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Comments Archive: June 1995

Gettysburg Flag has a wide selection of  country flags from around the globe.  They have everything ranging from military flags to historical U.S. flags.  While they specialize in American flags, they have flags from all countries in stock.  And just in case you need a flag pole to go with your new flags, they sell the poles too!
Brian Bixby writes:
While I have a great respect for the U.S. flag, and can appreciate how burning it is offensive to many citizens, I cannot see jailing or fining someone simply because they chose to destroy an example of the flag in protest (or even just to be annoying). The flag is not the United States, or its values, but a symbol of those values because we choose to make it so. Burning the flag will not destroy the U.S. or its values -- at most, it is a challenge to those values when destroyed in protest. If we react by upholding those values, especially those of liberty and reasoned debate, then no flag-burner can destroy them. If we react by discarding those values and assaulting the flag burner, then we've lost those values ourselves, not on account of the flag burner.

If destroying the flag should be made illegal because it is a national symbol, what of the other national symbols? Do we want to make destroying copies of the Great Seal of the United States illegal? How about state flags . . . is is a serious affront to destroy those (at least in their own states)? What if one should tamper with the National Anthem's words? (The tune will have to go unprotected: few citizens can sing it anyhow.) And if attacking a symbol should be illegal, what about attacking the very substance of the United States by critizing its government or people? Preventing someone from burning the flag, but not a copy of the Constitution, would be putting symbols before substance.

I stumbled on the page by accident. But I thought it worthwhile to convey my agreement that the proposed Constitutional amendment is a bad idea.

Dan Horowitz writes:
Saw this link through Hotwired. You got one hell of a page mister. Frankly I was surprised that this was still an issue. I thought Congress had moved on to something even dumber. Guess when they have a really stupid idea it's hard for them to let go of it. Four trillion dollars of debt and the answer is to amend the constitution to restrict the First Amendment. The tears in my eye are only partially from laughter.
mark huntington writes:
Indeed burning the flag of the US is a very contentious issue and the new legisation which your government wishes to bring in is a gross violation of human rights. Have you noticed the growing tide of ultra-conservatism which is sweeping not only the US but my "home" for want of a better word country of England. Here we have the new Criminal Justice Act which came law here last year which gives the governement and the police special powers to stop large gatherings of people such as raves, festivals and more importantly demonstrations. It also makes squatting illegal and effects the whole way of life for people who live on the road.

The importance of your page and others is to make people aware of what is going down in the world, and not the wishy washy version of events we are subjected to through the worlds media, which is of course owned by a few mega-rich individuals such as Rupert Murdoch etc.

It us important for us to keep informing and finding as much information as we can about breaches of civil and human rights and the oppression of any part of our society.

Phil Lamb writes:
One omission from your list of speeches in Congress concerning flag burning is that of Sen. Bob Kerrey, D-Neb., a Medal of Honor recipient who lost a leg in Vietnam. After serious reflection on the issue, he concluded that free speech does include the right to offensive speech and deeds, such as burning the flag.

Also, if I may offer a lighthearted solution on such a serious problem: This issue can be boiled down to a question of free speech and property rights. There is no question that if I went to a public building and removed the flag flying there to be burned that I could be found guilty of theft of public property or destruction of property or some such crime. But when I spend my own money to purchase my own flag, it becomes MY property, to dispose of as I wish.

A possible solution, then, is to nationalize the flag. Require everyone to turn in his or her flags and everything that has a flag image on it. These flags would become the property of the U.S. government, which could then legally prohibit any desecration of said property. These flag could be lent or leased back to individuals for display, for veneration, but not for burning or other desecration. Anyone who defiled a leased or borrowed flag could be charged with breach of contract.

Of course, there would be some patriots out there who would defy the law and try to keep unlicensed, unregistered flags. Companies might create shoulder holders for concealed miniature flags. Unauthorized flag pins would be worn under the lapel, to be shown only to fellow law breakers with a secret handshake. But these ne'er-do-wells would surely be found out and punished.
... See where all this worship of the flag can lead?

Steve writes:
Never would have dreamed as a first year law student at the University of Wis in 1967 that 28 years later I 'd be viewing a recreation of a crime I spent a little time defending when one of two twin brothers whose name s I have now forgotton, burned the flag during an anti war protest atop Basom Hall, the iconic home of the great UW.
Donovan writes:
I agree with what you are saying, 100%. The thing about the flag burning amendment is not only a matter of the 1st amendment, but also the fact that its just a flag. It's just a piece of cloth, that symbolizes somethings.
For some reason, people think that if you are desecrating the symbol, you are desecrating what is symbolized. That obviously isn't true. What if I was flying a plane load of flags and crashed in the mountains in the dead of winter. First of all, I would probably use the flags as blankets. Because I'm lying on top of them doesn't mean that they are somehow denegrated. I might burn some, to keep warm, and use others for toilet purposes(to wipe my ass). In the end, it is a colored piece of cloth, and so what if somebody wants to burn it? Isn't reducing the flag to an average, everyday article of clothing denegrating it? You certainly couldn't make a symbolic flag from fireworks, since that would be burning the flag.

I will promise you one thing. If that amendment passes, i will do whatever I can to get a big organization together and we will all go out one day and burn flags. It will be a big national thing.

Isn't it unethical to pass legislation that you know will be stricken down by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional? Since when are politicians in a position to tell us what is ethical and what is not? What a bunch of hypocrites.

Anyways, this is all imho and just some thoughts about the sudden case of stupidity that seems to have afflicted our congressional representatives.

Michael writes:
I would never personally burn our nation's flag--not even a virtual one. I love our country and fill with pride whenever I hear our National Anthem or see Old Glory proudly flying. However, we are the great nation that we are because of the freedoms that we, as a nation, have fought to maintain. As such, I would be opposed to any amendment to the Constituion which would erode the First Amendment's freedom of speech. I would rather see a flag burned than to see one of our greatest freedoms curtailed. The power of free speech is evident given the call to arms of those who love the flag more than the ideals for which it stands. Rather than destroying the freedoms that we have, we should resolve to educate others and seek to solve the grievances that would bring them to destroying our flag.
MKo writes:
Well, I'm a UK citizen, so I'm probably out of Newt's reach... Seriously, though, I think the US has gone mad, completely mad. I thought Britain had a monopoly on insane legislation. From a distance America looks so forlorn.
Insular, out of touch with the rest of the world, and self-hating. We always said that the US would end up like the Soviet Union and maybe we weren't wrong.
There are still many good things, though.
Good luck. You'll need it.
Robin M. Weare writes:
I found your "The Flag-Burning Page!" a clever use of Web pages to put across a protest against the recent mad rage for censorship in Congress.

I've no doubt it will press some buttons HARD with the superpatriots and others, but it practically forces you to read it, it's so graphically appealing!

Kenyattah Agante Robinson writes:
I saw your page concerning flagburning on the World Wide Web and I couldn't help but to express my views on the subject. Personally, I would never burn the U.S. flag and I feel that no one else should ever do it also. However, by making a law that would infringe on the rights of others to burn it is, in my opinion, totally wrong. Not only would it make the First Amendment to the Constitution useless, but it would also take away from the individual freedoms of everyday citizens, a value this country was founded on. This is one issue I believe the government should stay away from unless, like you pointed out, it infringes on the liberty of other citizens.
Glenn Kurtzrock writes:
You have my congratulations on a very well put-together and thought provoking page... I personally would not burn our flag at this time in history, but like the cliche goes, "I may not agree with what you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it." Actually, I even agree with what you say. I have read through the flames you have received, and I find it ironic that these people who try to wrap themselves in Old Glory seem to have no clue what it stands for, and they can only reiterate the mindless crap they hear from folks like Rush Limbaugh who also seems to have no idea what the flag means. I have an American flag hanging on my wall behind me, and one of the reasons I love our country so much is that if the government began to push us into fascism, I could take the flag off of my wall and set it ablaze in protest. As I said above, I have no reason now to do such a thing, but with proposed amendments like the one you are in opposition to, the day seems to be drawing nearer when I have to.
S Speilberg writes:
To me, this page is a clear sign of your belief in the American way and a real compliment to the nation.

To understand what it really means though, the zealots have to step back from their reactive 'this pushes my button' mode. When they have taken that step back, they will realize that you are not desecrating the flag by its symbolic burning, but honoring it by standing up for what you believe it truly represents.

When I see the some of the automatic, mindless and re-active (politicians react to peoples perceived opinions, people react to media, media reacts to politicians - is anyone in control here?) policies it is people like you that give me hope about this nation.

Neal Bedard writes:
I would like to express my apprecation and support for your efforts in the Flag-Burning Page on behalf of free speech. I suppose there are many truisms that help re-inforce the view that the would-be protectors of a mere piece of cloth are off-base (e.g., patriotism being the last refuge of the scoundrel.) Instead, I would like to offer a story from Zen that perhaps you haven't heard (from D.T. Suzuki's _Introduction to Zen Buddhism_): When Tanka (Tan-hsia) of the T'ang dynasty stopped at the Yerinji in the Capital, it was severely cold, so taking down one of the Buddha images enshrined there, he made a fire of it and warmed himself. The keeper of the shrine, seeing this, was greatly incensed, and exclaimed: "How dare you burn by wooden image of Buddha?" Tanka began to search in the ashes as if he were looking for something, and said: I am gathering holy sarias* from the burnt ashes." "How," said the keeper, "can you get sarias from a wooden Buddha?" Tanka retorted, "If there are no sarias to be found in it, may I have the remaining two Buddhas for my fire?" (* saria literally means the 'body', but is taken by Buddhists to correspond to the saintliness of life.) --- Like Tanka's 'holy firewood', the Flag is merely a symbol; there is no 'state' left in the ashes of a burnt one, nor was there any in the cloth in the first place.
Your name here writes:
i agree with you, it is what the flag stands for and how it will survive.
Jonathan Davis writes:
Flagburning stirs many emotions in all of us. I'm privileged to have been born American, and I thank God for my privileges, granted to all Americans at birth. I have served in the U.S. Air Force and I'm always touched in my heart when I see the flag flying. It represents freedom! To see a flag on fire draws my attention like nothing else! I find it repulsive, but later I sigh with relief: In America you are free!
Damion Schubert writes:
"If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds it unacceptable." -- Justice Brennan, Texas v Johnson

It seems rather obvious, doesn't it? After all, nobody is going to arrest us for talking about the weather, are they? So, why is that first amendment thing there, anyway?

Brennan points out elsewhere that there is no doubt that political speech is what the framers of the constitution wanted to protect, and that flag- burning, if nothing else, is political speech. There is no right that should be more fundamental than our right to protest.

I also agree with Justice Kennedy, who wrote in concurrance, "...sometimes, we must make decisions we do not like. We make them because they are right, right in the sense that the law and the Constitution... compel the result." I will, hopefully, never see a need to burn a flag. But I will fight for the right to do so.

Andre Robatino writes:
I think an effective weapon against the amendment might be to compile a list of all the ways people can think of in which the flag can be desecrated, both physically and symbolically, and then send it to members of Congress who oppose the amendment. If they so chose, they could use it in the House or Senate to show just how ridiculous it would be to try to prohibit all the possible offensive acts involving the flag. Clearly, any amendment would fail to ban many of the items on the list. You could use your home page to ask people for help in compiling such a list. Please give this serious consideration - at the moment it looks like the amendment will pass.

I looked again at the purpose page, and you're now only listing things which would be considered _physical_ desecration. I was thinking more along the lines of things which would be just as offensive, but not covered by the proposed amendment. For example, in the near future, computers will be powerful enough, and bandwidth plentiful enough, that people could append a virtual movie of a flag burning to their email as a protest. Or to make things simpler, they could just use existing footage, or use footage of a US flag being burned outside of this country. Or people could physically burn a copy of the Constitution itself - after all, no one seems to take offense at that right now. There is an abuse of language going on right now where the supporters of the amendment say that "the flag needs protection", but what they're really trying to do is to protect their own sensibilities but not admit to it. I thought it might be possible to make them realize this by making them aware of the possible extent of offensive acts of protest which could take place if this amendment passes, and that it far exceeds what's happening now. The thought of it might dampen their enthusiasm, and also make them realize that in a free society, those who aim to offend will find ways around any laws to prevent it.
BTW, the Rep. you referred to was Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.). Gerald Solomon (R-N.Y.) said it was obvious the items were not flags, and referred to them as "crap". I think the appropriate response at this point would have been to call his bluff and say "Well, then you wouldn't mind if I burned them, would you?" Or better yet, to hand Solomon a lighter and let him have the honors. It would have been fun to watch him squirm.

Naros writes:
Hello there, I am in total agreement with you. The Flag is a symbol of America, and a burning American Flag is definately a symbol of present-day America. Our rights and freedoms are being taken away from us and it must stop.
Donald Davis writes:
I enjoyed your page on flag burning today, the day the House of Reps. passed the ammendment that so concerns us. Anybody that doesn't get the free speech implications of this issue should consider the following:
When your trusted old copy of Old Glory finally fades to gray and pink and needs to be retired, what are you supposed to do with it? According to every reference I have seen on the subject, you not only should, but you MUST dispose of it by BURNING. Now, if this is done in private, no problem; if it is done in public and in silence, still no problem. BUT, if the flag owner should happen to open his mouth DURING the burning and utter certain expressions of, say, discontent or complaint, THEN, and only then, he becomes a criminal and is to be hauled before a court to explain his actions or, rather, his speech. THIS is why the Supreme Court ruled against flag-burning laws before. Also it shows that this proposed ammendment really is an attempt to regulate the speech and thoughts of a (sometimes) free people.
Thanks for keeping this issue before the citizens the way you have. I too, have no desire to burn any flags. In fact, I collect flags of all kinds and am a Rush-listening Republican who sometimes sees beyond the retoric and hysteria of my fellow elephants to the real issues of our Constitutional freedoms.

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