority group from the tyranny of the majority. Countless men and women have suffered and died in order to preserve freedom and democracy; I'm sure that the supporters of the flag desecretion amendment can live with the occasional irritation of a flag burner in order to do the same.

Nations have been destroyed by people who hold flags and patriotic symbols in higher esteem than the principles and values that they claim to allegedly believe in. Wm. Shirer lived in Germany during the rise of Hitler and wrote about his experiences. In his book "The Nightmare Years", he describes the many times that he and others, not sympathetic to the nationalistic idolatry of the Nazis, had to duck into allleyways and the doors of open shops in order to avoid the roaming bands of brown- shirted fascist who were parading the Nazi flag through the streets. If anyone did not stand at attention and offer the "proper respect" for the flag (and, of course, the people waving the flag), they were harassed, beaten, or even killed. This mentality has no place in a free and democratic American society.

Robert Frenchu writes:

I'm having a lot of trouble trying to understand why the so-called flag-burning amendment is such a burning issue with Congress.

Be that as it may, if the Flag deserves Constitutional protection than we should insist that Mother and Apple Pie deserve the same Guarantee of Safety.

All too often I pick up the newspaper only to read about another senseless pie desecration- I tell you- something has got to be done! Some of my relatives died for Mom and Apple Pie (or was it lemon meringue?) and I, for one, shall not stand idly by while this sacrilege takes place. I challenge legislators everywhere to begin drafting lengthy amendments immediately to protect these sacred icons from further defilement.

Then maybe we can do something about that pesky (albeit boring) deficit.

Skip Evans writes:

Chris Davis of Dallas Texas is a pretty good example of the emotional extremists that make up, I believe, a large portion of the pro amendment side. A particular action, burning the flag, that they have probably never witnessed and probably never will witness offends their own esoteric sensibilities for some reason and all of sudden nothing short of a consitutional amendment will appease them. They are indeed a very strange sort of people.

How many flags have been burned lately? If a flag is burned by someone how is our country harmed by this action? Who is harmed by this action? Has anyone lost any personal rights or freedoms?

It is a very simple idea: In order to truly protect freedoms of expression we must allow the expression of ideas that may offend us. Period.

Why must we, over and over, keep explaining this to so many people?

Barry Naiditch writes:

While this amendment would not by itself be the legislation under which flag desecration would become a punishable act, I am concerned that the likely debate over free speech issues may cause Congress to lose perspective of some less than desirable consequences that would ultimately result from instituting a ban on flag desecration.

Since the protests over the Vietnam war, desecration of the U.S. flag has not been a significant domestic problem. But what about flag desecration that occurs outside our borders? The fact is that sometimes foreigners get angry at the U.S. and it is not inconceivable that some might relish the opportunity to flaunt their acts of desecration against our flag, perhaps even with the spiteful hope that the act might be shown in the broadcast and print media all across America and the world.

An example of this occurred as recently as September 1995, when newspapers across America featured a photo of an elderly Okinawan man holding a burning U.S. flag during a demonstration protesting continued U.S. presence in Okinawa.

If we can envision even one perpetrator being outside the reach of our police powers and thus able to desecrate an American flag with total impunity, no national interest is served by amending our constitution. I feel confident that no member of Congress would not want to be associated with creating the potential for such a constitutional embarrassment.

I urge members of Congress to vote NO on this amendment.

Cookie Kaufman writes:

Since burning a flag to dispose of it will still be legal, it is the "in protest" part of "burning a flag in protest" that will be against the law. It is difficult to believe that we are still fighting this fight. Of what purpose is the flag if it becomes a symbol of nothing? Destroy our Bill of Rights, and it won't matter whether or not we burn the flag, salute it, or ignore it.

Josh Trupin writes:

Your page is great work, and represents the best of the Internet's spirit of discourse. Yesterday's vote looks like it could be a killer, though. Hopefully we won't start packing the Constitution with a raft of stupid, politically-motivated amendments, but this sure looks like a dreadful first step. Now that Communism is dead (well, except for China and all, but they're only a billion people so who cares?), we need new patriotic causes to keep people busy. Otherwise, we'd all start to dwell on the fact that business basically controls the domestic and foreign policies of the country.

Edward Onny writes:

It's good to see others who also believe this insane amendment is an attempt to compel us to show allegiance for a symbol while thumbing our noses at the principles it represents. And I don't believe I am a traitor, I spent over 20 years in the US Air Force. I never took an oath to defend a flag, only a constitution.

All my Congressmen know how I feel and I only hope the Senate displays a little backbone in the face of this rightwing political correctness.

John LaVoy writes:

Many arguments can be made against the amendment, and I agree with most of them. But few have considered the enforcement implications of such a change. Flag desecration is an inherently political act, a fundamental protest. I don't see how anyone could argue that point. Should desecration be made illegal, it will necessarily result in the arrest and punishment of the desecrators. Sooner or later: jail.

We then face the possibility that some people, perhaps two...perhaps thousands, will be imprisoned for making a political statement. In just a few short years America could develop a long list of political prisoners tucked away somewhere. We could become the world's largest political oppressor without half trying. Is this what conservatives stand for? They must, for it is an inevitable outcome of passing such a law.

Zak Adams writes:

I saw the nasty letters you have received. I have a response.
1) Anyone who dies for a flag, any flag, is an idiot. A true Patriot dies for God and Country...his family and freedom. Not a damn piece of fabric.
2) Prisons are for people who kill, rape, and commit fraud. Not for silly people who take their anger out on a flag they burn.
3) Only wimps with fragile egos need a law to protect them from flag burners. GET A LIFE YOU DAMN WIMPS!! Police should spend their time protecting the public from murders, not protecting some wimp's ego from a flag burner.
4) I rather fly the flag of the Culpepper Minutemen with it's logo, "Liberty or Death" than the U.S. Federal flag which represents those who killed the Branch Davidians at Waco.

Mike Dugger writes:

It appears that this amendment needs to have a wooden stake driven through its heart. The only idea I can come up with is to start a pledge drive. That is, get people to pledge to burn a flag if, and only if, this amendment ever becomes a part of the Constitution. Something along the lines of:

"I ______________________, am generally opposed to the practice of burning the American flag. However, I am absolutely opposed to the practice of defiling our sacred Constitution. Therefore, should our politicians see fit to curtail my right to free speech by defiling the Constitution with a ludicrous amendment permitting Congress to outlaw flag burning, I hereby pledge to burn an American flag in protest."

If this concept were promoted widely via internet and whatever other publicity we could generate, the possibility exists that tens of thousands, and perhaps even millions would take this pledge. If so, we would create a situation where Congress, in passing this amendment, would be responsible for causing the burning of more flags in one day than have been burned in protest since the nation's inception. Sounds to me like a great way to bring this debate into the spotlight and show the Congress for the idiots they are.

Harold P. Donle writes:

As a Vietnam Veteran who proudly served with the Marines, I have to say that I am more than upset at the introduction of the Anti-Flag Burning Amendment. The people who introduced this amendment (and you do a great diservice by calling them conservatives, it is an insult to true conservatives. If we called them what they really are maybe people would not take them quite so seriously - Reactionaries or to really go over the top NAZIs) have no love of freedom or understanding of what exactly Old Glory smybolizes. They believe by offering this descreation to the Constitution that they will somehow make this a more free country. I don't know maybe its something in the water in Washington, D.C. Seems once politicans get to Washington their I.Q. drops 10 or 20 points. Anyways this amendment disgraces every American who put on uniform to defend our Constitution and Flag. I for one, if this amendment passes will never again stand for the Pledge or when the flag passes by, in fact on the day this amendment is ratified I will burn every flag I can get my hands on.

Michael Calo writes:

I find the insinuations of yourself and others who support your position - that protecting the flag via constituional amendment will swiftly bring about the fall of the nation - to be nothing short of astonishing. If this were the case, sir, Congress would not have had passed amendments which outlaw slavery or grant women the vote - the first which was a right, the scond which was outlawed - under the original constitution.

As to your obfuscation of the right of free speech, wherein you cite the hackneyed "'FIRE!' in a crowded theatre" and claim that peolpe have a right to their opinions and to express them without fetter, I would ask you, then, why it is illegal to call a black person 'nigger' or a Jewish person 'hebe'; are they not, from your angle of approach, merely expressions of free speech?

Obviously, they are illegal because they are hurtful and mean spirited, with no other intent but to offend. Such is the case with the "political statement" of burning the flag: that act is hurtful and mean spirited when done in the manner which you and your supporters promote because you do it for the sheer pleasure which you dervive from doing so, much as a redneck delights in calling a black man 'nigger'. You are fully aware that your actions are likely to incite hostility, yet you persist.

In defense of your indefensible position you dismiss protests from the American Legion and other veterans' groups who hold the flag dear by saying it is nothing but a piece of cloth. In that vein of thought, Mr. Apel, 'nigger' is just a word, isn't it?

Oh, and Mr. Apel - when you hide behind the First Amendment, please note that it is just that - an AMENDMENT; so, too are the Thirteenth (abolishes slavery - December 18, 1865), Fifteenth (gave the vote to blacks - Match 30, 1870), and Nineteenth (gave the vote to women - August 26, 1920) AMENDMENTS. It would appear, Mr. Apel, that one of the freedoms regularly exercised in the United States has been that of amending the constitution.

Donald Guthrie writes:

I Think that the people who want to pass a law against the burning of the flag are missing the point, and are only at the suface and do not understand the true meaning of freedom, the flag is only a symbol, and it is true that many brave men and women gave their lives for it, but was it for a piece of cloth that they did this? or for the meaning of it "Freedom", didn't these same brave men and women make it possible for Bill Clinton to become president? I do not think one should burn the flag, how ever I think that one should have the right to do so, that is part of our American Freedom, just as our right to a form a revolution , granted by God and our forefathers long ago, one should read the writings of Thomas Jefferson, they may be surprised. I am not a history buff, that is not my field, neither is composing letters, how ever I believe that what if?, or maybe there was, a law against the burning of the British flag long ago in the colonies of America, maybe that would be thought of as treason, and the desecrator(s) would be put to death, if it wasn't for the brave men and women of long ago there would be no America as it is today, they started a revolution, and I think that we have and should have these same rights, the goverment should fear the people and not for the people to fear the goverment. If a law is passed against the burning of the flag, where will it stop? a law against making jokes about politicians? Well I should end this letter, I will leave the reader with this last words, I don't think that an American should burn the flag, it apalls me, how ever a law against burning of the flag apalls me more.

brent A R writes:

Do You Have A Clue? What is the purpose of buring the flag, the stars and stripes? Why whould someone do that unless they are living in a bad (3rd world nation where the government doesn' t care about it's citizens (ie., Iraq) country that did not care for her citizens and her people. Who has the wright to burn the United States flag? That person is and only is the army that defeats the United States forces and if it was to happen if the stars and stripes was to hit the ground then and only then shall any person burn it. It's not a wright for any person to burn a flag of any country, that is something that is sacred and that many lives have fought fore and should not be forgouten. Not in our time and not in the noxt generations time. If we forget all this then all the people that have died for this country and for any other country died in vein.

Marty Lord writes:

I am a 50 year old veteran and I have but one thing I'd like to say to your face...and that is "thank you".

I have been watching this debate now for at least eight years and I agree with you. Please keep up the good work.

If this amendment passes, it will be against the law to urinate on the flag, but quite legal to do likewise on a Bible!

If this law passes, the multicolored nylon from the duPont Chemical Company will be more sacred than the Scriptures, the Book of Mormon, the Torah & Talmud, the Sutras, the Koran or indeed, any other text held sacred by good people everywhere. It is the begining of the new state religion.

After all, in order to desecrate something, it must first be made sacred.

Michael Haggerty writes:

I'm so tired of reading about how upset people get when somebody burns the flag to protest something. It's refreshing to know that at least some of us have the sense to know the danger of trying to whittle away our freedoms one step at a time.

My father was a front line infantry soldier in the Second World War and we discussed this issue a few years ago. Dad was upset at the veterans' groups that complain about how wrong it is for people to burn the flag that so many people fought and died for. Dad said it wasn't the flag he fought for. It wasn't the flag his buddies died for. What he fought for was something called "freedom" and part of that freedom is the freedom of speech we enjoy here.

When somebody burns a flag as a protest it's a type of speech and even though my father (who is also a life long Repubican) might disagree with their choice of methods or their cause, he has already shown that he is willing to fight for their right to express themsleves in that manner.

Paul Z. writes:

My argument is based on the people's view of the flag: It may be said that some Americans are indifferent when it comes to the symbol of their country, and others feel quite strongly about it. Those people who fit into the first category might be heard saying that, it doesn't matter if the flag is burned! It is merely a design on canvas, made by man! Who is to say that it should not be destroyed by man as well? Symbol? No. The U. S. government is a symbol of America, as are the bald eagle and the Constitution. The flag is merely a banner that is flown by patriots and politicians, and not a symbol of America at all. But, when asked their opinion on flag burning, the people who fit into the second category might cry in response that the flag does stand for something! It represents not the American Reality, but the American Ideal. That is what the very first American soldiers died for, and the flag, as a glorious symbol of those ideals, must be cherished and protected from all enemies, foreign and domestic, until the very last American is dead. Thus, an act of desecration against the American flag, while it may be viewed by some as a harmless act of self-expression, may be viewed by others as an attack, not only against the country that gives them shelter and opportunity and sanctuary from a dangerous world, but against their personal opinions, beliefs and hopes as well.

Michael deCourcy writes:

Hello my name is Michael deCourcy and I'm a Eagle Scout with Boy Scout Troop 76 here in Merrillville, Indiana. I recently visited your flag burning home page. I myself think your home page is TRASH.

I do mean that. Have you ever watch your local VFW or American Legion Post burn flags. They collect OLD AND TATTERED American Flags from the citizens and businesses of your city or town. At the ceremony they inspect the flags to make sure that they are old and tattered. Once that is done they pour a little lighter fluid on the flag and lay it in the fire. When they are done burning the flags they just bury the ashes, because they are nothing but ashes laying in a fire pit. I know this, because I had to talk with them about doing one with my troop as an Eagle Project.

Your the ones who make America look bad, because people all over the WORLD visit that page and see that Americans have no RESPECT for their flag. People do though. The ones that burn the flags without respect are the Anarchist.

So remember the next time you something like that, remember people from other countries will see that TRASHY home page of yours.

then, the next day, I got this follow-up letter --Warren

I wrote to you yesterday about your homepage. I called your page trash. But now after today I regret that. The reason why is because I have U.S. Government in high school and we had a in class discussion about flag burning.

I guess the 105th Congress is trying to make flag burning illegal. The people that do oppose are people in the military. But that is wrong. Because once they pass that a snowball effect could take place. What I mean is once they take that Right away they could take away more in the future.

My classmates said a person caught burning a flag should: pay $500,000 fine; be exiled; go to jail for 2 months-life in prison; community service.

If the governent starts taking our rights away the U.S. would no longer be a free country.

I hope you accept my apology. I do regret it.

Apology accepted....

James Montgome Paton writes:

I think if we are going to spend tax money on this issue, there needs to be a very specific set of laws for burning the US Flag. I personally wear a hat that say's "TRY AND BURN THIS ONE." I was never in the military (they wouldn't take me)but I love this country and believe that anyone who burns our flag in disrespect should be shot and thier body shipped to Saddam C.O.D.. I think your vitual flag burning page should be burned (without the flag). If and when people exercise their first amendment right to burn our flag, I can and will exercise my right to break their fucking legs.

Rob writes:

I personally see the flag as the most sacred and beautiful symbol in our culture. When I see it, I sometimes cry. Not because I really know anyone who fought in a war, or represented the US on a global scale, but because I realize the freedoms and opportunities I have because I am an American. Those freedoms include expressing my ideas and thoughts about any topic not related to national security. Warren, burning the flag is not a matter of national security. I was once asked in high school "What is an American". My response was simple, "An American is someone who would never burn the flag, ever! But would die in a war to protect those very rights to do so."

8-ball writes:

As a person enlisted in the military and a very patriotic citizen, I find you page an absolute disgrace. I am totally for the amendment and protection of the United States American Flag. If I saw anyone burning the American flag, as a citizen I would proceed to beat the living shit out of that or those persons. pray dear boy you are not one of those people.

From March to December of 1995, while this amendment was being considered in Congress, this page collected a large volume of comments from the public, all of which are on display in the Comment Archive.

The Flag Burning Page generated quite a volume of email. Most of it was posted right here. Messages like "Why don't you do the Nation a favour and kill yourself." (actual quote) would just clutter up this page. People who send flames like this one are given a chance to rewrite their thoughts before they get posted to the Flag Flames Page

Warren S. Apel