Friday, June 30, 2006

STUPID FLAG TRICKS

Just finished watching the bogus flag burning amendment debate. As engineered, it lost by one vote. This was such an obvious and meaningless political ploy.
I happen to be one who thinks that over time, the first amendment has been stretched to cover so much more than the political speech that it was designed to protect that all expression is free from government regulation (unless it involves money, apparently). The burning of the American flag is one of those acts that was prohibited by statute until sometime in the 60's, I believe, when the supreme court ruled it as protected speech. This decision, along with a number of others at the time, was part of a pattern that made the first amendment a principle that effectively barred any statutory regulation of public behavior, so long that the behavior did not have an immediate physical or monetary damage upon some individual or "protected" group of individuals. It relegated the principle of limits on free speech being said to include "yelling FIRE! in a crowded theater" to simply that; limited only when the detrimental effects are immediate and catastrophic in nature. Up until then, I think that there was a general belief in a more expansive interpretation of this principle. Some limits were seen as legitimate when the expression was particularly gratuitous and its results demonstrably deleterious to society at large. The question of "redeeming social value" was brought into play, often in a disingenuous manner, the sometimes hilarious result being 55 minute porn movies with a cheesy looking guy posing as a "sexologist" or something for a few minutes of introduction. Maybe the embarrassment of having to pass judgment on too many of these movies finally was what moved the supremes to effectively get rid of any and all limits on speech, but we were at last left with limits only to what is sold to (as opposed to exposed to) minors. Today we have a system where authorities are powerless to stop groups of apparently deranged people from harassing a family trying to bury a son who died for their country.
In any case, the position that this complete capitulation to the idea of complete freedom of expression is one that needs at least some reactive remedy is one that I share. However, if one shares this belief, a constitutional amendment banning flag burning would certainly do little to further this idea in law. For one thing, it is a tacit admission that the first amendment legitimately covers flag burning since the flag amendment exempts the burning from the first amendment. It may indeed prohibit flag burning, per se, but it would encourage (or at least not discourage) the use of the first amendment to cover any and all other outrageous acts.
If then the amendment is worth abandoning the principle in order to accomplish the end specified, I would assume that it is all important to its supporters that as few flags as possible burn. Notice one thing. Most of the file footage that accompanies recent stories on this subject are obviously quite dated. This is because almost nobody burns flags anymore! The people who truly hate this country have moved on to far worse things, and those who only kind of hate it have wised up enough to know that at least faking love of country is a far more rewarding course of action for any groups cause. Ix-nay on the age-flay uning-bay.
So few flags are nowadays actually ever burned in this country. Now think. What do you suppose would happen the day after any anti flag burning aendment went into effect? Quiet universal compliance? Not quite. Flag burning would gain a new prominence and, egged on by an outraged media, American flags everywhere would burn on in a smug orgy of civil disobedience. All this and little if anything accomplished.
This is not to say that those who voted this down are clean in any way. The converse argument also applies. Contrary to some Democrats protestations that they just hate the burning of flags but that they hate the gutting of the first amendment more, the amendment removes the first amendment from the equation. If passed this would not be a weakening of it, but an exemtion from it. One can only surmise that the vote against it was a sop to those who actually do admire those burn flags, or at least to those whose knee jerk reaction is to comfort and abet those who do.

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