Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Why are we still even talking about it?

Once again, we are confronted with the potential Flag Burning amendment. The House today passed HJ Res 10: "The Congress shall have power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States." AP tells us that there is a greater chance than ever before of the amendment passing the Senate as well:
. . .the measure has always died in the Senate, falling short of the 67 votes needed. The last time the Senate took up the amendment was in 2000, when it failed 63-37.

But last year's elections gave Republicans a four-seat pickup in the Senate, and now proponents and critics alike say the amendment stands within a vote or two of reaching the two-thirds requirement in that chamber.
Of course, if the Senate passes it then it will go on to the states for ratification. Can you hear my deep and heavy sighing over here?

This has been a too, too busy week for me, which accounts for the paucity of posts, and so I haven't had time to do what I would normally do, which is read the Congressional Record. (Only the most geeky among us can admit, "Yes, I was up too late because I was reading the Congressional Record until 2am.") But I couldn't resist skimming it a little nonetheless.

Here are a couple of choice moments:
Florida's Alcee Hastings:
Throughout this debate, Mr. Speaker, I am sure that some of our colleagues are going to try to paint some of us Democrats as unpatriotic. They will tell the American people that because we support the protection of our civil liberties and the constitutional right for an American to burn her flag, we are therefore not loyal citizens. . . .

To those who intend to levy such artificial claims, I say shame on you. You see, Mr. Speaker, this Congress and the Bush administration loves draping itself in the flag when talking about troops and terrorism. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, if they so choose to do that.

Yet . . . more than 1,700 Americans have died in Iraq, and some substantial number in Afghanistan, and, yet, when they come home to Dover, Delaware, with flag-draped coffins, this administration who is so proud of the flag and all of you who would support its being made a part of a Constitution, refuses to let the public see the pictures of those persons with those flag-draped coffins, and I might add, punishes the media for trying to access them.

The hypocrisy is so thick, that you can choke on it.
New York's Gary Ackerman:
The Constitution this week is being nibbled to death by small men with press secretaries. If the flag burners offend us, do not beat a cowardly retreat by rushing to ban them. Meet their ideas with bigger ideas, for an even better America to protect the flag by protecting democracy, not by retreating from it.

The choice today is substance or symbolism. We cannot kill a flag. It is a symbol; and, yes, patriots have died, but they have died for liberty. They have died for democracy. They have died for the right of the protestors. They died for values.

The flag is a symbol of those values. Saying that people died for the flag is symbolic language. What they really died for are American principles. The Constitution gives us our rights. The Constitution guarantees our liberties. The Constitution embodies our freedoms. It is our substance. The flag is the symbol for which it stands.

True patriots choose substance over symbolism.
Great stuff.

So in honor of today's Constitutional Desecration, here is today's trivia question:
Q: When did the first recorded incident of flag desecration take place in America?

Insert Jeopardy music here....


Give up? A: 1634. John Endicott cut the cross out of the Red Ensign, which British colonies were required to fly, because he felt it was sacrilegious to conflate divine and kingly rule in the symbol of the cross on the flag--"popery," to put it in the Puritans' terms.

Can you tell I wrote a chapter on the history of the flag? Ask me another one...

Anyway, the point being, after three hundred seventy years, I see no reason to revise the Constitution now.

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