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Why We Shouldn’t be Allowed to Burn the American Flag

Ben Wease, Staff Reporter

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The American Flag, which signifies purity, innocence, hardiness, valor, perseverance and justice, has been mistreated for many years now. At Ronald Reagan’s Republican National Convention in Dallas of 1984, Gary Lee Johnson was arrested for burning the American flag under the Texas flag desecration statute, later to be known as the Texas v. Johnson case.

However, the Supreme Court shot down all attempts to ban flag desecration because they thought that flag desecration was a Constitutionally protected form of free speech. Later, in 1989, the U.S. Congress passed the Flag Protection Act to protest the Johnson decision, but thousands of protesters decided to go burn the American flag in protest of the Flag Protection Act.

Congress also tried to pass a Constitutional amendment that allowed the government to ban flag desecration; however, in 1990 when this amendment was brought up, it failed to achieve the necessary two-thirds majority in the House.

Recently, we have seen an increase in flag burnings ever since our President, Donald Trump, got elected by the people on November 8. I find this really disrespectful because many brave men and women have fought for that flag in order to keep us safe so that we have the freedom to do what we do everyday.

Recently, a video surfaced of a FedEx delivery man, Matt Uhrin, breaking up a flag burning protest in Iowa City, Iowa. They started to burn the American Flag so Uhrin jumped out of his truck with a fire extinguisher to put the fire out and then later grabbed the flag and left.

He is one of many people that find this form of protest very disrespectful. After people saw this video many assumed he was going to get fired, so they started signing a petition to help him keep his job. After this video was seen by millions of people, Uhrin later came out and said “I don’t believe that I deserve the praise. I never wanted it. The ones that are really the heroes are the ones that were injured, maimed, killed — the ones that never got to see home again. They are the heroes.”

After FedEx reviewed the video, they later tweeted “We have reviewed the matter in Iowa City involving driver Matt Uhrin. He remains a FedEx employee & we have no plans to change his status.”

Many people find this pointless form of protest very offensive including a U.S. Marine veteran, Eric Post, who later said in a video, “These flag burning protesters may have a very valid message that they want to get heard, but it’s not being heard by the millions of people that can’t listen past the flag burning.”

When a group of protesters were asked what they thought the American Flag stands for, here is what they had to say: “It’s a symbol of oppression. It is a symbol of slavery and genocide. The American Flag stands for plunder. It stands for death squads in Guatemala. It stands for police murder of black and brown people.”

If you actually know and understand what the American Flag stands for, you would know that everything these protesters said is totally false. These things that they mentioned above did and still do happen; however, that has nothing to do with our flag and what it stands for.

A lot of protesters use the same excuse for flag burning by saying they don’t like the United States and what it stands for. If they aren’t happy and don’t like America, I would like to see them try living in Syria or any other war torn country for a month and see how different it is. People in these war torn countries have no rights and if they were caught acting out the same way they do here in the United States, they would be publicly executed. I’m sure they wouldn’t like it at all and want to come back to America as soon as they can.

I very firmly believe in the First Amendment; however, I also think that we need to make a new law against burning the American Flag. Maybe not as intense as what Donald Trump said (“Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag, if they do, there must be consequences – perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail”), but possibly a fine for anyone seen burning it.

Do you think burning the flag should be protected free speech?

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The American Flag is the symbol of the American people, our freedom, and our history. It is sacred to many Americans including my family. Several of my uncles fought in the Navy and the Marines. Even though it may be just a cloth, it means more than that.

It’s a symbol of our unification and republic. We have freedom of speech, which I totally support, but I do not support burning the exact flag that thousands of Americans have died for. It’s not only dishonoring them, but our nation as a whole.

Creative Commons photo source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ghalog/7635837274/

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4 Comments

4 Responses to “Why We Shouldn’t be Allowed to Burn the American Flag”

  1. Derek Wong on February 22nd, 2017 9:17 pm

    You’ve made some very valid points about what the United States’ flag stands for- justice, perserverance, and democracy. But that’s exactly why people burn the flag: they feel that the U.S. no longer represents that ideal, that a while ago we turned away from being the peacekeepers and instead towards inciting conflict. The burning of the flag represents the dying of justice, innocence, and hope.
    Moreover, saying “well, if they don’t like it, maybe they should go to Syria and see how they like it there” is a straw man argument. It doesn’t attack the issue at its core. Yes, people in Syria don’t have the liberty of speaking their minds. But the fact remains that we are a democracy, and we allow (often, even encourage) free speech. That’s what separates Syria and America, that’s what the flag represents. Paradoxically, burning the flag is itself something the flag stands for — free speech.
    Does this imply then that burning the flag spits of the face of every soldier, every veteran, and every man and woman injured in the line of duty? Absolutely not. The flag, when it is burned, doesn’t represent a hatred of the U.S. armed forces. It represents discontent directed at the status quo, unhappiness that we are constitutionally allowed to express. Burning the flag is not directed at our Army, Navy, Marines, or Air Force. It is directed at our politicians and our representatives who have too often ignored our voice.

    [Reply]

  2. Alena Salley on February 23rd, 2017 9:28 am

    Why would someone even burn the flag in the first place? It is disrespectful to Americans. It isnt a sign of protest, it is a sign of disrespect for America and Americans.

    [Reply]

    Connor Culhane Reply:

    Because it doesn’t matter why someone would do that. That is the beauty of the first amendment, I can not be arrested for speaking my mind through speech or expression. Period. The fact that what i’m saying is disrespectful doesn’t actually matter. I could in fact go to the street corner holding a sign that says “America is the worst country on the planet”, and there is absolutely nothing anyone could legally do about it. Once the government starts to dictate what is and isn’t ok, like burning a flag, we get into slippery slope territory because technically I no longer have the freedom of expression. Only the freedom to express what the government says is ok to express. I don’t need to tell you how much that sounds like a totalitarian state.

    [Reply]

  3. Aidan Gierer on February 28th, 2017 9:19 am

    The thing is, this article could’ve just as easily been entitled, “Why We Shouldn’t be Allowed to Do Things That Offend Me”. What you’re essentially saying is that offensive or controversial speech that “goes too far” should be punished by law. The first amendment doesn’t exist to protect the speech of your grandma at bingo night. It exists to protect controversial and offensive speech. Like, you know, burning the flag. It doesn’t matter why people do it; as a matter of fact, I disagree with the protesters you quoted. You’re free to be think these people are idiots, or unamerican, or hysterical, and you’re free to tell them how wrong or stupid you think they are. That’s your right as an American, to speak your mind, no matter what anyone else might think of what you’re saying. It’s the most important right we have. Don’t argue against it.

    [Reply]

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Why We Shouldn’t be Allowed to Burn the American Flag