Flag Burning

How many of you would stand up for a friend who’s in danger? Now, how many of you would stand up for your country? Is there a difference? There shouldn’t be. Our country is as much of a friend as our group of friends will ever be. Maybe even more. The American flag is always flying high and waving at you in the wind. It never goes away. If you were quarreling with a friend, and you found out they had done something wrong, would you tell on them, making matters worse and ruining your friendship? I hope not. If you didn’t agree with your country’s policies, would you burn a flag, ruining your “relationship” with that flag and therefore destroying your patriotism? I’ll let you answer that for yourself.

American flags did not become patriotic symbols until the civil war era because the value of the flag was endangered by the southerners (Palmer 608). For that reason, people became more patriotic (Head 3). Since then, flags have been stitched with care, shipped thousands of miles overseas, and loyally raised and lowered everyday. If we choose to burn flags, why would we even bother to make the flag the symbol of our nation? Just as former representative of Illinois, Henry Hyde, once said,”…as tombstones are not for toppling, as churches and synagogues, and other places of worship are not for vandalizing, flags are not for burning” (“Flag” 3). As American citizens, it is our duty to protect our flag, our one shared symbol, against desecration, or ruining in some manner. It is our duty to show respect for our nation’s ideals, and defend those who fought and died for the same flag some chose to burn (Aliprandini 1). In addition, we need to remember how important our nation’s unity is. By burning our flags, we are not standing up for what our country is. Instead, we are standing alone and are not coming together as one. Furthermore, there is a sense of lawlessness in a nation where people are allowed to burn flags. Flag burning is also counterproductive and provocative. Lastly, it is an unnecessary practice and can easily be replaced with peaceful negotiation (Head 4).

The United States stands for freedom, justice, and liberty. Those who burn our flag, fail to show respect for those ideals. By burning the American flag, one is taking advantage of their country by overextending their first amendment rights (“Debate” 4). The next time someone is going to burn a flag, they must remember why they have the right to do so. We have freedom in this country for one reason. Millions of people have died under the same flag some chose to desecrate (Sullivan 4). Flag burning supporters feel that they are standing up for their nations ideals and fixing their country’s problems by burning our flag (Sullivan 3). Why would one burn the very thing that symbolizes what they stand for? Furthermore, having respect for your country and its ideals is essential. Without respect for our leaders and ideals, we would be a chaotic nation.

Once citizens start burning flags, the nation begins to fall apart at the seams (“Debate” 5). No matter what size, color, or shape, all Americans can look to our flag as their friend. It symbolizes pride and victory. For example, when the United States Olympic team wins a gold metal and our national anthem is played, we feel proud to be Americans. Proud, true Americans don’t burn flags. Instead, they sing confidently, with their hands loyally placed over their hearts as the flag is raised each and every time.

Although our nation has many traits, there is only one thing our nation is not- that would be lawless. It took us a while, but eventually we pulled it together and set down some rules. However, our founding fathers did not expect their nation to have problems with such ridiculous ideas such as flag burning. Back in 1907, flag burning bans were considered constitutional. Unfortunately, after 50 years, these bans were removed due to first amendment rights (Head 2). Furthermore, other countries, such as Poland, are not only making laws that protect their own flag against desecration, but are protecting foreign flags as well (Lasek 1). On August 20th 2008, a polish man burned an American flag outside the U.S. Embassy building in Warsaw. The man was originally accused of creating a fire hazard, however, after they found out it was a flag he was burning, he was sentenced to five years in prison for flag desecration (Lasek 2). In the U.S., however, the Johnson V. Texas case had a man burning an American flag outside the Republican National Convention hall. He pleaded not guilty for flag desecration charges because of his first amendment rights (Palmer 610). Why is it that Poland stands up for our flags protection, and we don’t? Justice John Paul Stevens, who heard this case stated, “The ideals of liberty and equality have been an irresistible force in motivating leaders like Patrick Henry, Susan B. Anthony, and Abraham Lincoln, school teachers like Nathan Hale and Booker T. Washington, the Philippine Scouts who fought at Bataan and the soldiers who scaled the bluff at Omaha Beach. If those ideas are worth fighting for – and our history demonstrates that they are – it cannot be true that the flag that uniquely symbolizes their power is not itself worthy of protection from unnecessary desecration” (Head 2).

Now, it wasn’t until the late 20th century that the courts supported the ideas that flag desecration was protected by the constitution as free speech (Palmer 609). Those who choose to burn flags are protesting their extreme dissatisfaction with our country’s policies (Sullivan 4). That is all true. However, it is counterproductive. Flag burning is a form of protest. The group of people the flag burners are protesting to are the group who despise flag burning. Therefore, burning the flag to protest is going to shut down communication with those who have the ability to change what flag burners want changed. Instead of burning a flag in protest, negotiate. An impassioned speech will make your point and will also make the people you want to convince more inclined to listen to you (Head 3).

In addition, recent surveys have shown that people who are burning flags are not only protesting, but trying to get those opposed to flag burning riled up (Aliprandini 2). Some say that a flag is just a symbol, so it shouldn’t matter if it is burned or not (Aliprandini 2). Yes, the flag is a symbol. However, it symbolizes everything our country stands for, including free speech. It stands for every American who died in the fight for liberty. For every American who helped the nation become a better place. Each star and each stripe means something. It stands for bravery, courage, and justice (Head 3). Why would we burn all that we are. We are Americans. We should be proud! Former Illinois Representative, Henry Hyde also said, “Too many have returned in a wooden box with the flag as their own blanket. Too many parents and kids and wives have clutched to their grieving bosom a folded triangle of the American flag as their last remembrance of their loved one, not to honor and revere that flag” (“Flag” 3).

We are also lucky as a nation to have a capitalist society. We do not force people to live here and abide by our rules. Anyone here has the right to move. If one is not satisfied with the American way, they don’t have to burn our flag and try to change a whole nation. They have the ability to leave. If one chooses to leave, hopefully they will realize how good we have it here, and will return with a more thankful attitude. Furthermore, limitations have already been placed on the first amendment. For example, all perjury, libel, classified information, slander, agreements in restraint of trade, obscenity laws, copy right laws, and the old yelling fire in a crowded theatre where there is no fire are not allowed (“Flag” 2). Isn’t burning a flag the equivalent of yelling fire in a theatre?

Although flag burning is legal and constitutional, citizens should not carry out this despicable act. As Americans, we need to both respect our flag and revere all that it stands for. We must show that we have a lawful society, and unite in preventing the counterproductive, provocative, and utterly unnecessary act of burning our flag. We must remember that our flag holds an even higher value today because of the fight to end international terrorism. Help our nation become the place our founding fathers dreamt it to be. Stop burning our flag and use the free speech we’ve been granted with to express opinions. Even the 41st president of the United States, George Bush, said,” I will uphold our precious right to dissent, but burning the flag goes too far” (“Flag” 2). We can’t force citizens to feel patriotism; however, we can stop them from burning our flag.