I was watching an episode of The West Wing today when they started talking about flag burning. This is one of the issues that always makes me shake my head at Republicans, who are the majority of people who oppose this symbolic gesture of protest. Their argument inevitably centers around the fact that our veterans fought to defend that flag and therefore it is an affront to them to burn it.
Apparently I wasn’t paying attention in school, because I learned that our soldiers fight to defend our freedom in this country, one of the most important of which is the freedom of expression. We go into countries with oppressive governments and fight to “liberate” those people, claiming that we want them to have a free country like ours, where people can protest and disagree with their government without being thrown in jail. Isn’t that one of the greatest things about this country, that we’re free to say what we want about the government and express our anger or disappointment without worrying about being punished for it?
Every time I’ve heard people complain about flag burning, they inevitably start complaining about the people who burn the flags, claiming that they don’t understand how great this country is and that they’re slapping veterans in the face by burning this symbol of our freedom.
But are we really free if we can’t do what we want with our property? The Republicans are the ones who get the most upset when someone tries to tell them what they can and can’t do with their property, so why is it that they feel it’s fine to tell people what they can and can’t do with their flags?
It seems like the bigger offense here would be to ban flag burning. If we start trying to legislate against how people are allowed to protest, we’re telling everyone who has ever fought for this country that we don’t really want freedom. We want our government to be just as controlling as all the governments that they were supposed to be fight against.
I’ve never burned a flag, and I don’t foresee a time when I will ever want to burn a flag. That said, I will forever fight for the right of other people to burn flags if they want to. Obviously when you’re dealing with fire in a public place, you should take precautions to make sure that the fire doesn’t spread and hurt anyone or anything, but that’s the extent to which the government should be involved in flag burning protests.
This is supposed to be a free country. It’s time we remember that.