..."Ask the men and women who stood on top of the [World] Trade Center. Ask them and they will tell you: Pass this amendment," said Representative Randy "Duke" Cunningham, Republican of California, who failed to mention that he is under fire for an apparent million dollar bribe he received from a defense contractor.How did I do?
I've now been blogging long enough that topics I addressed when I started are coming up again. I wrote about this before the Democratic primaries late in 2003, and except for the events prompting me to write, nothing has changed,"First of all, there is the problem itself. How often does anybody burn an American flag in this country? Is this really a big problem? Is it of such great moment that it requires that the fundamental document on which our National Government rests, a document that has been amended but 27 times since its conception, only 17 times since the adoption of the Bill of Rights be amended again to address it? How can anyone seriously argue that this is the case?
Secondly, I take issue with the sanctification of the flag that this amendment would create. For many people, the flag is already a sacred relic. To those people, the flag apparently symbolizes something so powerful, so essential to how they feel about themselves and their country, that to deface the flag itself is to assault those things that they hold most dear, to assault they themselves. It is to attack the things the flag symbolizes for them, be that the United States itself, the Constitution, freedom, liberty, whatever. Because of the gravity involved in amending the Constitution, because of the seriousness of that act, I dearly hope that those Presidential candidates, indeed that all politicians and public figures who advocate such an amendment count themselves among such people. But I have to point out to these people that burning or trampling on or otherwise defacing the flag is only to burn or trample the flag. The flag is but a symbol. Burning an individual flag destroys that flag but it does nothing to weaken those things the flag represents, it does nothing to weaken the country, to lessen freedom or liberty, to assail the Constitution. On the contrary, I believe that an amendment to the Constitution to prohibit flag burning constitutes a greater assault on those things than the burning of one or a thousand flags ever could.
As I mentioned, in over two hundred years, our constitution has been amended but 27 times. The vast majority of those amendments came about out of recognition that in the drafting the Constitution, either the Federal or State governments were given too much power and control over the life of its citizens. There are a handful of amendments that limit action citizens or states may take against the Federal Goverment or individual states. Most amendments, though, have aimed to limit the reach of government, to expand the freedom and liberty of its citizens. The most famous exception, the Eighteenth Amendment, establishing prohibition, was a spectacular and misguided failure, leading to its being repealed fourteen years later by the Twenty first Amendment.
The implication of an amendment such as the proposed flag burning one, is that we the people have too much freedom, too much liberty, too much freedom of expression and that it must be curtailed. I beg all the candidates and all citizens to challenge this notion. And I beg them to consider the further implications. Would such an amendment be the only step, or only the first step down the path to restricting our rights to express ourselves politically. Will there be others?"