General Question

mrwhoopie's avatar

Is flag burning Freedom of speech or is it unpatriotic?

Asked by mrwhoopie (100points) May 28th, 2009

Isn’t burning the flag as a protest against the government the ultimate freedom of speech demonstration?Did not our soldiers fight for the freedom to do that or do you view it as unpatriotic.

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19 Answers

bezdomnaya's avatar

Well, I think it’s both. Freedom of speech is a right; patriotism is a sentiment. They aren’t equivalent.

mrwhoopie's avatar

@bezdomnaya Good answer! Then isn’t it the ultimate form of patriotism?

zaphod's avatar

A lot of times, flag burning represents the attitude towards a government rather than the people of a country – goes to show that a lot of times the government isn’t exactly acting on the will of the people. That is the intent. In fact, I’m pretty sure that it hurts the person burning the flag also.

Obviously terrorists burning flags do not fall under this category – I’m talking about those others who consider themselves patriotic but are protesting something the government is doing.

alive's avatar

i think the “ultimate act of freedom of speech” is saying what you think, or better yet, saying it in a pamphlet. what ever happened to political pamphlets??? they were all the rage for marx and ben franklin.

anyways there is nothing wrong with burning the flag. in our global world i don’t think flags carry quite the same symbolic value that they did back in the day.

bezdomnaya's avatar

@mrwhoopie Not necessarily the ultimate form of patriotism either. Enjoying and embracing your freedom of speech doesn’t mean that you enjoy and support the government that endowed it to you.

bezdomnaya's avatar

Hmm, I’d love to stay and follow this thread, but I have to go write my thesis about metaphors in US political speeches. :(

mrwhoopie's avatar

@bezdomnaya I agree but what about those that try to pass laws that make it illegal? Are they just taking a popular political stance or do they truly believe any one that does that is a traitor.

alive's avatar

the lawmaker(s) in questions probably don’t believe it themselves, but a bunch of their constituents probably do, therefore they act like they give a shit too, then they can secure those “single issue voters”.

are there still people ting to pass that law? i thought we were out of the 1970s…

mrwhoopie's avatar

@alive Unfortunatly this issue raises its ugly head every few years but common sense has always prevailed so far.

bezdomnaya's avatar

@mrwhoopie Ok, I’ll say one last thing before I go. The lawmakers that try to pass it usually, if I remember correctly, try to argue that it’s not a form of freedom of speech. So, I guess you could say that, in their eyes (or in the eyes of their constituents as @alive pointed out), the person that does the act of flag burning is a traitor and isn’t protected under the Constitution to be one. It is, in some sense, incongruous note, I do not say, illogical for a government to protect the rights of someone to be a traitor to that government.

But, I think the main problem is that there aren’t really two sides to this debate. It’s not pro-flag burning vs. anti-flag burning in the same way as the debate about abortion is not pro-choice vs. anti-choice or pro-life vs. anti-life. Arguably, no one is anti-life and since we all live in a democracy, not many are anti-choice either. The problem is that the two sides cannot even agree on the suppositions they are using to base their debates on. So the debate turns into traitor to your country vs. freedom of speech. It’s all a matter of rhetoric at that point.

Bobbydavid's avatar

It’s a pointless demonstration that children suit better

dynamicduo's avatar

It’s not something that really should fall under free speech in my mind. There’s only one message you can send with a burning flag, and it sure isn’t about happy fairies and unicorns with rainbow horns.

oratio's avatar

There has been laws against flag desecration going back and forth since the civil war.

I think the question should be about if the government should decide how people handle cloth.

Sure, it could be considered hate speech. I just think that one should be very careful about banning methods of public expression. I think it’s dangerous for a democracy to do so. It can be considered stepping on the principle of freedom of expression. It could also be considered protecting the symbol of the freedom of expression.

Desecrating the american flag is a paradox in itself, and is also a matter of interpretation.

Is painting peace signs on it desecration?

You can’t pass laws attending to everything you can do to a flag, and you can’t pass laws for what people in other countries do to the american flag.

Banning people from public display of the swastika is another question but in the same neighborhood. This is illegal in some countries. A bit unfortunate since it’s an ancient sacred symbol in south Asia.

I don’t think this is as easy a question as one might think.

Bobbydavid's avatar

Flag burning seems to always be aimed at or caused by Americans. Why is this? My guess is the answer from Americans will be jealousy as usual but in this instance, are Americans jealous of themselves? Time to hop off of that pedestal you’ve put yourselves on

Poser's avatar

As a service member, I have a great respect for the rights of Americans to freely express themselves. I think, more than the customs and traditions I’ve learned in the service, I inherited that respect from my grandfather. He’s a WWII vet who very nearly gave his life in service of his country. But on this issue, he and I differ.

He supports laws that would make flag-burning illegal. I don’t. I believe that it is a reprehensible act, that ultimately displays contempt for the ideals upon which this country was founded. To me and many of the people I’ve served with, the flag doesn’t represent the government. It represents the strength of the nation, and the sacrifices of those who have made it great. One of those strengths is the belief that it is absolutely necessary for the citizenry to exercise their right to criticize the government. Ergo, making this—however misguided—act illegal is ultimately negating one of the ideals which it represents.

mattbrowne's avatar

It hurts people’s feelings. Therefore it should not be done.

zaphod's avatar

@Bobbydavid – no, flag burning is in no way just an American form of expression nor always aimed at America. Indian flags are routinely burned in the Kashmir region. Israeli flags are burned on an almost daily basis by its neighbors. The Soviet Union flag has been burned innumerable number of times.

A lot of European nations have laws against flag desecration. New Zealand is interesting in that you can burn the flag, but only if your intent was not to dishonor it (not sure how this works though). More flag desecration laws of the world.

oratio's avatar

@zaphod There were some flag burning of the Swedish flag in Pakistan and elsewhere, when they republished the danish cartoons in Sweden.

Well, if it makes them happy.. They didn’t look happy though.

Strauss's avatar

@bezdomnaya It sounds like you are equating patriotism with support of the government.

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