Friday, December 09, 2016

Buckley: Jail time for flag burning more un-American than act itself (TALLAHASSEE DEMOCRAT)

Buckley: Jail time for flag burning more un-American than act itself
Jonathan Buckley, My View 1:35 p.m. EST December 9, 2016

Late last month, President-elect Donald J. Trump tweeted that flag burning should be a federal crime punishable by a year in prison or loss of citizenship.

Finally, ungrateful anti-Americans will have to suffer the consequences of their actions. Who are these people to display such blatant disrespect for the land of free speech?

But wait, isn’t saying you want to lock people up for burning the American flag more un-American than the act itself?

The first time this issue surfaced was in the 1989 Supreme Court case: Texas v. Johnson. In 1984, Gregory Johnson burned the American flag in front of Dallas City Hall in protest of President Ronald Reagan’s policies. Johnson was fined $2,000 and sentenced to one year in prison. In a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court ruled burning the flag was protected under the First Amendment.

This issue has resurfaced many times, and in 2005 even Hillary Clinton co-sponsored an unsuccessful bill that would have criminalized flag burning. Politicians love to play on emotions, and flag burning is the perfect issue for riling people up.

What makes America great is that no matter what you say or think about the country, and no matter how nauseating your opinion is, it is your right to voice that opinion. If any government agency stoops so low as to throw you in jail for your opinions, it is reprimanded for it, as Texas was.

Personally, I do find flag burning contemptible. When you burn the American flag, you disrespect the people who fought for it and the people before you who made this country the free democracy it is today. However, I would rather burn a flag myself than see flag burners lose their citizenship or become political prisoners.

We can’t move away from our ideals as the world’s beacon of freedom when we are surrounded by repressive police states. In the grand scheme, soldiers don’t just die for the flag; they die for the right to protest, even if it means protesters are blatantly disrespecting their country.

Besides, flag burners will face justice even without government intervention. That justice will come in the form of public sanctioning but not jail.

Fortunately, there is hope that Trump will backtrack on this statement, as he has on so many others. He likes to say things to get people worked up, but then he has to cut back for practical reasons such as constitutionality. Clearly, Donald Trump needs to refresh his understanding of history and show more respect for opposing opinions.

Jonathan Buckley is a junior at St. Edward’s School in Indian River County, where he participates in cross-country, crew, the Men’s Choral Ensemble and Model United Nations. He recently discovered a passion for politics and after graduation plans to study political science and broadcast journalism.

1 comment:

earthshakerbooks said...

No need to burn the American flag. Burn the NAZI SWASTIKA flag instead.