Provoked by flag burning, Trump threatens First Amendment

Burning the flag of one’s country has always been frowned upon.

I agree with this disapproval. There is nothing short of an act of violence that is more insulting to our veterans and all other citizens working tirelessly to protect and improve our nation.

At the same time, I suppose, if a person decides to burn the U.S. flag, they are probably quite content to garner disapproval. Surely, the entire intent behind their action is to lend insult.

Although, while the general concept of flag burning appears to be an immature and disrespectful way to express oneself, I can imagine scenarios in which I would pull out the ol’ Zippo and ignite the stars and stripes.

If I had been oppressed by my own country.

If I saw police brutalizing my community, unprovoked and without consequence.

If I felt my right to decide the fate of my own body was being taken away from me.

If I heard threats of mandatory religious registrations because some hate me for my faith.

If I feared conversion therapy because I was caught falling for the wrong type of person.

In those scenarios, I imagine burning the flag would seem a fairly reserved method of protest.

Burning a flag is insulting to the nation – that’s true. But, maybe a nation which has continuously abused minorities for centuries deserves to be insulted, sometimes.

Perhaps we should evaluate why a piece of fabric set on fire provokes the emotional outrage that disappears when the lives of our fellow human beings are at stake.

Will we not have sympathy for those protesting mistreatment? Or will we remain too isolated by our own pride and politics to see the humanity in others?

I imagine most people burning the U.S. flag already feel isolated, and I think it is a counterproductive response to isolate them further. It will solve nothing.

Unfortunately, our President-elect, Donald Trump, disagrees. On Nov. 29, he tweeted, “Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag – if they do, there must be consequences – perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!”

It’s pathetic when our new commander in chief is tweeting out threats like a middle-school bully. But, besides pathetic, it’s frightening. He is not just threatening protesters who burn flags – he is threatening our first amendment right to free speech.

Justice requires a cautious, thoughtful delicacy that was disturbingly absent from Trump’s vengeful tone. He has lashed out in the same infantile way in the past, and will most likely continue to do so. Perhaps his next order of business will be to deport anyone kneeling during the National Anthem.

As citizens, we must be cautious of a man who would be so flippant about our most fundamental of freedoms.

I understand flag burning provokes a visceral anger in many people and I think in most cases, it is unnecessary and disrespectful. At the same time, I would rather watch someone destroy a symbol of freedom than the freedom itself. 

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