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First Amendment Day

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Tony Soldo

The House on Wednesday approved a constitutional amendment (H.J.Res. 10) that would give congress the power to ban desecration of the American flag, by a vote of 286 to 130. The measure is an attempt to overturn a 1989 Supreme Court decision that ruled that flag burning was a protected free speech right. The Senate will consider the measure right after the 4th of July. Yeah...I wonder how that will turn out. All those politicians will be so geeked-up on patriotic pride, looking to score votes for their next election, it’ll be a landslide victory for Old Glory, and a major defeat for the First Amendment.

This is not the first time this has happened, it happened in 1990, 95, 97, 2000, 2003, always being defeated in the Senate. This time it’s different, we’re at war with terror, as George might say. This is no time for flag burning! The Supreme Court, twice (1989: Texas vs. Johnson, and 1990; U.S. vs. Eichman) struck down the Flag Protection Act. We should mark this day down as the beginning of the dismantling of the Constitution of the United States of America, June 22, 2005,(although it really started after the Patriot Act was signed into law).Before we concede defeat to tyranny, may I submit this day, June 22, 2005 as First Amendment Day.

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

That is the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights, and it has not changed for over 214 years. Another reason to choose this day is that it falls right between Flag Day, June 14th, and Independence Day, July 4th.

There are many forms of free speech. In Texas vs. Johnson, the Supreme Court stated that flag burning is symbolic speech, and is protected by the First Amendment. Flag burning is a form of expression that relates a message to all that you are not happy with the actions of the government. No constitutional freedom is more important to a free and open society than freedom of speech. If we compromise on this one issue, we lose all freedom, because then, anyone can be charged with a crime for merely expressing themselves, and as Noam Chomsky stated, “If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for those we despise, we don’t believe in it at all.”

Section 4 (K) of the Federal Flag Code ( Public Law 94-344 ) declares, “The Flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by BURNING”! So, the ACT of burning the Flag is not illegal, but the intentions, or motives behind the burning of the flag, is. Who will be authorized to judge another person’s intentions or motives? I came across a boy scout web site that gave step by step instructions on the safe and legal desecrating of the American Flag: Flag Burning Ceremony 1) a- Display the old flag, b-give a brief history, c- say the Pledge of Allegiance. 2) Read aloud the poem “I am Old Glory” (too long to type-use your imagination, if you don’t know the words). 3) Hum “Taps” while cutting up the flag, then… ABSOLUTE SILENCE. 4) Color Guards cut the field of blue stars out of the flag, these are put in the fire first, then the stripes are laid on the fire. 5) more ABSOLUTE SILENCE. 6) The Color Guard says” Our flag rest in peace”. Wow, most humans don’t get a send off like that. The Boy Scouts and the American Legion burn thousands of American flags every year. Will they now be prohibited from burning the flag?

Which brings me to the next stumbling stone: what is a flag? A drawing, a shirt, a bumper sticker, a neck tie, cigarette papers, toilet paper, any combination of red, white and blue colors? What is desecration of the flag? Wearing it, adding to it, cutting parts out of it, holding it upside down, sitting on it? Who is to say? Who shall judge? I can feel Pandora’s Box Swelling up, ready to explode open as I write. As Huey Long stated, “If Fascism ever came to the United States, it would be wrapped in an American flag”, and William Blum said it even better, “Propaganda is to a Democracy what Violence is to a Dictatorship”.

The American flag is a propaganda tool. It’s subliminal power enchants Americans to proudly follow their leaders, without question. For centuries, people by the millions have marched off to their death for no other reason, but to “defend” an image, colors on a cloth. Even street gangs have learned this powerful mind trap. How do you love a country, a flag, or an idea, so much that you are willing to lay down you life, or worse, send your children off to die, then proudly live with their memory, as if they were some kind of hero. How do you kill because of your love for a flag. I can understand how you can love your neighbor as you love yourself, and how you can love your God with all your heart, soul, and mind, but how do you love a thing, an image, a rag with different colors arranged in a particular fashion?

Some people want the Ten Commandments in every public place, interestingly enough, the first two Commandments forbid what most Americans practice: 1) Thou shalt have no other gods before (above) me. 2) Thou shalt not make any graven image, or any likeness of anything. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them, For I, the Lord, am a jealous God. Even the flag’s nickname “Old Glory” is a reference to God. God’s Glory is His Essence, and no other entity can come close to His Glory. Maybe Americans do worship a living god other than their true God.

In title 36 U.S.C.10, PL. 344, Congress enacted the U.S. Flag Code, which states, “The Flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing”. Sounds like a violation of the First Commandment to me. What about other flags? May I burn an Israeli flag, or would that be anti-Semitic, and then would I be charged with a hate crime also? How about an Iraqi flag; aren’t we at war with Iraq? We can topple graven images of Saddam, so why not his flag, or shall we impose this new amendment on the good people of Iraq, so they will be forbidden to burn their flag and the American flag, too. Meanwhile, the school board in Brookville, Florida, is considering a proposal that would forbid students from wearing apparel that displays any flag OTHER than the American flag (that would take care of the anti Semitic issue).

Flag worship is the key to the war movement, as long as most Americans continue to wave their flag, sport their “Support The Troops” ribbon magnet, and continue to pay their war taxes, those in power will allow the rest of us to continue our meger existence, but as soon as the people start waking up, one at a time, and the peace movement gets going again, then expect another 9-11. The subliminal message behind “Support The Troops” is “Support The Policies” of our government. I don’t support the troops, because without them the global chess players could not play their sick game of world dominance through political, economic, and military means. Thomas Jefferson and Howard Zinn stated that dissent is the highest form of patriotism, and dissent is losing momentum lately. Look at the recent media circus surrounding the Senator from Illinois, Dem. Dick Durbin who compared the American interrogators at Guantanamo Bay to Nazis and other historically famous figures, and under much pressure made a public trembling whimpering apology, wasn’t he exercising his first amendment right of freedom of speech? That stifles dissent; we need more bold leaders to challenge the people who are behind the lies that led us to war. How can we begin to start the process of impeachment of Bush and Cheney, if the Democrats can’t even make a comment without having to retract everything they say.

If you are one of those people who are full of pride and love for flag, country, and government, then you must become accountable for the U.S. Government’s actions. You must take ownership of all past, present, and future misdeeds of the U.S. Government, from the genocide of the Native Americans to the holocaust of all the innocent people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. From the torture and abuse of the victims at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, to the illegal war crimes and invasions committed by the U.S. Government and it’s military for the last 100 plus years. Then, if you still feel strongly about the actions of this nation, then you should stop what you are doing right now, and go to your local army recruitment office (the lines won’t be too bad - business is a little slow there right now), and YOU go “fight the good fight”. Go ahead, I dare you. YOU, who talk the talk, wave the flag, and shouts down anyone who question the governments actions and motives. Give up your soft life, you couch patriot. Give up your S.U.V. and your M.T.V. Go “democratize” Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Venezuela, they all waiting for you!  As for me, I’ll continue to exercise my First Amendment right of freedom of speech, expression, and thought, whether the government says I can or not. Happy First Amendment Day!


Published Thursday, June 23rd, 2005 - 11:14pm GMT
Tony Soldo is a Christian Pacifist, who considers himself a temporary resident on the planet Earth until he reaches his true home: The Kingdom of Heaven.

First published here on the World Crisis Web
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