One thing that doesn't burn my butt

Well, Congress just barely failed to pass an anti-flag-burning amendment By a single vote, the measure will not be passed on to the several states, where it would have taken 38 of them to get it approved.

And I’m glad.

I have to confess, I get a little thrill whenever I see an American flag burned here in the United States.

All my life, I’ve loved things like paradoxes and oxymorons and other intellectual puzzles. I independently coined the description of vacuum cleaners: “When they suck, they don’t suck. And when they don’t suck, they suck.” And the American flag — and its potency as a symbol of freedom — represents such a contradiction.

To my way of thinking, there is a direct and inverse relationship between the flag’s strength as a physical object and as a symbol. The more we protect one, the weaker we make the other.

Right now, the flag is treated as pretty much any other hunk of cloth in the eyes of the law. One can burn it, use it as a doormat, wear it as a bandanna or a poncho or a bikini (that’s one “desecration” that I almost always endorse), or fly it proudly — the law doesn’t really care. If you can do it with a blanket, you can do it with the flag. You might run afoul of other laws if you burn it without taking certain precautions, or if the flag in question isn’t yours, but that’s about it.

As is fitting and just.

The flag stands for freedom. A bunch of freedoms, in fact. Many of them are spelled out in the Constitution and its Amendments, but that list is hardly all-enclusive. And I firmly believe that the freedom to burn that very flag is one of those freedoms.

Also, the flag-burners serve a very valuable public service. How else can they so quickly pronounce themselves as ignorant, hateful, irrelevant assholes than by publicly burning a flag? It saves a huge amount of time in weighing whether or not they are worth our time and attention in debating them.

So half a cheer to Congress for failing to pass the Anti-Flag-Desecration amendment. (The fact that it passed the House cost them 1.5 cheers, and failed in the Senate by one vote cost them another full cheer.) Perhaps now they can go back to discussing far more important matters — such as Dung Beetle Appreciation Day and National Halitosis Month and other lofty matters of state.

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51 Comments

  1. VagaBond July 3, 2006