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Comments Archive: July 1995

David Birdsey writes:
Congratulations on a well-defined and reasoned argument against the Flag Burning Amendment. Personally, my faith and belief in America is strong enough to survive the "brutal" onslaught of flag-burners.

Ruth Mastron writes:
Keep up the good work! It seems horrifically wrong to me when a piece of cloth, even with its symbolic associations, gets a Constitutional amendment to protect it while an effort to provide minimal healthcare for America's families dies a slow death. What does this say about our national priorities?!?

Marcos Montes writes:
Just a note: Isn't the correct way to dispose of an old/weathered/ruined flag to burn it? Actually, the flag in your picture looks damaged, so burning may be the correct thing to do. In any case, this is just something I am trying to remember from my scouting days (Eagle Scout from Las Cruces, NM, Troop 260, 1983.)

On a more serious note, I agree with your statements. While I have not burned a flag, with the freedoms we have been given in this nation, it is not logical for laws to be passed or for the Constitution to be amended in such a way to disallow the burning of a flag in protest of government policies.

Dale Greer writes:
I like the new look of your Flag Burning page. Thanks very much for the Track Current Legislation item. I've started some phone trees with friends and family to call their Senators and try to get this thing stopped. Unfortunately, both of my Senators are signatories to the bill!

Nobody I've spoken with so far has been aware the gravity of the situation nor how near to victory of the anti-freedom lobby really is. It seems to have been severely underreported in the media. I didn't even know it was happening until the House vote on Wednesday.

I wrote a letter to the editor, and now I'm a little fearful of retaliation should it be published. But since I went on about how we ought to strike the words "home of the the brave" from our national anthem, I can't very well let a little fear stop me! ;)

"Oh say, does that star spangled banner yet wave,
o'er the land of the free,
and the home of the brave?"
Our national anthem ends with a question, a glorious and inspiring question. For over two centuries, we have been able to proudly answer that question in the affirmative.

If the proposed amendment to punish people for hurting other people's feelings is ratified, the flag may yet wave, but it will wave as a symbol of a people who chose to retreat from the rigors of liberty, and to capitulate to the cries of the bullies among them.

Tim Smith writes:
Flag etiquette dictates, "When a flag is so worn it is no longer fit to serve as a symbol of our country, it should be destroyed by burning in a dignified manner."

I think we are faced with a basic conundrum. Are all protestations inherently undignified? I think not. Otherwise we have learned nothing from Ghandi and King. May I not then protest by burning a flag in a dignified manner?

The flag is one of MANY symbols of our country. If we are going to so revere that symbol that we would change the constitution, don't the other symbols deserve the same reverence? (The bald eagle, while not revered, IS an endangered species; but congress is trying to change that...Hey, now there's an idea...)

I find it disturbing that we, as a nation, care more about a symbol than the document, and the ideas contained therein, that allowed that symbol to be. As Ben Franklin said, "They that would give up an essential liberty for some temporary safety deserve neither."

Elizabeth Forest writes:
Thanks for making such a place available for those of us who agree with you. I actually found you through the "Flag of the United States of America" page. Incidentally, that was frigtening. Our "noble deeds?"

I am new to this flag-burning controversy. I have never agreed with any law that would deny me the right to burn my own flag if I wanted to, but had thought it was put to rest when the S.C. decided it was unconstitutional to deny someone that right. I guess S.C. decisions don't hold much weight these days. However, now that such an amendment is proposed I feel that if I (and others) don't speak out, it may actually pass. Oh, what a horror that would be. It's all these baby-steps backward that I fear. What happened to moving forward?

I will keep viewing your page. In the meantime, I intend to contact my senators and send Bill a note too. Not to mention sharing my outrage with anyone in hearing distance. My office is already tired of my tirade, although thank goodness they agree.

Rahne Alexander writes:
I came home today to find a message in my box from a friend that told me how my senator dianne feinstein has just signed on as a co-sponsor of this legislation.
I can't wait to contact her office. She's lost my vote.
Thanks for such a great web page.

Kirk F. writes:
What about poeple wearing the flage on their butts as patriotic swimming suits, or worse y yet UNDERWEAE. Then we've got to have the UNDIE police checking everyone's garments for dconcealed flag desicration.

This amedment is a horrible waste of money, time, and good sense. Let's lillegalize a leagal act by ddesecratomg tthe Constitution.

Tom Jennings writes:
Thanks for your exhausively rational flag-burning-issue work. The interesting part is really the meta-question, how did we get to this place, or really, how to we get out of it...

I like what you've done with the conversations, they are well edited, and an audit trail of threats doesn't hurt either...

Rob Garofalo writes:
We are slowly but, surely becoming one of the least free nations on earth. You can't burn a flag. You can't smoke a cigarette. Everyone is obsessed with drug testing. Sen. Leahy's bill on deregulation of cable and telephones includes some censorship of the internet. If the government deems your web page indecent, will you be forced to remove it? God help us.

Jim writes:
Please, no amendment! Give flagburners their rights, as I will carry out my right to set them on fire too. Free speech isn't it? Burn everything you don't agree with.

Angus Davis writes:
To make an ammendment prohibiting the burning of our beloved flag is a direct attack on the very liberties the flag represents. I hate people who burn the flag, but at least our country allows this expression, however evil it may appear. Don't waste our cops' time watching out for some harmless lunatic.

Stanley Willis writes:
An ammendment to the constitution is a clumsy and ponderous way to stop something like flag burning. But with the supreme court stretching the first amendment grotesquely out of shape and leaving no room for a moderate solution, it will happen. The mere fact that no other solution is possible just aggravates the offense that many people believe flag burning to be.A major reduction in the power and scope of federal government is the only thing that ultimatly will protect our rights. Foolishly demanding a right to burn flags will not.

Michael J. Leibensperger writes:
Glad to see this page here. There are a lot of links to conservative sites for balance, which is good. But I think you could probably come up with a little background on why someone might actually *want* to burn a flag... U.S. support for the repression in East Timor, the illegal war on Nicaragua, and so on. Unfortunately, one could make a long list, it's very sad. People don't do this stuff for no reason. (Well, OK, *I* clicked the "burn button" just so I could check out your pixels.)
Here is an intriguing quote you might use:
None are so deeply enslaved as those who falsely believe they are free.
--- Johan Wolfgang von Goethe

Dave Voorhis writes:
Whereas most of the Web is a sea of undifferentiated blather, your page stands out as a rare bit of intelligence and reason. Well done.

Dave (from Australia) writes:
As a student on the other side of the world I perhaps can view the situation less emotively than a US citizen. Firstly I have always felt that the one thing that the US had going for it was its constitution. Regardless of which party came to office and which crazy laws were passed, there was always the constitution there as a safeguard. To my mind as soon as this legislation is passed, freedom of speech no loger exists in the US for the following reasons; Freedom of speech means that citizens can say that which is "politically incorrect" without the threat of prosecution.
Freedom to only say what the majority says is no freedom at all. If only that kind of freedom existed- segregation would still exist, aswell as a large number of items that were only allowed to circulate due to the constitution of your country.
Once this legistaion passes and if it overrules the 1st amendment think about what will happen next; Pornography will be banned with a constitutional amendment, then onther amendment will be made to ban blasphemy which will ban movies like "priest". etc etc what is the result- freedom to say only what the congress wants you to say. It saddens me greatly to see your nation trying so hard to bring down one of its greatest symbols to the rest of the world- Freedom of Speech. This is just the beginning- as I've have heard many more similar ideas espoused by members of the conservative congress; And dont forget the conservative Supreme Court; I hope Americans can put aside their emotive patriotism and focus on the tru isuue at hand,

Ian Poynter writes:
It's a shame you have to get death threats for obvious support of free speech. As a newly naturalized citizen, I believe that banning flag burning strikes at the very heart of what this country stands for and what makes it great. I just hope the Senate has sense to stand up for what's right...

Karen Isaacson writes:
I have seen too many instances of the us flag being used as part of an advertising scheme on car dealerships, etc. to find it an item of respect, let along admiration. If I choose to protest, allow me to show my feelings regarding the state of the union by burning its symbol (the flag) if I so desire! Fabric is not something to worship, no matter how colored or decorated.

Christopher R. Maden writes:
Thanks for the fantastic page. In 1990, I was graduating high school, while the first (recent) shot at this amendment was going through Congress. I was all set to burn a flag on stage, with the comment, "I would never before have burned a US flag. It meant too much to me. Unfortunately, with the recent Constitutional amendment, the freedom for which this flag stood is diminished, and so, therefore, is the importance of this flag."

This Independence Day, I resolved to start a new custom. I'm buying a flag soon, and will display it all year. Shortly before next Independence Day, I'll buy a new flag. I'll dispose of the old one.
By burning it.
Because I can.
I will celebrate my ability to do so legally (if it exists) or protest my inability (if not), and remind anyone around of the same.
Vote Libertarian in '96.

Michael S. Schnell writes:
Sorry to all flag burners but the making a marshmallow out of the flag is not what I call speaking your mind. It should be called tyrany. We owe alot to the people that died to keep this country free for your free speech. You should owe them the respect to not burn the countries most vital resource, pride. I am active in the local TARS (Teenage Republican) organization. We learn there about the things that make america great like, pride in our country. We can't even say God in the public school system no longer. Don't let the people of America stand on their doorstep and smoke a joint rolled in the American Flag. I am not saying this is the reason but I can see why people Blow up Federal Buildings killing inocent people for no reason. No pride, no American morals, it has all depleted into Mtv jiberish about how if this is a free country why can't we do what we want. The answer is that it is free for everyone. Not just you. Lets have some pride, vote for a flag burning ammendment.

...then changes his mind 7 minutes later:
You have some very good points, I feel that all of you have the right to speak your mind. I meant no offence by what I have previously written, as I know you do not either. The Oklahoma City bombing could have been caused by many things and I have not picked one yet that was just one view that I posted. If the flag burning ammendment fails I will not yell and scream and tell you to kill yourselves, I will merely shrug it off as something that couldn't be helped and I will respect your right to do it, I will not do it myself or respect you for doing it, but you will have the right as you do now. This is what America is all about, talking things over and having many conflicting views. I am sorry if you took offense to my first mailing. I just have that feeling. You may be right and so may I. I hope to have an open mind and I hope that you will also.

John Mitchell writes:
So now the folks in Congress are hopped up about a constitutional amendment to prohibit the desecration of the American flag. How does interest stay high on an issue like this, when there hasn't been a publicized flag-burning, flag-stomping or flag-anything in several years?

The proposed amendment states that Congress and the states will have the power to pass laws prohibiting "the physical desecration of the flag of the United States." What, exactly, is this key phrase all about? What is "the flag of the United States," and what would it mean to desecrate it?

he amendment doesn't define it further and won't define it further. So either Congress or 50 state legislatures would, if the amendment were passed and ratified, get the chance to tell us, in more laws, what their terms mean.

If you'll grant me some leeway on the shape of the stars, I can draw an American flag with colored pencils on a page of a Big Chief tablet. It will have blue lines running through it, but it will have 50 five-point stars in a blue field at the top left and 13 stripes, alternating red and white, in the rest of it. It will look entirely amateurish, because I have no art talent, and I'll be tempted to wad the paper up and throw it away.

But if I did, would I be a criminal, if this amendment and supporting laws pass?

A recent newspaper column pointed out that a recognizable rendition of a symbol is equivalent to that symbol. The character that begins this sentence is not a replica of a capital T, it is a capital T. Well, the American flag is also a symbol -- a revered and venerated one, to be sure, but a symbol nonetheless.

So is my little colored-pencil drawing a flag, or is it only a drawing of a flag? How about if I use a drawing program to draw a near-perfect flag on the computer screen? Is that a flag, and would I be committing a crime under the proposed amendment and laws if I deleted the image? If it isn't a flag, is it a flag if I print it on paper with a color printer? If I print it on 100-percent cotton paper?

The convenience stores on July 3 all had cheesecloth-quality American flags to be put on car antennas for the Fourth. If the amendment and laws were in place, and these places didn't sell out, how would they dispose of their excess inventory? How could they dispose of it?

And what is "desecration"? The protests that sparked the call for the prohibition of flag-desecration have involved the burning of a flag. But proper flag etiquette states that an old worn-out flag should be disposed of by burning -- in a respectful manner. Does that make the proposed crime of flag desecration a crime of intent, where the only difference between a crime and a non-criminal action is the state of mind of the person doing the burning? Won't that require our law enforcement people to become mind-readers?

And those little cheesy flags on the antennas, that will be shredded by the elements by July 20 or so -- will it be a crime to chuck those into the trash when they're nothing but ribbons? Are we going to be seeing people doing time for this?

Maybe some state or other will enact a law that doesn't define an American flag nor specifies what desecration is, but removes all criminal penalties for punching out someone who's desecrating the flag in public.

I don't really see the point of a constitutional amendment on the subject. Nor do I see the point of specifically prohibiting the disrespectful destruction of the American flag in public. It's not as though we have to contend with people burning flags outside our office windows every week, or with flag-burning demonstrations in the town square tying up rush-hour traffic. If the protestors have stolen the flag they're burning, that's theft. If they're burning the flag in public, maybe there are open-air incineration bans that could be used against them.

But expressing displeasure with an entity by destroying a symbol of that entity seems to me a rather harmless, relatively non-violent way to protest. And the flag is, at bottom, a symbol. If I burned an effigy of Uncle Sam, or if I wrote the words "United States of America" on a sign and burned it, that is the exact equivalent. It seems also that prohibiting this way to express displeasure with the United States would seriously undercut our freedom to express criticism of the country, which freedom is contained in another constitutional amendment.

At this point (or earlier, if I turn on AM talk radio or read FIDO Civil Liberties Echo), I can hear some old and not-so-old veterans shouting in intense voices: "Hey, man, I fought for that flag! I knew guys who died for that flag!" I sincerely hope that no soldier, sailor or airman in the history of this country ever fought, killed or died for the cloth banner with the stars and the stripes that fluttered above his military installations. What he fought for, what we really pay tribute to when we stand up at a ball game and take off our hats, is the country and the concept and the people, and especially the freedom, that are the United States. And anyone who is truly unable to distinguish between the substance and the symbol is in serious need of a reality check.

But possibly the best comment I can make about the whole situation is a line cribbed from comic Dennis Miller about the proposed ban on flag desecration: "Would it also apply to flying the flag over the Capitol?"

Chris Tuminello writes:
I love the flag of the United States of America. I have one flying from the front of my home. It is for this reason that I am against the current proposed amendment. The flag REPRESENTS the ideals on which our nation was founded. Our constitution, which is our statement of our philosophies, guarantees freedom of expression. An act against our flag is an excellent reaffirmation of our freedoms. The nation is much stronger when it allows ALL views to be expressed. While it would pain me greatly to see someone desecrate our flag, it would make me proud to live in a nation that guarantees a person's right to disagree with the majority. Our flag is not just a piece of cloth, but it is not what our country stands for. Our constitution is what needs to be defended. It is the defining statement of what the United States is.

Mike Dugger writes:
I think we all owe you a debt of gratitude for your efforts to see that this issue is debated intelligently. I have always opposed the outlawing of flag burning at a more or less visceral level, but the debate you and others have fostered have helped me to much more clearly understand just what a bad idea this amendment is.

jpetrynn writes:
Just want you to know that I appreciate what you have to say. I think a lot of the politicians who voted for the flag bunung amendment did so because they wrap themselves in it so often they are afraid that someone might torch them as well. I'm not planning on burning anyone's flag at the present but I am a firm believer in free speech and flag burning is about as free a speech as a country can have. I don't get this desecration argument either. You can't desecrate something unless it is sacred. A flag is a secular symbol. I enjoyed your page.

Gus Linton writes:
I had never thought seriously of burning a flag, even through the worst of the Viet Nam days, but the minute I heard that those idiots had passed the FB ammendment I immediately had the urge to go out and by some flags and matches.

Newt and company apparently never heard of "reverse intention." Or is this piece of legislation just a way of stimulating business in the flag manufacturing industry, most of which is probably overseas anyway. I wonder if it would be legal to burn a flag made in China to protest the exporting of American jobs?

Thank you for providing an ecologically correct way of celebrating free speech.

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