For the life of me, I can't see what desecrating an American flag has to do with free speech. Guess that's why I'm not a federal judge. That and the fact that I don't look good in robes. Now a Hugh Hefner smoking jacket, and maybe we can talk.
You may have heard that a federal judge has struck down Iowa's laws banning the desecration of the flag. People have the right to trample, spit on, and trivialize the flag to their heart's content now, all for the sake of "protected expression."
If police make arrests for flag desecration, prosecutors are ordered not to enforce them.
Luckily, Iowans tend to be a decent, tolerant bunch, and I don't expect a bunch of flag-burnings to result here,
You can thank our pals at the Westboro Baptist Church for the decision, the same salt of the earth who like to stage protests at soldier's funerals, and wave signs with sayings like "Planes crash God laughs," "Thank God for 9/11," "Pray for more dead soldiers," and "2 gay rights: AIDS and Hell." They also like to drag around and spit on flags, since, I suppose, the country doesn't manage to live up to their ideals.
The group was protesting outside funerals in Red Oak a few years back, and officers threatened to enforce the state laws. Westboro protesters whined that they felt they couldn't adequately express themselves without abusing flags and were scared they might get arrested if they did, and of course, the ACLU swooped in to file a lawsuit.
"We celebrate this decision as a victory for American principles and values," an ACLU bigwig trumpeted after the decision.
Principles? Turning a flag upside down or throwing it on the ground are principles? When did that happen? And what about the rights of people who do respect a symbol of their country?
Can't you have free speech without abusing the flag? Speech is speech, and flag desecration is an act - aren't those two different things?
To me, there's something awfully hypocritical about trampling the flag of the one nation that would defend your right to do it.
Legal or otherwise, the flag isn't a meaningless prop for the latest angst-ridden malcontent to jump up and down on in search of their 15 minutes of fame. People have sacrificed and died for what it stands for, and that is worthy of respect. Express your politics all you want, Westboro included, but there is no reason to mistreat the flag of any nation.
Principles include things like respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship - just ask any six year old. They learn them in the Character Counts program in local schools. So why don't some adults get it?
I remember being a young kid myself when a couple of goofs ran out on the field during a televised Dodgers game and tried to set fire to a flag. The Cubs' center fielder Rick Monday came running up from behind, swooped the flag up and trotted it safely off the field, leaving these two goons sitting there with a lighter, can of BBQ fluid, and confused looks on their mugs while they got arrested. Guess people then didn't understand civil liberty, huh? Monday still has that flag; he's been offered a million bucks for it and turned it down.
In 2013, rapper Lil Wayne walked and danced on a flag in a music video. After an uproar threatened sales, he apologized. If there were any principles there, looks like cash trumpted them.
Just today, there was a video making the rounds on Facebook, hipsters protesting who cares what, riding around in circles with a flag tied upside down to the back of their trendy Vespa. Until a couple of fellas who are apparently former Marines came down the street. One grabbed the flag away, and the other gave chase while a protestor desperately tried to flee on his moped, and very lucky for him, just barely managed to.
Do people think they look brilliant or edgy because they abuse a flag? I don't see it. Whatever you think you're protesting, if you do it by misusing the flag of your own country, all you look like is foolish, as far as I can tell, and people will discount your cause because of it.
Our country has issues, to be sure, and wes should generally respect people with the guts to stand behind their beliefs and peacefully demonstrate. Our country is built on that kind of freedom, and protest has helped to bring understanding and change.
Hate, however, achieves nothing. Trying to ruin a memorial for a grieving family is a shameful thing. Protest against war if you like, but don't hate the soldier. Protest against same sex marriage if you like, but don't hate your neighbor because they are gay. Protest immigration policy if you like, but don't hate people because of their skin color or the language they speak.
And please don't hate your country. Pray and call for it to be the best it can be, goodness knows we can use that. And if you are so dark and polluted and full of hate that your only idea of expression is to trample or burn a flag, there is only one thing you should do. Take that flag and get yourself a quart of high-quality lighter fluid, and your lighter (make sure you have a nice fresh wick in it) and march out of your house to the nearest public place where you'll draw a good crowd. Fold that flag up properly, because presentation matters. Take a good look at it and think about the freedoms it has given you to live and worship and think and speak as you see fit.
Then hand it to someone who appreciates it. Turn around, bend over, and put that quart can and the lighter... wait, that's not polite. Instead, hope you're able to catch the first boat to someplace where you can act decently.