Happy Flag-Burning Day

If this image fills you with pride that the USA has the First Amendment and this is what it is all about, you get it. If you instead just want to kill somebody for burning YOUR flag, move to fucking China, where you belong, creep—they can always use another dunderhead to fold sheets at the American laundry.
The following essay, originally posted on Flag Day, 2006, and including the image posted here, is from the collection of Guillotine I postings, which you can purchase here, if you're interested.


OK, let's take this one step at a time.

First off, the First Amendment says: "Congress shall make no law...abridging the freedom of speech."

Most of those words are pretty plain, but that "abridging" word sounds a little fancy. What does it mean? My online dictionary says "curtail rights or privileges." OK, what does "curtail" mean? It means "reduce, [or] impose a restriction on." Those are pretty plain.

So, you could simplify the above, without changing its meaning, to say "Congress shall make no law...restricting the freedom of speech."

That's about as plain as you can get. Not legalese, but English that pretty much anybody can understand—unless you're in Congress and it's your job, and your passion, to restrict people's freedoms by passing more and more laws.

And if that is your job and life description, the First Amendment is going to sound pretty—restrictive—which it is. It exists to tell the people what rights of expression and belief they have that are inalienable (that means they can't take the rights away from you), regardless of what their government thinks about that.

Many people in Congress, especially Republicans, hate the First Amendment and its restrictions and its attitude. They want the power to abridge the freedoms of Americans, and they don't care what some stupid old parchment says about it, even if it was written in plain English that such an attitude is fundamentally anti-American.

"Anti-American". Now, that's a funny way to put it, because with the example we're looking at today, flag-burning, you might think it would be impossible to be anti-American by wanting to restrict and abridge people's speech which might itself be viewed as anti- American. Wouldn't it instead be the most obvious and purest expression of pro- Americanism to want to stop people from burning the American flag?

The thing is, and this may surprise you to learn this, but the Abridgers don't really want to stop people from burning the American flag. Of course not, because the United States Code (Title 4, Section 8) clearly says: "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."

In other words, it isn't the act of burning a flag that bothers the First Amendment haters. It's the idea somebody will burn a flag thinking the "wrong" things while they are doing it. Or that, regardless of what they are thinking, somebody else might get offended by it and think the flag-burner is thinking some wrong thing. In fact, it is precisely this censorial concern for what other people might think about the flag burner's burning (that maybe they have a valid point to make about the wretched state of the USA) that is motivating the jingoes in Congress to pass an anti-flag-burning amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

And, you know, that kind of authoritarian idiocy is precisely what the flag of the United States is supposed to NOT represent. But, increasingly, all the American flag represents is imperialism, war, dishonesty, kidnapping, torture, murder, unjustified detentions and more torture, & environmental destruction—i.e. state TERRORISM on a global scale—and that's just what the WORLD thinks about it. What Americans, who have ever bothered to actually read or think about the Bill of Rights, and especially the First Amendment, see in the flag is a symbol of a dead promise, with the rights of all Americans being daily reduced to vain words whose meaning has been forgotten.

And so, on this Flag Day, given that the flag "is no longer a fitting emblem for display", we should provide the recommended remedy. And maybe not just to a piece of fading, threadbare cloth.