Trump should not outlaw desecration of flag
President-elect Donald Trump proposed revoking citizenship or accumulating jail time for citizens who burn the U.S. flag. He suggested these consequences even though two U.S. Supreme Court cases ruled that burning the flag is defended by First Amendment rights.
Trump tweeted that “Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag - if they do, there must be consequences - perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!” It is uncertain what influenced Trump to tweet this, but the motive could be traced back to a post-election outcry in Amherst, Massachusetts.
Jason Miller, senior communications adviser of Trump’s transition team, revealed to CNN’s New Day that flag-burning should be illegal. However, his stance clashes with the stances of other conservative heads, such as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
The Supreme Court has already declared twice that damaging the U.S. flag, which is still a highly disputed action, is constituted as a method of free speech. In the case of Texas v. Johnson, Texas court originally stated that citizen Gregory Johnson infringed on a state law that banned the “desecration of a venerated object,” or in this situation, the U.S. flag.
The Supreme Court settled that flag-burning was a kind of “symbolic speech” that was safeguarded under the First Amendment. The decision was passed with a vote of 5-4.
If the government outlaws flag-burning just because people are insulted about violence toward an admired object, then it will open avenues to banning other actions that can be deemed upsetting to others. By prohibiting flag-burning, society is initiating a ban on books, magazines and films that deal with war, sex and drug use. Essentially, prohibiting flag-burning enables censorship.
Controversial action or media that focuses on sensitive topics should not be banned because they will cause people to become sheltered and society will turn into a bubble. If the country assumes that the flag should always be protected against harm, even at the price of an individual’s freedom, the nation’s unrestrained democracy will weaken.
Even though the flag is a pivotal image for this nation, it is more crucial to maintain the freedom of speech, autonomy and personal possessions that exemplify the nation’s values.
The fight has to do with whether the rights of all U.S. citizens should be valued more than the security of the flag. If an individual’s entitlement to burn the flag is rebuffed, then it becomes a slip on an unpredictable surface. Burning the flag may be provocative, but it is a controllable and nonlethal action.
If deeds like burning the flag are deemed illegal because they offend people, then people may be inclined to rebel against more things, including their government, and become more insecure. If someone cannot participate in a harmless activity on account of the fact that it disturbs others, then this can be viewed as slowly belittling the concepts that the U.S. flag represents.