Cracking the Flag-Burning Amendment

I’ve gone on before about why any Constitutional Amendment to ban burning or otherwise desecrating the flag of the United States of America would be cracked the very second it was passed, but apparently asking the members of the House of Representatives to read is too much to hope for. So for the members of Senate, who vote on the proposed Amendment soon, and the members of the 50 state legislatures here in the US, allow me to offer this visual primer on How to Crack the Flag Burning Amendment.

First, for reference, the American Flag:


If you want to get fiddly about it, here are the actual government specs for the flag, dictating what the standard dimensions of the flag would be, down to the Pantone colors used in the flag. As the proposed Amendment allows Congress and the states to prohibit desecration of the US Flag, let us assume — for the sake of argument — that the flag is defined by these standard dimensions. Got it? Fine. Here we go:

An American Flag? Hardly. It has only 49 stars! There’s a circle where a star should be. Certainly an American Flag had 49 stars, but it didn’t look like this (it looked like this).The true 49-star flag would likely be covered by the Amendment, but this one, not so much. Use it for kindling!

Three cheers for the Red, White and Gray? I think not — use this one to swaddle a horse. Then feed that horse lots of grain.

The 13 red and white stripes represent the original 13 colonies of the United States — but what’s this? One of the stripes has gone flaming pink! Clearly it’s the stripe for Massachusetts. But whichever former colony it represents, we don’t salute the pink, white and blue. Use this one to mop up vomit after a Socialist Party USA beer bash!

Green, white and orange. Man, that’s not even trying. Use it as a dropcloth for that goat slaughter you have planned.

The 48-star flag flew over America for nearly 50 years, the longest reign of any US flag. But this isn’t that flag. This is just some cheap and tawdry knockoff of the American flag suitable for, oh, let’s say, being torn into strips and used as emergency feminine protection.

Red, white and blue? Check. 13 stripes? Check. 50 stars? Check. Well, then it must be an Americ– hey. Wait a minute. Isn’t that the Hamburgler in the bottom right corner? I may not know much, but I do know that the great Flag of the United States of America does not feature a second-tier corporate mascot, especially one with acknowledged — indeed, celebrated — criminal tendencies. This is not the American flag. Let’s soak it in gasoline and roast weenies!

Now, aside from not being the flag of the United States of America, what else do these last six objects have in common? Well, what they have in common is that each and every one of them would fail what I like to call the “VFW Test,” which is conducted like so:

1. Go to your local VFW hall on the 4th of July.
2. Burn the flag-like object in the parking lot.
3. See if you don’t get your ass kicked.

Do you think a mob of angry veterans won’t kick your ass for burning the flag, just because one of the stars is a circle, or one of the stripes is pink, or you’ve embossed the Hamburgler into the corner? As if. You’ll get a stomping, all right, because it looks like an American flag, even if it is not, and burning it feels like you’re burning the American flag, even if you’re not.

And of course, that’s the point: by not burning the Flag of the United States but rather something excruciatingly close to it, you’re not violating a Constitutional Amendment, but engaging in free speech, which is of course covered by the First Amendment. You’re getting all the impact of burning the US flag, with none of the Constitutional risk (although you may still get your ass kicked by angry veterans). You’ve cracked the flag-burning Amendment.

Alternately, one could simply dispose of a worn and soiled American Flag in the acknowledged respectful and non-desecrating manner of burning it (see U.S. Flag Code, Section 8, subsection (k)), and, while respectfully burning that worn and soiled flag, in a public place, simultaneously and independently engage in political speech.

“Protecting” the flag with a Constitutional Amendment won’t solve the not-at-all pressing problem of people burning flags for political protest. They’ll still do it. They’ll simply do it in ways that will now additionally mock the stupidity of those who love the symbol of American freedoms more than they love actual American freedoms. And no matter how expansively Congress defines “the American Flag” there will always be something that is not the flag, but is close enough in its shape and structure to feel just like the flag. And there will be the people who will use that not-quite-flag-like object to protest.

And you know what? Good for them. They’re being better Americans than those who would pass a flag-burning Amendment. Real Americans don’t take away the freedoms of other Americans.

154 Comments on “Cracking the Flag-Burning Amendment”

  1. Also, before it comes up:

    Burning a US flag in protest is tiresome and stupid. I don’t encourage it. Please don’t do it.

    I reserve the right to change my mind should a flag-burning amendment pass.

  2. Real Americans don’t take away the freedoms of other Americans.

    I want that as a bumper sticker.

    Also, good post. Issues like this go far to betray just how ignorant and stupid many of our elected officials think we are. They know this won’t do anything to stop flag burning. If anything, it will encourage it, because what’s the fun of a peaceful protest if you can’t get arrested for it. But Congress hopes their constituents won’t notice, and will be placated by this pointless amendment.


  3. My question is what “physical desecration” actually means. Is it physical interference with an actual flag causing damage, or is it desecration of an image of a flag, or is it the use of the image of the flag in a manner that some would find objectionable? NPR did a story on Flag Day about the various ways that the flag regulations are regularly violated by those in positions of power–senators, generals, etc. Specifically, the use of the American flag as a commercial symbol is strictly prohibited by those regulations, which are admittedly guidelines, not laws. However, it could be argued that physical desecration includes the use of the image of the flag on t-shirts, ties, chairs, blankets, towels–the list goes on and on. I doubt many in our commercially-driven society would file suit based on a violation of this amendment for the use of a flag on a Polo t-shirt, but a case might be made by an intrepid patriot. Something to think about…

  4. Courtney:

    “I doubt many in our commercially-driven society would file suit based on a violation of this amendment for the use of a flag on a Polo t-shirt.”

    Ah ha ha ha ha! You think there aren’t a bunch of raging lefties who wouldn’t be as happy to go after flag-wearing conservatives as flag-wearing conservatives are happy to go after flag-burning lefties? Oh, they will. We will see the law of unintended consequences rather quickly imposed should a flag-desecration amendement ever pass.

  5. I think if it passes, the first thing I’ll do is sue all the gas stations, car lots, et. al. who fly a faded, worn-out rag of a flag. I can only imagine the whiplash these patridiots are going to get trying to reverse course…

  6. To be honest, it really bothers me to see people flying ratty-ass American flags. It’s genuinely disrespectful to the flag, and the fact that these people don’t know that, or know it and don’t care, is appalling.

  7. My favorites were the ones flying from car windows in the aftermath of 9/11. After about a month of flapping in the wind at 60 mph they were ragged and filthy, yet those brave brave patriots kept on flying them.

  8. My favorites were the ones flying from car windows in the aftermath of 9/11. After about a month of flapping in the wind at 60 mph they were ragged and filthy, yet those brave brave patriots kept on flying them.

    Rich, my favorite comment on those flags came from a friend of mine who wondered how much drag they were putting on the car and how much more gas was being consumed, over all the cars who began to have the flags on them, than normally.

    It amused me.

  9. IMO the flag-burning amendment is a McCarthy Era loyalty oath all over again. The Right wants to use this to crucify anyone bold enough to peep the word ‘rights’.

  10. Good point about the raging lefties. And if they’re going to go after someone, the deep pockets are certainly at Ralph Lauren rather than Joe Don’s Truck Stop with the shaggy flag. I wonder which potential defendant would generate more righteous indignation on Fox News?

  11. Well, those Congress critters have to do something to keep busy. I mean, after all, there’s nothing much of any consequence to occupy their time between election cycles. The budget is balanced. The tax code has been reformed. Our nations’s physical infrastructure is in tip-top shape. All parts of our economy are doing just fine. No corporations are attempting to cheat on the pension promises they have made. There is not in danger from blood-hirsty jihadists. Our energy problems have been solved. The Social Security system has been made fiscally sound (as well as fair and equitable) for at least the rest of this century. We aren’t stuck with an idiot anti-free-speech law, uh, excuse me, I meant campaign finance reform law.

    Hmmm, on the other hand, maybe fooling around with nonsense like this will keep them from passing another McCain-Feingold act and keep Sen. Biden from selling us all out to the motion picture and recording industries.

  12. It is hard to argue with your conclusion: There are more worthwhile things that our elected officials could be engaged in than enacting anti-flag-burning legislation. At the end of the day, I agree that you have a right to burn the flag, if that’s what floats your boat.

    What I think is missing from your post is balance: Individuals who would protest by burning American flags in the same manner as Hamas members and Al-Queda supporters are a bit unhinged–to say the least.

    So yes, they have their “rights”–but let’s not make heroes of them.

  13. “So yes, they have their ‘rights’–but let’s not make heroes of them.”

    Why would you put “rights” in quotes? It’s either a right or it is not. Acknowledging a right means not qualifying it. Say it: Americans should have the right to burn a flag. Either you believe it or you don’t.

    As I noted in the post in the comment thread, I think flag-burning is tiresome and stupid, which I think fairly effectively undercuts the idea that I’m holding out these goofs as heroes. However, someone who would ban burning the flag deserves even less of my respect than a flag burner. One burns a symbol, the other destroys a right. One of these is more dangerous than the other.

  14. Americans who burn the flag in protest aren’t “unhinged,” but they are political naifs. The American left did lasting damage to itself in the Vietnam era by essentially giving the flag away to the right. In a completely rational country this wouldn’t matter, but we are human in these parts, and we do have trouble separating symbols from what they represent.

    That said, a person who burns the flag presents no danger to me or the country, but the people who want to stop him do.

  15. I’m not keen on seeing a silly amendment like this pass, not because I don’t love my country, but because it denigrates the intelligence of the people NOT burning the flag.

    Let’s face it, if someone has to resort to burning the flag to get attention and/or make a point, they are desperate or stupid. Free Speech? Sure, but not well crafted speech. My four year old could make the same point, given access to matches….

    There are certainly laws against burning objects in public that can be applied to this situation. If a protester burned a blank sheet of cloth in public, they’d get arrested on some kind of public nuisance charge – same thing here.

    As for if I ever saw anyone try to burn a flag, I’d take the well know Rick Monday approach and save the flag, but then follow up with a thorough ass-kicking. What can I say? I’m a veteran…

  16. Yes, Matt. There’s nothing about recognizing a right that means one can’t also recognize the fact that those exercising the right are pathetic losers.

    Burning an American flag is sort of the physical Godwin Law. There’s usually nowhere one can rationally go from there.

  17. If they passed a Constitutional Amendment to ban Constitutional Amendments would it void all previous Amendments? Would it void itself? It’s all so confusing.

  18. There are certainly laws against burning objects in public that can be applied to this situation. If a protester burned a blank sheet of cloth in public, they’d get arrested on some kind of public nuisance charge – same thing here.

    You’re probably right, BUT, it would still be more tiresome in court. A lawyer will happily bring up a free speech complaint, which eventually would be dismissed because the arrest/fine was actually content neutral. But it’s still a LOT more hassle for the prosecuting/arresting team to penalize somebody for burning a flag[like object] than it is to burn a white linen sheet.

  19. Isn’t all of this pointless? After all, if you burn a flag, haven’t you also gotten rid of the evidence?

    SENATOR: Did you just burn a flag?

    ME: I don’t know. Look through the ashes and find out.

  20. Have you seen the Old Navy Stars & Stripes line they put out every year about this time? T-shirts mostly, but other products, too. Although the flag shouldn’t be used for commercial purposes, I think the folks who wear the shirts probably have their hearts in the right place. My problem is with the thongs (shoes) and shorts. Those who are allegedly displaying their patriotism fail to grasp that they are stepping on and wrapping their ass in the very symbol they claim to love and respect. Now, I would certainly never tell them they can’t wear those things, but I have told friends (and Old Navy) that it is completely inappropriate.

    How about creating a bumper sticker (a la “My Jesus Forgives…”) for “Real Americans don’t take away the freedoms of other Americans?” I’m thinking something with a flag in the background, with or without flames. If I were a better PhotoShopper, I might undertake this project myself. Alas, I am not.

  21. So once I finish burning off my pseudo-flag and the cops come to arrest me, how do I prove that the piece of fabric I burned had 49 stars and a circle?

  22. Much as I’d like to see the hamburgler flag, it also violates the flag code, butned or not:

    “The flag should never have placed upon it, nor on any part of it, nor attached to it any mark, insignia, letter, word, figure, design, picture, or drawing of any nature. ”

    So looks like the VFW gets to beat some ass either way.

  23. No! You crazy fool!

    This idea first started coming out back after the supreme court decision in the late 80s — including match-light(tm) brand flags, but people were keeping it silent because we don’t want them to know about and plug the loophole.

    While it would be a tragedy if the amendment passes, at least they would have to then realize that their constitution-burning was all for nothing, that it won’t stop any burnings.

    Don’t warn them! Burn this blog entry — for now.

  24. e:

    “So looks like the VFW gets to beat some ass either way.”

    Well, e, the Hamburgler shouldn’t be placed on an already existing flag, it should be put into the flag during its manufacture — thereby the flag in question was never a true American flag to begin with.

    But this is an excellent point: “pre-desecrating” a real US Flag so it will be altered at the time of your intended desecration doesn’t get you off the hook; it just means you’ve desecrated the same flag on two separate occasions. For it not to be a US flag, it has to have not been a US flag from the beginning.

    Brad Templeton:

    “People were keeping it silent because we don’t want them to know about and plug the loophole.”

    Heh. A little late now. Besides, how does one plug the loophole? In order to make the Amendement work, the flag will have to be defined as being “x”. Make your mock flag “x-1” and you’re golden. Unless one defines everything as an American flag, which would be interesting, to say the least.

  25. Flag Burning Amendment

    The House of Representatives approved the flag burning amendment yesterday. I don’t really have too many strong feelings about this. It was probably just a little show of patriotism for the homefolks, although about 130 representatives declined the o…

  26. Cracking The Flag-Burning Amendment

    John Scalzi is all over this one. Red, white and blue? Check. 13 stripes? Check. 50 stars? Check. Well, then it must be an Americ– hey. Wait a minute. Isn’t that the Hamburgler in the bottom right corner? I…

  27. Well, e, the Hamburgler shouldn’t be placed on an already existing flag, it should be put into the flag during its manufacture

    But then McDonald’s is going to beat your ass after the VFW gets through with it. Desecrating the American Flag with is corporate trademark will get you raped, beaten and killed – that I can assure you.

  28. Further Flag Burning

    I found this post today that eloquently articulates my feelings about flag burning. And it does it with a bit of humor. I was inspired to create my own flag variation in order to see if I could burn it without breaking the law.

  29. I wish you were right about this loophole, but you almost certainly are not. The proposed constitutional ammendment is a single line that reads “The Congress shall have power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States.” This is just the constitutional authority to create the law, it is not the law itself.

    The actual law will almost certainly have a “reasonable person” standard; i.e., if a prosecutor can convince a jury that a reasonable person would consider the item you descrates to be an American flag, then you are guilty. This is, of course, a chilling prospect (in both the legal and emtional sense of the word “chilling”), but I imagine the Supreme Court will let it stand because it is clearly within the intent of the ammendment, which would have equal standing with the 1st Ammendment.

    When discussing the issue with folks who think this is a good idea, I have had some success by pointing out that this is not what the ammendments are for, and noting that only one ammendment has been solely for restricting the rights of the people. And that was repealed. The bulk of the ammendments have to do with restricting and clarifying the rights of the government.

  30. You could make a decent argument that an amendment which granted congress the power to ban flag “desecration” would also grant congress the power to pass all laws “necessary and proper” to the accomplishment of that purpose, for example, by making it illegal to not only burn a flag, but also to burn something “close enough” to a flag.

    It’d be an obnoxious, vague, and difficult to use law, but congress would have the power to pass it. And while most of the conservative judges on the supreme court usually pretend the necessary and proper clause doesn’t exist, Scalia at least discovered it recently in that medical marijuana case. He might be able to convince Thomas and Co. to notice it as well.

    Heck, given the ambiguity in defining “desecration,” I shudder to even consider just how much a conservative judiciary would accept as properly bannable. Desecration is depriving something of its sacred character. What if you hung up a flag and then talked smack at it?

    “You stupid flag!” = desecration.

    Or worse,

    “The flag isn’t a sacred object, its just a symbol. The values behind the symbol are more important.” = depriving the flag of its sacred status.

  31. As for if I ever saw anyone try to burn a flag, I’d take the well know Rick Monday approach and save the flag, but then follow up with a thorough ass-kicking. What can I say? I’m a veteran…

    I suggest you seek therapy for your violent and intolerant tendencies. Seriously.

    The people who feel the need to “Advertise” their patriotism are lacking in patriotism.

    But…but…it’s so much EASIER to hang a cheap flag I bought at Wal-Mart on sale than to read the Constitution or something!!

  32. Silly boomers and conservatives.

    I hate to break it to you but: It’s a f-ing piece of cloth. That’s it. It isn’t your magical source of power that will be destroyed if an evil hippy sets it on fire.

    Let’s repeat: It’s just a symbol. It’s just a symbol.

    You know why people burn it? Because it’s one of the few messages that certain brands of conservative nuts will listen to when people want to protest the turn to fascism that this country is taking.

  33. If flag burning is banned, why not burn copies of the Constitution or the Bill of Rights? Same symbolic gesture.

    Even if this amendment actually made it into the constitution, what better way to show that you support it than by burning that pesky bill of rights with all this tiresome free speech protections?

  34. Okay now, how many years until the Great Boomer Die-Off begins, so we won’t have to put up with cheap stunts like this?

  35. The most lucid comment I’ve heard on the subject of flag burning came, surprisingly, from a liberal talk radio host (Ron Kuby, WABC in New York) who said (something like) this:

    “I fully support your right to burn the flag, but I hasten to point out that by doing so, you just about guarantee that no one will be listening to whatever message you are trying to convey in your protest, since they will be entirely focused on your attention grabbing, flag burning stunt. Therefore, while legal, flag burning is one of the least effective forms of protest, and I’d recommend you don’t bother.”

    Much like what John said about it being tiresome & stupid, but I liked the point about it actually *detracting* from the message at hand.

    I wonder if anyone (at least any American) has ever burned a flag for any reason other than to protest attempts to prohibit flag burning. If so, their point was probably lost in the flames…

  36. This is going to fall in the same category as using a toy gun to commit a crime. If it looks close to the real thing, then the full severity of the law goes into effect. Even if you win the court battle, you’ll still get arrested and tried. Who knows what effect an arrest would have on your ability to travel, get a job, attend protests, or report on events, not to mention that it’s an easy way to remove you from the protest you were attending in the first place.

    At least the flag is catching up with the times. What better way to represent the increasing tone of promoting ideology and price by diluting freedom and value than to protect the image of the flag by diluting what the flag represents?

    Maybe freedom itself is just an overused symbol, and what we’ve really been concerned with for the last 229 years is the diminishing amount of space between our bedrooms and our neighbors’ bedrooms

  37. Whoops, I think I may have accidentally deleted someone’s comment during a spam sweep. If you posted a comment and now it’s gone, please feel free to repost.

  38. If this amendment is ever actually added to the constitution every patriotic American should be out side burning an authentic flag, not pussy footing around the issue by skirting technicalities.

    It stands, in no small part, for our collective right to burn it. To infringe on that is desecration of truly American ideals and should be confronted head on.

  39. The Chicago Tribune is against this amendment.
    So they don’t care if you burn the front page of the Trib to start your BBQ grill.
    A few weeks ago, just before Memorial Day, the Trib came in a plastic bag with a large flag printed on it. It was a Marshall Field ad for a Memorial Day sale, oh an honor the dead too!

  40. Dear Mr. Scalzi,

    A special thank you for the “Crack the Flag-Burning Amendment.” It was Great! Awesome!

    A voice of America

  41. Awesome post.

    Have you seen Title 4, Chapter 1, Section 8(k) of the U.S. Flag code?

    “The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.

    American Legion, you’re under arrest.

  42. Real Americans do not take away the freedoms of Native (“other”) Americans?

  43. Robin: Citizens of the United States do not take away the freedoms of other citizens of the United States. In the times where US citizens were fiddling with the rights of other US citizens whose ancestors crossed a land bridge from Asia tens of thousands of years ago, they were being bad US citizens, in my opinion. Hopefully that will make this clearer for you.

  44. Another thought on flag burning

    Say this amendment passes, and states pass laws banning flag desecration. What if someone burns something looks a lot like the American flag, but has, say, 11 stripes? Or 51 stars? Or better yet, has…

  45. The actual law will almost certainly have a “reasonable person” standard; i.e., if a prosecutor can convince a jury that a reasonable person would consider the item you descrates to be an American flag, then you are guilty.

    I don’t think so. I don’t think a criminal statute — which is what this would be — would be permitted to stand if it were this vague. Even in obscenity statutes, the most common use of “reasonable person” language in criminal statutes that I’m aware of, there are still baseline requirements that you have to meet — it has to display blah blah body parts or blah blah sexual acts in such a way that they would offend the community yappety yap. Furthermore, things that are almost obscenity are still considered “lesser” speech by most judges, whether correctly or incorrectly, meaning the definitions are applied with something of a shrug. Things that are almost flags but are being used in protest would be classic political speech and subject to higher protections. And remember, obscenity statutes are still tied up in court for a billion years.

    You would basically continue to have a constitutional free-speech argument, to my eye, because unless what you were burning was an actual flag, it would not be covered by the new amendment, meaning that prohibiting burning it in protest would still be a violation of the First Amendment. See what I’m saying? They’re basically punching a hole in the First Amendment, and unless the criminal statute that was passed was very specifically limited to actual flags — not reasonable facsimiles of flags — the statute would still smack head-first into your free-speech rights. The First Amendment will still protect your right to protest, right up to the edges of whatever the new amendment says, and if it says “flag,” then you’re protected by the First Amendment right up to the point where what you’re burning is actually a flag. Free-speech protections will still apply to your right to burn red, white, and blue ribbons and so forth — which is the other part of why this is such a dumb-ass way for people to spend their time. You’re going to feel better when people are burning military uniforms, or pictures of Bush, or banners that read “PRETEND THIS IS A FLAG”? It’s stupid.

    Anyway, aside from obscenity statutes, most criminal statutes, to my knowledge, stay away from “reasonable person” language, which is mostly used in civil, not criminal, law. “Reasonable person” standards are unusual in criminal statutes, in my experience. I think the statute would certainly have to define a flag, and as John has pointed out, whatever they come up with, you can get around.

    One last point: Criminal statutes are generally interpreted by courts very differently from civil statutes, in that they’re construed narrowly in favor of defendants. You pass a criminal statute that says “flag,” and they’re not going to take an expansive reading. They’re going to take a narrow one, and it’s going to leave lots of room for, for instance, the orange/green variation.

  46. Being from Scotland, I’m always amazed about the amount of concern and attention directed at the US flag by US citizens. Believe me, nobody in this country gives a rat’s arse what people do to their flags. People don’t fly St Andrews crosses out of their windows/cars/offices/trousers. They sit on top of castles (although, I guess you guys don’t have those…), and that’s pretty much it. I think there’s one outside the Scottish Parliament.

    I realise, for US citizens, the US flag is a symbol of freedom, justice, equality, yada yada yada. But don’t you realise how often those principles are violated in the US, or by the US in other countries? What’s infinitely more offensive than burning a piece of material that symbolises your country’s principles is the fact that those principles themselves are so often violated, with proportionally less uproar and public outrage than is given to flag-burning.

    The other irony being that flags are usually burnt in protest against the violations of the principles which the flag represents…

  47. I wish I could remember the exact quote, but years ago Molly Ivins wrote about this topic. She pointed out that George H. Bush had a cake decorated as a flag for his birthday one year when he was President. Think about where that ended up. Talk about desecration.

  48. If a flag is a “living symbol” of a nation and the fundamental character (or “constitution”) of that nation is changed, especially in a manner arguably contradictory to its earlier principles, would not a flag that flew over and symbolized the earlier version of the nation be sullied/soiled/even desecrated by change? Would it not be appropriate to respectfully, and in accordance with existing ritual, publicly retire that flag through burning? One might even invoke the phoenix, praying that restoration of “the Republic for which it stands” may arise from the ashes of the pyre.

    A somber funeral might open some eyes that refuse to see the reason for allowing offensive demonstration and protest. At the very least, one could eulogize a nation that wasn’t afraid of having its feelings hurt.

  49. How to burn the American flag with impunity

    Wer eine amerikanische Flagge verbrennen möchte, sollte es einfach mit Würde tun. Der Flag Code (36 USC 10) sieht in Sec. 8 subsec. k vor, dass a flag when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should b…

  50. Fafblog is on the case: “Well a lot of you are probably sitting around today going ‘oh well finally I can sleep peacefully! a solution has arrived to the nationwide flag-burning epidemic.’ Well you are wrong! The proposed flag amendment would only allow Congress to punish people for desecrating the actual flag — when there are dozens of other ways to humiliate Freedom by defacing other Freedomlike objects!”

  51. DESECRATION: I have American flag underwear. . . what if I accidentally crap my pants? (or even deliberately, for that matter?) What about an American flag shirt that I wear while playing basketball or running; is SWEAT considered “desecration”? What if I pull a “Jimi Hendrix” and set fire to my American flag guitar on stage? It seems none of these fit the exact prerequisites of what constitutes an American flag. And of course there’s that ridiculous Sylvester Stallone/Rocky flag that was brandished by Iraqis after the fall of Baghdad.

    I doubt they will consider any of this when writing up the amendment.

    If they pass this amendment I intend to burn a Cuban or Puerto Rican or Liberian flag: they look quite similar to the U.S. flag, and I’m not breaking the law even in spirit.

  52. Another case, in which I am one of the dastardly fiends:

    The son of a friend of a friend shipped out to Iraq last week. So my friend was collecting stuff to send to him, the usual list of things for this, snacks, foot powder, books, etc.

    I contributed a couple of card games I had around.

    She brought around a picture of a waving flag with “Thank You” printed over it, and we all signed it, and she’s sending it along with the rest.

    Are we flag desecrators? Should I get a lawyer?

  53. I would go the other way with this. Rather than use a technicality to get away with flag burning, I would use newly-indestructible flags to interfere with other activities.

    For example: Paint flags on the roads and sidewalks in front of every entrance to the White House. You can’t drive on a flag, or walk on one, without desecrating it. The pres would be stuck inside until his staff managed to cut a new hole in the fence.

  54. Lots of great stuff here, but I especially love your last sentence: “Real Americans don’t take away the freedoms of other Americans.” I want a t-shirt and/or bumper sticker with that quote! Let me know if you put it up on Cafe Press. :)

  55. I think you’d have the same effect if you drew a flag onto a piece of posterboard and tore it up as you would burning a real flag. That’s because the lizard-brained neanderthal Ameri-christian idiots are unable to handle complexity. They really aren’t. They don’t even understand that black people and white people are equal, because their eyes tell them that God has burned some people black with sin.

  56. So I suppose Michael Jackson must have God removing his sin via vitaligo.

    The other entertaining problem with the anti-flag-burning amendment is wanting to have the flag be “sacred” so that it is not “profaned.” Which is all well and good, until you realize that what is sacred and what is profane very much depends on your religion. Is flame sacred or profane? It seems to depend on context and belief. Perhaps I could honor the flag by sacrificing a goat to it and letting it soak up the blood? Rubbing it with the sacred native soil? Smearing it with holy ashes, the same type folk put on their forehead for Ash Wednesday?

    However, all that the anti-flag-burning amendment means is that Bush’s poll numbers are down this week and he needed a distraction so people wouldn’t talk about Iraq and soldiers being blown up by “improvised explosive devices.” And I’m wondering when we can drop the “improvised” and perhaps now have the i stand for “improved,” since they’ve been product-testing them for a year now, and they have shaped charges, infrared remotes and all sorts of spiffy new options.

  57. As Wilfred Owen noted in a poem from WW I: …when each proud fighter brags/ he wars on death for life/not men, for flags.

    The possibility exists that this ‘amendment’ has the simple purpose of using a phony hot-button simply to get amending the Constitution started so that the *real* amendments can be ramrodded through.

  58. To RushMC:

    re: “I suggest you seek therapy for your violent and intolerant tendencies. Seriously.”


    I stand by my original comment, and since you don’t know a thing about me, and very litle can be gained from a dashed off blog response, you should perhaps withhold incendiary commentary of that kind.

    However, I will AMEND my comments to:

    “As for if I ever saw anyone try to burn a flag, I’d take the well know Rick Monday approach and save the flag, but then follow up with a thorough ass-kicking. BUT ONLY – if its a fair fight. I will not physically confront females, boys, very young men, older men, or parents with children at the scene. (No need to humiliate anyone)

    Any man between 19 and 45 who wishes to compensate for their inabilty to convincingly articulate their complaints (demonstrated via the burning of an American Flag,) with a physical demonstration will have the opportunity to do so.

    I will give them that opportunity. No low blows. No ganging up. No intention to committ lifelong damage or disfigurement. No intention to strike unconscious, merely punitive action to show that public behavior of this kind should not be tolerated. If I saw a person burning a Mexican flag at a Cinco de Mayo celebration, I would take precisely the same action, and I’m Irish/German. Even if I’m likely to lose the fight. What can I say? I’m a veteran…

    But better yet, let’s not BURN the flag to begin with. Talk. Work. Argue. Persuade. Burning a portrait of Martin Luther King, Malcom X, Cesar Chavez or anyone else would be called remarkably ignorant and intolerant, and certainly incite rightful defensive action on the part of those who hold the memory of these men in high esteem. Why should burning the symbol of American Unity, the Flag, be viewed in a different manner?

    You called me intolerant and violent. I think you’re pretty quick to judge. Seriously.

    And therapy can’t do a thing about that.

  59. Rick asks:
    So once I finish burning off my pseudo-flag and the cops come to arrest me, how do I prove that the piece of fabric I burned had 49 stars and a circle?

    I’d say you’re innocent until proven guilt. It’s up to them to prove your flag was a valid flag.

  60. Great post. I have never burned a flag, nor would I ever even consider such an act no matter how angry or disenfranchised I might be, but I would certainly like that to continue to be because I have chosen not to do so and not because I can’t do it.

    An amendment to the Constitution isn’t going to accomplish anything in the way of protection for the flag. Disallowing the burning of a flag won’t somehow magically educate the potential burner as to it’s ascribed meanings, nor will it will it have a causal effect of sudden agreement with “what the flag stands for” whatever that may be. Ultimately, the only thing that this will accomplish is to remove by one further degree, the very freedom the flag is supposed to represent.

  61. “Burning an American flag is sort of the physical Godwin Law.”

    Made me wonder: did the Nazis ever ban flag burning?

  62. Let’s be clear about this – the whole enterprise here is not about burning the flag at all. The enterprise is about forcing the left to defend an unpopular practice. The whole point of free speech is that it may be unpopular, that people may not like to hear it – and the right are taking advantage of that to associate left-wingers with actions that people consider Anti-American. It’s incredibly cheap.

  63. A flag burning amendment WILL probably stop flag burning as a form of protest. Since the usual reason for flag burning is to protest a violation of a principle that the flag represents, enacting this amendment will make the flag no longer worth burning…since it will no longer represent anything of value.

  64. I think Dan is right: the law putting the flag-burning amendment will include language saying it applies to anything a reasonable person might take to be the flag. This is not unacceptably vague: lots of laws run by the “reasonable person” standard. Everyone who sees John’s clever almost-flags can tell that he’s just fiddling with the flag.

    However, there are still ways to crack the law: burn a flag-sized piece of cloth that reads, “This represents a U.S. flag” or something.

    Brian Greenberg quotes a commentator who says to flag-burners that their act is getting in the way of their message. Has anybody ever asked flag-burners what their intended message is? There are so many ways to express disapproval of the US government that I wonder if the intended message of flag-burning is simply, “I wish to goad right-wingers into insanely hilarious foam-spitting fury.”

    If so, it’s working.

  65. Should we ban flag burning?

    My quick answer: No. I’ve previously resisted writing about political issues, but I couldn’t resist on this one…
    Read this for a great explanation why the proposed Constitutional Amendment is a waste of time.
    Isn’t it about t…

  66. “Made me wonder: did the Nazis ever ban flag burning?”

    Rexbob: Publicly burning the German flag is illegal in Germany right now, so I’d be surprised if the laws on that matter would have been more permissive under the Nazis.

    Anyway, under the Nazis, such technicalities as wether something was actually illegal didn’t always mean much- if you did something that was recognizably an act of protest against the system and the Gestapo or someone similar heard about it, you had a good chance of ending up dead or in a concentration camp no matter wether you had technically broken the law.

    Besides, during the War, flag-burning would probably have been covered by the rules against “Wehrkraftzersetzung” (“undermination of defensive/fighting power”), anyway.

  67. Will the flag amendment apply to all of the other breeches of flag etiquette that occur each and every day, such as flag bumper stickers, flag bikinis, flag t-shirts, etc.? I have a feeling that most of the people who want to “protect” the flag have actually desecrated the flag themselves by using flag paper plates and napkins, etc. alas, the double standard still lives…

  68. Lots of laws do run by a reasonable person standard. But not a lot of criminal laws, particularly at the level of defining the essence of the crime. If you could do that, then that’s how obscenity statutes would be written, but as stated previously, it isn’t. You still have a basic definition that comes down to what acts and body parts you’re not allowed to show, and there’s no way you’re going to see a criminal statute pass constitutional muster that says “If you physical desecrate any object that a reasonable person would think is a flag, you go to jail.” I simply don’t believe that would hold up. As I said, they’d love to write obscenity statutes that way — “anything a reasonable person would consider pornography” — but you can’t do it, so they don’t do it.

  69. Remember – in a pinch you could always burn the flags of Liberia or Malaysia! They look sufficiently American that I’m sure people would be nicely confused.

  70. You know, I hate to see people burning our flag but I do agree they should be free to do it. People who are burning the flag are not being good Americans, but in American you have the right to protest, so they should be alowed to do it. Although I understnad the patriotism that spawns such laws, I also know that freedom is worth more. So I say, let the babies have there botle, it aint worth all the cryin’

  71. It is an insult to all that have fought and died for our nation to burn the flag. However, it is a greater insult to ban such action. You have the right to be disrespectful, and in fact stupid, in out great nation!

    P.S. GREAT essay!

  72. Right on!

    We need to get rid of a few (hundred) laws, not add more silly ones…

    Oh, your last example with the Hamburgler could be considered unlawful just as it is. It is a lawful flag that has an image added to it.

    A final point.

    It is not the American flag.

    It is one of the American flags.

    Just as there are many countries on the continent of Africa, there are many countries on the continent of America – north, south, and central.

    Thus it is the flag of the United States of America. No other country that I know of uses “United States” so that should be a safe way to shorten the name.


  73. Tom:

    Eh. This is like saying the Soviet flag should have always been refered to as the flag of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, because there were other Soviets out there.

    Anyway, if we’re going to get that way about it, why not use “America” to refer to the US? There is no other “America,” after all. There is a North America and a South America, which are sometimes referred to as “The Americas,” but there is no one else using “America” in a singular form.

    Indeed, I would suggest that grammatically speaking the US should be referred to “America,” since nearly every other country whose formal title includes “The United States of…” or some close variant invariably refers to itself as the object of that particular phrase. Brazil is not known as “The Federative Republic,” and Mexico (for one) is not known as “The United States.” It’s a little arrogant for America to buck the format that serves other countries so well, I’d say.

  74. What happens if they protect everything that looks like a flag? Do I get arrested when I wipe my mouth on a paper napkin with the American flag printed on. If a 49 star flag with a dot is too close to the American flag not to be protected, why isn’t an image of the flag on a napkin? Concidering the Right’s ability to create double standards, do you suppose industries will be given a huge amount of wiggle room (U.S Flag toilet paper? Sure Charmin, that will cost you a campaign contribution, though!) While the rest of us have to make sure our garbage doesn’t have too much red white and blue in it to be concidered close enough to the us flag?

  75. (just adding comment to keep this comment thread open — for whatever reason threads less than a week old turn into moderated threads at the turn of the month)

  76. Hi John:

    I agree with you 100% on this issue. These idiots in congress have to learn how to read for comprehension and then be made to sit down and read American history, the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Way too much to ask of them so I won’t go on.

    There is another addition to you flag collection that I have on my blog, LeftIndependent. I produced it last week and you are welcome to it.

    You might also appreciate my Pledge of Allegiance to the Constitution

  77. In 1988 Gary Johnson, at a violent anti-American demonstration in Austin, Texas, broke into a nearby state government building, climbed up on the roof, stole the American flag flying there, returned to the demonstration, and burned it while chanting anti-American slogans. In a fit of complete and utter stupidity the USSC ruled by a 5-4 margin that this sequence of events (burglary, vandalism, arson, and inciting to riot) was protected under the 1st Amendment to the US Constitution as his “right to peacably assemble and demand redress of grievances”.

    When you argue for “unfettered rights”, or “uncompromised freedom” you’re really arguing for my right to grill your liver and serve it with a side of fava beans and a nice glass of chianti. That’s neither a democracy nor a republic: it’s anarchy. The elected representatives of all 50 states and the Federal government had decided that flag-burning was not an acceptable form of “peaceably assembling to demand redress of grievances”: Five unelected and unanswerable judges said it was. Well, they can be answered: but only through Constitutional Amendment.

  78. Orion:

    “When you argue for ‘unfettered rights’, or ‘uncompromised freedom’ you’re really arguing for my right to grill your liver and serve it with a side of fava beans and a nice glass of chianti.”

    That’s the goddamned stupidest thing anyone’s said in this thread, Orion, and if you really believe there’s any sort of equivalency between burning a flag and slaughtering someone and cutting them open for their body parts, which you then use for a cannibalistic feast (i.e., an equivalency between political speech and murder), you’re about as dumb as any person can be without actually dropping out of the primate order. Please do me the favor of not polluting my site with such flagrant dumbassery. I’m not opposed to people having a different point of view, but I prefer it not be couched in such moronic rhetoric.

    As for the “five unelected and unanswerable judges,” try not to have so much contempt for the Constitution of the United States, if you please. Perhaps you think the framers of the US Constitution erred in making one branch of the national government relatively immune from transient political pressures, but you’d be wrong about that, and as you’ve shown with that choice piece of stupidity above, you’re not exactly a James Madison-class intellect.

    Finally, please do go back and read the article upon which you are commenting, which outlines specifically why passing a flag-burning amendment is pointless and stupid. Had Gary Johnson burned a flag with 49 stars and a circle rather than an American flag, the uproar would have been near the same, and it still would have been political speech, protected by the US Constitution.

    Goddamn, stupid people bother me.

  79. “People who are burning the flag are not being good Americans, but in American you have the right to protest, so they should be alowed to do it.”

    “It is an insult to all that have fought and died for our nation to burn the flag.”


    Can someone please explain to me the rationale behind the above comments, especially when said protestor is protesting what s/he believes to be a violation of the rights for which the flag is supposed to stand? I get so sick of seeing comments like these. While one may idiotically turn others away from his/her message with such a protest, it is not un-Usonian (I, like Frank Lloyd Wright prefer Usonian to American) to burn a flag in protest. It also should not be insulting to anyone. It is simply a way to express the belief that the symbol no longer represents what it was once intended to represent. Burning a flag has nothing to do with any member of the armed services. It speaks to the government’s policies.

    13strong from Scotland mentioned this notion, but nobody noticed his comment. I’ll re-post part of what he said for anyone who may have missed it:

    “What’s infinitely more offensive than burning a piece of material that symbolises your country’s principles is the fact that those principles themselves are so often violated, with proportionally less uproar and public outrage than is given to flag-burning.

    The other irony being that flags are usually burnt in protest against the violations of the principles which the flag represents…”

  80. I’ve added a link to this page on the Wikipedia article on the Flag Burning Amendment – along with a few choice observations of my own. Cheers!

  81. I suspect that people who have trouble distinguishing between the symbols of rights and the actual rights also have trouble understanding Gödel’s incompleteness theorem.'s_incompleteness_theorem

    That’s perfectly normal and to be expected since we can’t all be on the high side of every bell curve.

    Isn’t the “Crack the Flag-Burning Amendment” an application of Gödel’s incompleteness theorem to the amendment? Of course, the law isn’t a consistent system, so it isn’t clear to me that it really works…

  82. You have summed up my thoughts exactly. I have wondered if I bought my own material and sewed my own flag, how could they prosecute for that?

    Why can’t people understand that one cannot destroy the meaning of a symbol by destroying that symbol?

  83. Where can i get a t shirt with an American Flag on it and saying underneath “Try Burning This One”

  84. “Burning a flag has nothing to do with any member of the armed services. It speaks to the government’s policies.”

    I don’t understand how you can say that, when the Star Spangled Banner, the ode to the flag itself, was specifically made during the War of 1812, during one of the larger battles. The ode to the flag is practically dedicated to the armed services, yet burning it shouldn’t offend them? Not true.

  85. Its irrelevant whether it is the law of the land or merely freedom of expression. A flag-protection amendment would give moral, if not legal, creedence to anyone wanting to kick a smelly hippies’ ass. McCarthyism aside, what’s not to love?

  86. We may not like burning the flag but our fonding fathers died for this country to be free and be able to express ourselves and i dont think that we should be able to take right of petition away if they did it would be violating our 1 amendment

  87. Burning the American Flag is not freedom of speech. Millions of men did die for you to have that right. If you hate America enough to use the freedoms of this country to burn it’s symbol of freedom, then you are no more American than the People we fought in past wars to keep our freedoms. And I challenge you to find a better country than America. Although we have our problems, there is no country greater than America. If you feel differently than you can go back to that country you think is better and stay there. There are plenty of ways to protest and use freedom of speech. There is no reason to disrespect this country, the flag or the men and women who died under that flag, so that you can express your views.

  88. a flag is this country trade mark it sude be respected there are men how died for that flag we all sude stand and give thanks to those men dayly
    if it was not for them this country would not be this country

  89. and to many pepole tack this country for granted
    bunring a flag sude be do in a saerimony not for the heel of it to those pepole how burn the flag for fun fuck u go state to hell u insenetive prick grow u

  90. Maybe stacy should learn how to spell before she makes derogatory comments towards others.

    Anyway there are other ways to voice your opinion besides burning a flag. People only do it to make other people mad. Lets all try to be lovers and not haters.

  91. “People who are burning the flag are not being good Americans, but in American you have the right to protest, so they should be alowed to do it.”

    “It is an insult to all that have fought and died for our nation to burn the flag.”


    Can someone please explain to me the rationale behind the above comments, especially when said protestor is protesting what s/he believes to be a violation of the rights for which the flag is supposed to stand? I get so sick of seeing comments like these. While one may idiotically turn others away from his/her message with such a protest, it is not un-Usonian (I, like Frank Lloyd Wright prefer Usonian to American) to burn a flag in protest. It also should not be insulting to anyone. It is simply a way to express the belief that the symbol no longer represents what it was once intended to represent. Burning a flag has nothing to do with any member of the armed services. It speaks to the government’s policies.

    13strong from Scotland mentioned this notion, but nobody noticed his comment. I’ll re-post part of what he said for anyone who may have missed it:

    “What’s infinitely more offensive than burning a piece of material that symbolises your country’s principles is the fact that those principles themselves are so often violated, with proportionally less uproar and public outrage than is given to flag-burning.

    The other irony being that flags are usually burnt in protest against the violations of the principles which the flag represents…”

  92. OMFG! haha. I understand why people are so upset by your words, but this shit is funny! I have to e-mail this site to my friends.

    keep doin what you do and watch out for angry people that want to kill you for what you said.

    ~Blu (a Mexican/American who wonders why we never see Mexicans burning thier flags.)

  93. I think flag burnign is a bad thing to this way of life we have going on around here. It should banned from everyone who has a permit or anything else like that. We are not teaching the next generation of our people the respect the United States of America Deserves from the people who live in it or even if they don’t. if you agree with me please email me with your approval and write what you think about all this to me. I would love to know you opionion to.

  94. It’s absoulutely ludicrous to even think about burning the flag. That is the one symbol that succintly sums up the spirit and pride of our country. Why would you want to burn it? If you hate America that much, go live somewhere else; there are plenty of people who would eagerly take your place.

  95. I totally agree with your statements. We are doing a school debate on this topic and i am on the Affirmative team that says that this amendment SHOULD be passed and I agree with it all the way! Keep it up!

  96. Hello.

    I feel that burning a flag is perfectly fine. It it the message of burning the flag, “oh you are dishonoring the USA and what the founding fathers faught for.” then having “unpure” thoughs about the government should be illegal. Do you really want this country to turn into a Big Brother idea government? With thought police and people monitering your every move? Talk about what the founding fathers fought against. So fuck it, burn the flag.

  97. You people have such a problem with burning the flag, it makes me sick. Do you really think that people would burn the flag if nothing was wrong with the government of this country? Stick your crosses up your asses douchebags.

  98. What is the difference between defending the US flag from the defense of Muhammad by Islamic countries because of the caricatures in a Danish newspaper?

    Laws regulating people from deeply offending one another should be unnecessary, but laws against deeply murdering one another should be unnecessary as well.

    In any case, I think the second amendment says Americans are allowed to be offensive. Therefore if this amendment ever passed it would violate both the first and second amendment.

    Personally I think burning anything is bad and if the US had just signed Kyoto this would be a moot point; all fire would be illegal.

  99. Good ppost.
    I seriously doubt VFW members would resort to violence. Most are debillitated by age or injury and most know the Bill of Rights by heart.
    Some history. I write editorials for a conservative newspaper. Three months before the Supremes the Johnson decision on March 15, 1989, we ran an editorial saying flag burning is protected free speech.
    So I take exception with the comment “IMO the flag-burning amendment is a McCarthy Era loyalty oath all over again. The Right wants to use this to crucify anyone bold enough to peep the word ‘rights’.”
    True conservatives revere the ideals not the symbols.

  100. I love your view on things so if you email what ever you post up that would be great

  101. The day that they pass a Law making it Illegal to burn the US Flag is the day that I will do so.
    Up to that day, I will have not the Heart, nor the Disrespect to do so.
    Although it would piss me off to see someone else burn one, I would defend their RIGHT to do so; This is, after all, America, Land of the Free, Home of Freedom, even for Disrespectful Assholes.
    The very fact that I am on here, Blogging my Bazoo off is Proof of The First Amendment Right to Speak Out, in whatever form I might like. When we lose THAT Right, the rest will follow, like the Dominoes the Government warned us about.
    If they Outlaw Rude, Obnoxious, Boorish Ignorant Behavior, there’s going to be a lot of Public Servants in the Clink.

  102. All right. Enough whining about somebody infringing upon your precious right to be self absorbed and selfish. Burning the flag should be illegal for the same reason it is illegal to deface the Statue of Liberty or the Lincoln Memorial. These are symbols that go straight to the very heart of what we, as Americans, have stood for these past 200+ years. Burning the flag tells the other nations of the world, especially those who wish us to falter, that we don’t really have any respect for democracy or freedom, that we are really just a bunch of damn hypocrites.

    As a 24 year veteran of military service (and no dang-nabbit, I don’t enjoy war), all I can say to you all is: Thanks a lot for making me realize the past two decades of defending your right to be silly was really just a big, dissapointing waste of time. Boy, was I a total sucker or what?

    When you burn the American flag you spit on the grave of every man or woman who gave their lives ensuring your right to, well……be ignorant and selfish. What are you gonna do next….exercise your right to free speech by taking a dump on their tombstones?

    Remember the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” If you wish to publicly display your disregard for American veterans, it is only fair you should expect the same from them.

    Sure, burn the flag on your front lawn. Then go to bed tonight and feel good about yourselves. I’m sure the 10 year old kid next door whose parent just died in Iraq will understand.

  103. Thank you Steven P for making that statement… If you believe in Flag desecration as a form of free speech, you have had the wool pulled over your eyes by the minority in this case… Surveys repeated show around 70% (down to 60 and up to 80) of american believe that the Flag deserves protection. Think about the image that you send to other countries when you burn a flag, that it is ok to disrespect America, The Supreme court’s vote was a slim 5-4 passing of covering the act of flag desecration under symbolic speech.
    Flag desecration is not a form of protest. It is an act used to gain attention from the majority of people that oppose flag desecration. truly flag desecration is a disrespectful act to a country that gives you more freedoms then you can enjoy anyother place on Earth, so Suck it up and stop your whining as this is one of the worst sites i have encountered as of yet in my exploration of why the hell anyone would want to burn a flag. Your reasoning is completely irrational and with a little research yourself you might learn the actual truth behind this debate.

  104. Let me preface this with the following: I love the American Flag with a depth that I doubt I could describe; it is the single most beautiful thing I have ever or will ever witness; I cannot for a moment fathom why anyone would disrespect or desecrate that flag – it is a symbol of the greatest singular achievement in human history, the physical representation of the remarkable Jeffersonian idea that “all men are created equal.”

    And to StevenP: thank you for your service. I suspect my own five years in the Marine Corps left me with feelings much like yours about the flag – and about those who don’t understand what it stands for.

    I’ll even add this: with every day older I grow I become wiser and more conservative. Don’t worry – it’ll happen to you, too. Once upon a time I voted for Michael Dukakis. With age and wisdom comes an understanding of what liberalism actually is as opposed to what it pretends to be.

    But with all that said – despite my military service, despite the fact that I am a Bush-voting conservative, despite the fact that I actually tear up at that flag sometimes – guess what?

    I do NOT support any amendment to protect it! In fact, I’d oppose it vehemently!


    Because if we take away the rights of our misguided, immature, petulant, spoiled citizenry to act like idiotic undisciplined children, if we take away their rights to make fools of themselves ….

    … then to me, that flag I love becomes a little less beautiful. A little less meaningful. It no longer stands quite as much for what it stands for in my heart.

    I don’t know why anyone would want to burn it. I especially don’t know why any liberal would want to burn it. Old Glory doesn’t stand for a government; it doesn’t stand for George Bush or Bill Clinton; it doesn’t stand for our foriegn policy; in fact, it doesn’t stand for anything our nation does, right or wrong, good or bad.

    The flag stands for an idea and an ideal. That crazy brave idea Jefferson stole from Hobbes and Locke, the historically unprecedented suggestion that we are all endowed with inalienable rights to life, and to liberty, and to the pursuit of our dreams.

    That is a fundamentally liberal ideal – at least in used to be, back when liberals were liberal and actually cared about freedom and justice and equality. If they cared today, they’d never burn our flag.

    I understand if they’d like to burn the President in efficy, or jump up and down and call him Chimpy McHallibushitler the Evil Emperor … but burning the flag only demonstrates their own true values.

    But I hope we never – EVER – take away their right to do it. I fought for that right; I’d do it again.

    And for the record, as much as it would hurt me to see, I wouldn’t beat them for it. I might want to – I might have done it once – but today I’d simply watch. I’d revel in the fact that this country is so free that her citizens are able to mock and ridicule their own freedoms.

    I might sigh in sadness, but I wouldn’t be angry. I’d feel pity for such lost, confused souls.

    And from a purely political perspective … I’d hand them a megaphone and let them protest more loudly. I’d encourage the media to film the desecration.

    One of the beauties of true free speech is that it allows all of us to see what unthinking idiots exist in our midst; when liberals burn a flag, they condemn themselves far more effectively than I could ever do. It is that thinking that has led them to their current political irrelevence. So let them burn. Let the world see what and who they really are. I at least applaud their honesty.

    Don’t take their rights away. No matter how wrong they are.

    Don’t make my flag any less beautiful. Please.

    It can take care of itself.


  106. I love the American flag because I love my country. I love being an American and the flag represents that, so I say protect it.

  107. Everytime I see a burning US flag, I wince. I don’t like it. However, I built a website that allows for a full graphic depiction of a US flag burning (along with pretty much every other flag in the world).


    Because if flag-burning is outlawed, we’re one step closer to the Orwellian world in ‘1984’. Besides, it is a symbol. It represents our freedoms, our strengths, etc. When we burn a flag, that which it represents is not consumed along with the fabric.


  109. I’m a vet, and old five year one from the 50’s and 60’s. I love my country a lot more than my flag.

    The American flag is to be burned when the U.S. is in trouble, hurting, being damaged by a misguided government. Burned as a protest against tyranical authority or other self destruction, such as being too liberal or too conservative.

    Some would just fly it upside down. That suits me fine, but it doesn’t call/draw as much attention to the trouble our country is in as a good old fashioned burning would.

  110. True story. I know of a resident in a retirement community in Tucson, AZ who went onto his neighbor’s property, took down the flag from a pole and presented it to the neighbor, chiding him to never fly a tattered flag again. So will the flag amendment spawn Flag Police Vigilante’s? I think so. In my community we already have one. He also asked the HOA Board of Directors to have special meeting to reprimand the manager because the flag at the entrance to the community was a little tattered. I know this because I am the manager.I also had just chaired the annual Memorial Day Parade and Ceremony and hold officer status in the American Legion.

    I oppose the flag amendment. Sacred symbols of all manner, especially Christian symbols are allowed to abuse and physically desecrated in America. The American Flag is not religious nor should be sacred. Respect is earned, not mandated. At least that is what daddy taught me.

    Destruction of privately owned sacred symbols occurs regularly. The June 2006 American Legion magazine listed about a dozen such instances. Well, persons who take and destroy private property need to be prosecuted or at least punched in the nose.

    When the American Flag no longer respresents decency, honor, civility, morality and a representative Republic, I will burn my flag in protest. Heck, I refused to fly it when Bill Clinton was getting head in the Oval office. So if our leadership continues to take a step downward morally at each election cycle, I want the “right” to burn the symbol of their corruption.

  111. Congress is now debating a resolution to amend the Constitution prohibiting desecration of our flag. The House or Representatives has just approved it and the motion now goes before the Senate, which is expected to approve it by a narrow margin.


    I for one am wholeheartedly in favor of a Constitutional amendment banning desecration of the great Stars ‘n Stripes. Before presenting the motion to the States for ratification, the new amendment should be strongly worded so that the flag receives its proper respect and must, without reservation, include the following provisions:

    1) The right to display The Flag freely shall be limited to the federal government.

    2) Display of The Flag shall be restricted to federal land and federal buildings.

    3) Possession of The Flag by persons other than those within the federal government or in the direct employ of the federal government shall be strictly prohibited.

    4) Sales and distribution of The Flag, its image, or any facsimile thereof shall be solely the responsibility of the federal government. Commercial or non-commercial sales and/or distribution of The Flag, its image, or any facsimile thereof by any private or state institution, company, entity, or individual shall be strictly prohibited.

    5) Display and usage of The Flag, its image, or any facsimile thereof for any occasion and/or use shall be strictly prohibited except as stated in number 1) above.

    6) The Flag shall only be referred to as “The Flag of the United States of America”). Any other reference to The Flag (including well-known monikers such as “Old Glory”, “Stars ‘n Stripes”, “Bars and Stars”, et. al) shall be strictly prohibited.

    7) Oral reference to The Flag by persons or institutions outside the federal government shall be limited to normal conversation, hereby defined as non-amplified and non-disseminated conversation between no more than three (3) persons at any one time. Oral reference to The Flag shall not exceed more than two (2) references per hour per gathering as prescribed by number 6) above.

    8) Oral and written references to The Flag in recorded and broadcast media, whether digital, analog, or by other freely disseminated means, shall be strictly prohibited.

    9) The Flag shall not be deified, venerated, exalted, or used to further idiolatry. This applies to any individual, group, commercial/non commercial enterprise, organization, gathering, media, or any other entity outside the federal government.

    10) Any display, use, sale, or expression regarding The Flag not expressly authorized by this document shall be strictly prohibited.

    This should just about do it. No more tacky lawn displays, stupid lapel pins, inane pledges, and cheap TV graphics. No more flag-waving pundits, infuriating bumper stickers, and ugly coffee cups (Made in China). No more wasted time before ball games. In short, no more disrespect to the sacred symbol of our beloved Homeland.

    But until such time that these protections to The Flag are fully in place, I will do with the flag pretty much damn well as I please. Whether its wrapping myself in it or using it to train puppies, it’s my flag as much as yours.

    As it always should be.

  112. This amendment will be the beginning of the end of all freedoms. If this amendment is passed, then some religious Christian fanatic will want to pass an amendment that prohibits desecration of the Christian Bible. The fanatic will argue that his bible is more important than the flag. Unfortunately most Americans are morons: what is more important – the symbol that represents values or the values that are represented? Is not a flag a symbol of identification rather than a symbol of value-representation? Who cares if one burns the flag?! It is a peaceful way of expressing opinion. I don’t want to burn the flag but I am not about to make a divine idol out of it. Why should I worship a symbol? Why should I worship anything at all? I am not religious and I don’t care if others are religious. Change the 1st Amendment and America will be in a time warp heading into the dark past at the speed of light…

  113. All this boils down to one thing. A flag, ANY flag, is only a piece of cloth with colors and symbols on it. The worth it has is only as much as you would place on it in your own mind. I am pretty sick of people who claim to be Christians, who treat the American flag as if it is a living thing, or even worse “holy”…is this not idol worship? Of course it is.

    I am an American, and indeed I love my country and my state, but do I think that the physical object that is the flag of either of these places is somehow holy or something to be quasi-worshipped? No, thats retarded, and is just as bad as worshipping the bible instead of the God that the bible is supposed to be describing, also idol worship.

    Burning the flag should never be made illegal, and anyone who says that it should obviously hasn’t the slightest idea of what the flag is supposed to be symbolic of in the first place. HOW PATHETIC!….Don’t tell me you would fight to the death in some foreign country to supposedly “protect my freedoms” and then seek to deny me the freedom to express my freedom….hypocrites!….typically when someone burns a flag (in america) it is to demonstrate that those rights that we hold so dear are being eroded, hence the very thing the flag is supposed to stand for is being choked away at the hands of our government…it is not hatred for america, or stupidity, or a lack of values….burning a flag does not disrespect even one person who died in a war in the American military…now this isnt to say that they wouldnt FEEL disrepected due to their own ignorance of what burning the flag symbolized, but in reality it is not meant as disrespect to anyone but those who would seek to take our rights away.

    The bottom line is neither the American military, nor the flag itself, somehow “protects” anyones rights…our rights are granted by God and belong to us, and all others in the world, no matter who is “in charge”, so the argument that fighting a war protects someones rights here in america is ridiculous to say the least…especially in the current version of war we are involved in…I get so sick of hearing this tired excuse that the Army is making sure I have rights by murdering innocent people….give me a friggin break….my rights are my rights, even if another country took over(which isnt even the case with iraq), even if my rights are being oppressed I should still live with the knowledge that even if i were to die for expressing my rights, they are still mine…no army gives me continuance of these rights…

    How true was the comment by the chap from Scotland who said that people are idiots who wrangle with others about the right to burn the flag (free speech), when the very ideals that flag is supposed to represent are daily being disposed of by our government under the guise of the phony baloney war on terror…it is simply madness all these people who get so heated about a topic that they themselves hardly understand…

    I fly my flag upside down, and im sure there are plenty of folks who would have me shot, beaten, stabbed, arrested for this, the same folks who dont understand the very laws surrounding proper display of the flag…they say “you dont like america, move…” well, I say if you dont like the rights our country was founded on, the rights given to all people by God, then maybe it is you who should move.

  114. Say I’m wearing a T-shirt that has an image of an American flag on it. Somebody stops me and says I’m not allowed to do that–it’s a desecration. So I say “OK.” I take off my desecration, light a match to it and burn it, so that no one else will ever wear it and thus commit another desecration. Have I now violated the newly-enacted anti-flag-burning law, or have I prevented its future violation? Was that a flag I burned or just an image on a T-shirt? What if I claim it wasn’t really an American flag, because it had fifteeen stripes insead of thirteen? And, by the way, how can anyone ever convict me when there’s no longer any evidence of a crime–if it was a crime in the firts place?

  115. All of this flag burning is too much trouble. I’ll be taking my lead from the Bush administration; I’m burning the constitution!!
    PS It lights easier too!

  116. You are correct. It is just a symbol. It’s a symbol of your American rights and freedom. If you are going to burn that it is also just a symbol. It is just a symbol that you are burning your rights and freedom, so if you do, then how can you say you have the right to do anything? You just symbolicaly burned your rights. So, as a symbol that they acknowledge your protest, that is obviously against your own rights, the government should have every right to throw your butt in jail and take away those rights. Personally I think you should then be extradited from the country, since you hate it so much, but that’s just me. Note: By you I mean someone that would burn the flag, not you personaly.
    I would really like a comment on this.

  117. Me again. Your recently commented on list says that you commented on my remarks, but I’m not finding your comment.

  118. Anyone who would burn the flag of the United States of America is no better than one who would harm the American poeple. A agree that under the 1st amendment it is a “right” to burn the flag in some eyes (freedom of Speech) and I agree, however I also believe that it is the greatest sign of disrepect to the current government at the time as well as all of those who have fought in wars past and present to earn and preserve that and many other rights (not to mention thier families). So I propose a new law / amendment: Any person who willfully destroys the Flag of these United States of America in public or private upon witness by others which can be proven beyond reasonable doubt shall have thier U.S. citezenship revoked and be deported along with thier assests to any country which might take them in. I also propose they be neither be permitted visitation back to the U.S. or return of citezenship.

    p.s. many who would burn our flag have never even left this country to gain knowledge from a source outside of the media as to the condition to many of the worlds countries.

    Thank you, have a nice life wherever you wish.
    Chance Carico

  119. P.S.S..
    When the hell did so many in this great country loose sight of common sense and replace it with common sensitivity?

  120. People should be free to burn the flag just like I should be free to burn flag burners.

    I don’t necessarily believe it needs to be a law, but I do believe that those who burn the flag are ignorant, selfish, and no longer belong in this country.

  121. “People should be free to burn the flag just like I should be free to burn flag burners.”

    Well, see. One is Constitutionally allowed expression of speech. The other is assault. A subtle yet telling difference.

  122. As I’ve always believed, if u can’t sell cars you become a politician. as for the assault charge, i didn’t c a thing!

  123. Nations where burning the nation’s flag is presently illegal and the penalty is a long jail sentence.

    People’s Republic of China
    Socialist Republic of Vietnam
    People’s Republic of Korea
    Saudi Arabia

    Does the USA really want to join this honored group of patriotic nations?

    Europe is pretty flexible on flag burning, only Germany has laws on the books AFAIK.

  124. I find it interesting when people say things like “[x] is the way it is in this country! If you don’t like it then get out!”

    Its written a number of times on this very page. As with almost all cases of this kind of “logic”, it can easily be turned around.

    “Flag burning is constitutionally protected free speech in the United States. If you don’t like it, then leave the country!”

    Both ways of thinking are equally unproductive. The point of the original article here was that the amendment in question was nothing more than a political stunt in an attempt to improve poll numbers. Any laws against “desecration” of the flag would be meaningless – either they’d be so specific that they’d be easily circumvented, or they’d be so vague that they’d turn everyone into criminals.

  125. There is a religious component to this discussion. I don’t see how any Christian or Jew or for that matter Muslim (Islam follows the Old Testament) can support an amendment which protects the flag against desecration. It is idolatry pure and simple. Of course, religious people, being human beings, are capable of self-deception and do that all the time. They are the biggest supporters of the death penalty, for example, and eat pork like maniacs. But sanctifying a symbol by law? I don’t see how they can do it. And including “under God” in the pledge of allegiance, not seen as necessary until Dwight Eisenhower said so, turned a patriotic act into an act of idolatry. Ye are playing with fire, ye false believers!

  126. Just a thought… in some states (Arizona, recently) you go to jail for burning a Mexican Flag in protest(treated as Arson), yet burning an American Flag (or any ‘semblance thereof) is a First Amendment right… how come?

  127. “You are correct. It is just a symbol. It’s a symbol of your American rights and freedom. If you are going to burn that it is also just a symbol. It is just a symbol that you are burning your rights and freedom, so if you do, then how can you say you have the right to do anything? You just symbolicaly burned your rights.” – “anonomys”

    Right! I agree wholeheartedly! Just like I think about this symbol!

    It’s just a symbol. It’s a symbol of masculinity and men. If I were to cut the head off of it with my scissors, that would also be a symbol. It would be a symbol that I had decapitated every male human on Earth, myself included. If I did so, then how can I see? I just symbolically decapitated every man on the planet, didn’t I?

    The power of symbols lies in their immortality. I could cut the head off of as many bathroom signs as I’d like, and all us men-folk would still have our craniums. Why? Because symbols stand for ideas, ideals, and concepts, but are not those things. Millions of crosses, in art, sculpture, or any other representation, have been lost in time to floods, fires, earthquakes, or just natural entropy. By all rights, Christianity, the concept of Jesus’ love, and all that he (or He, if you’re a stickler for that) died for, should be symbolically destroyed. Yet it isn’t, as is certainly evident. It is as strong as ever, regardless of the number of its symbols that have been destroyed.

    You and many others are mistaking symbols for tangible forms of the concepts they represent. The whole point of a symbol is to immortalize an idea, to make something that will eternally represent a concept, without tying the concept into the object. The symbol and that which is symbolized are two entirely separate things, or so I hope.

    Otherwise, most of my freedom is a) zipping around America on the backs of cars, or b) made in China.

  128. As a veteran, I positively HATE people using me as a poster child. You know: “We need to PROTECT our flag for the brave men and women who fought for it.”

    Um, no. My oath is to the CONSTITUTION. And I can speak for myself quite handily, thank you.

  129. If the burning of a flag is so important and represents such a great freedom, then why do those who commit this act always do so while surrounded by others who share their opinion. I mean come now if this is such a sacred right why not try to burn a flag in the front of a VFW, or better how about on post at Fort Bragg. Come now, if it is so important as a symbol for you to burn surely it must be as important a symbol to put your ass on the line to do it.

    But then again that would take courage, something that some many who want to burn the flag seem to lack. It is easy to do what is popular, when you fit in with the group.

  130. Fuck all u basterd that think the flag should be burnt and read this

    Written by Tom Adkins

    What do we do about people who want to burn the American flag? You know…those folks who want to stomp all over it, or spit on it to make some sort of “statement.” Some say the first Amendment gives us the right to desecrate the American flag. Others want to make it illegal. This is a tough one. What should we do? I can solve this one easily. I believe we should have a simple requirement. Let flag desecration be legal, but you have to have three sponsors who will give you written permission. Those sponsors should be from a panel of experts who might be considered “qualified” to give such permission.

    First, you need a signature of a war veteran. How about a Marine who fought at Iwo Jima?

    The men who raised that flag over Iwo Jima did so on the bodies of thousands of dead Americans, who gave their lives so a few could raise the flag in defiant claim of that last island in a long, bloody march to defeat the Japanese. What did those Marines think about the flag as they watched their comrades get slaughtered? Every battle with the Japanese was horrific. Each day meant half of everyone you knew would be dead tomorrow. Your own future was a coin flip away from a bloody death in a place your family couldn’t pronounce. Or you could ask a Vietnam vet who spent years in a POW prison, tortured in small, filthy cells unfit for a dog. Or Korean War soldiers who rescued half a nation from communism, or the Desert Storm warriors who repulsed a bloody dictator from raping and pillaging an innocent country, to find people from a foreign land kiss our flag as we drove through their streets.

    To every American soldier who ever fought for the United States, that flag represented your mother and father, your sister and brother, your friends, neighbors, your fellow countrymen…In fact it stands for your freedom, guaranteed by your nation. Those who fought, fought for that flag.
    Those who died, died for that flag. I wonder what they would say if someone asked their permission to burn a flag?

    Next, you need a signature of an immigrant. Preferably one who left their family behind. Their brothers and sisters languish in their native land, often subject to tyranny, poverty and failure, while America offers freedom and prosperity.

    Some have seen friends and family be tortured and murdered by their own government for daring to do many things we take for granted every day. Many give their lives in the struggle just to touch our shores, even as America turns its back and returns them to face persecution once again in their native land. For those who risked everything simply for the chance to become an American…what kind of feelings do they have for the flag when they pledge allegiance to it for the first time? Go to a naturalization ceremony and see for yourself, the tears of pride, the thanks, the love and respect of this nation, as they finally embrace the flag of our nation as their own. Then, walk up and ask one of them if it would be OK to spit on the flag.

    Last, you need a signature from someone living in a foreign land who cannot get here. Say, Rwanda. Or maybe Bosnia. Maybe even Haiti. You might have to move fast, as they flee oppressors who attack them with machete’s or shoot at them randomly in a marketplace. I’m sure they will never question your sanity as they duck for cover.

    The writers of the Declaration of Independence are long gone. I wonder what they thought of the American flag as they drafted that document? They knew such an act would drag the nation into war with England, the greatest power on earth. Did the flag mean anything to them?

    They knew failure of independence meant more than just a disappointment. It meant a noose would be snugly stretched around their necks. I wonder how they’d feel if someone asked their permission to toss the flag in a mud puddle?

    In the absence of family, the absence of the precious shores of home, in the face of overwhelming odds and often in the face of death itself, the American flag inspires those who believe in the American dream, the American promise, the American vision…

    Americans who don’t appreciate the flag are usually those who don’t appreciate this nation. And those who appreciate this nation appreciate the American flag.

    So if you would, before you desecrate the American flag, before you spit on it, before you ignore it or despise it…please ask permission. Not from the constitution. Not from some obscure law. Not from the politicians or the pundits.

    Please ask permission from those who founded the nation. Please ask those who defended our shores so that we may be free today. Please ask those who fought to reach our shores so that they may partake in the American dream.

    And then, please ask permission from those who died wishing they could, just once … or once again…see, touch or kiss the flag that stands for our nation, the United States of America…the greatest nation on earth.

  131. Uh-huh. Oddly enough, that little idea would be a violation of the Constitution, which, as symbols of America go, is a rather more pertinent one than the flag. But thanks for sharing.

  132. This .PDF ( is an interesting analysis of the proposed amendment by the First Amendment center, essentially concluding that the courts would likely construe the amendment so narrowly as to render it virtually meaningless (or, at any rate, not worth the cost and effort of passing it).

    In the meantime, I propose an alternative. When you’re in the mood for a flag-burning, take a good long look at the people running this country, where they are from, and what they stand for, and take a good long look at the people who most virulently support this amendment, where they are from, and what they stand for… and then go burn a Confederate flag.

  133. I am not against the idea of the Amendement. I think that the thought behind it is good; however, there are far to many ways around it and too many things about it that can be construed in different ways. It seems to me that both the Senate and the House of Representatives and who ever else spends large quanities of time on this issue must have something far more important and essential to do then repeatidly bring this Amendment into consideration. It has been considered unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. It is time for the government to move on to more important issues.

  134. You guys are idiots … why would you want to burn a flag just to protest. gosh what are you guys thinking. Seriously get a life.

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