Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Security Blanket

This is what happens when politicians shirk their responsibility to deal with real problems and no longer have any compunction about open, shameless pandering. Depending on what happens in the Senate, we may soon be pinning a big flag to our collective national lapel, just like those television "journalists" tripping over their teleprompters trying to prove their patriotism to viewers. But because in a democracy people generally get the kind of government they deserve, who's really to blame for this? Increasingly insecure about our own national identity in the wake of Gitmo, Abu Ghraib and a war waged on a false pretense, we're going to show everyone just how proud we are of ourselves and our symbols. So watch the way you handle that flag, mister. We'll get to what you can and can't say about it next.

The most pithy statement I've seen about this came from Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., who said "If the flag needs protection at all, it needs protection from members of Congress who value the symbol more than the freedoms that the flag represents." I never thought we'd get to the point where an unabashed New York liberal expressed sanity, federal restraint, and conservatism better than any Republican.

It all reminds me of this exchange between the Dennis Hopper and Jack Nicholson characters in Easy Rider:
George: Oh, they're not scared of you. They're scared of what you represent to 'em.

Billy: Hey man. All we represent to them, man, is somebody needs a haircut.

George: Oh no. What you represent to them is freedom.

Billy: What the hell's wrong with freedom, man? That's what it's all about.

George: Oh yeah, that's right, that's what it's all about, all right. But talkin' about it and bein' it - that's two different things. I mean, it's real hard to be free when you are bought and sold in the marketplace. 'Course, don't ever tell anybody that they're not free 'cause then they're gonna get real busy killin' and maimin' to prove to you that they are. Oh yeah, they're gonna talk to you, and talk to you, and talk to you about individual freedom, but they see a free individual, it's gonna scare 'em.

Billy: Mmmm, well, that don't make 'em runnin' scared.

George: No, it makes 'em dangerous.
Money question: how many of those advocating a ban on flag burning also downplayed the recent controversy about abuse of the Quran?

69 Comments:

Anonymous ctbill said...

Money question: bingo!

6/22/2005 11:19 PM  
Blogger mjs said...

All of them.

6/22/2005 11:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That would be an interesting survey. I suspect it would be quite high.

Will the lapel pins be made in China?

Oh, I know; I saw this at a hobby shop, regular old baby diaper safty pins with red, white, and blue beads hanging from the straight bar in the form of the flag. The new admendment will require each citizen to buy one set (from a no-bid government contractor picked by the President), plus instructions so they can construct their own flag to prove their deity to the administration (note: it should be to our constitution). No cheating, everyone must construct their own. When completed, each flag will be inspected by a US Federal Agent who specializes in bead counting accuracy. Any misplaced beads will require immediate incarceration without due process, and additional property will be seized because you will be deemed not fit to be a citizen if you can't construct a flag made from plastic beads. In addition, as cars are inspected for seatbelt compliance with night goggles, any car without appropriately approved declay flag of the size 4in x 6in will be stopped and fined and reported to their employer for termination.

Right On:
"If the flag needs protection at all, it needs protection from members of Congress who value the symbol more than the freedoms that the flag represents."

Of course you have this from Rep Cunningham (yes the same man that just got subpoena, sold his house to a defense cotractor in a controversial sale, plus lives on a yacht also owned by this contractor - the contractor required his employees to also donate in the thousands. This contractor, Wade, just resigned as CEO from the company, MZM, Inc.). "Ask the men and women who stood on top of the (World) Trade Center," ... "Ask them and they will tell you: pass this amendment."

Would they? Really? Dyed in the wool capitalists who treasured our freedoms. Please, please let those poor people rest in peace. They can not speak for themselves so shutup already.

It was kind of scary watching the right-wing news this evening. People focused on the symbol and not the meaning behind the symbol. When quizzed about our country and the Constitution, I bet the majority couldn't spell it. Our soldiers do not die for the symbol, but the words, meaning, and documents behind. A flag burning amendment is antithesis of everything America stands for. Each of us is an American because we protect those freedoms in our Constitution, even if we sometimes disagree.

People like Sadam worship symbols.

I can see it now, neighbors calling the feds when they don't like the way their neighbor's flag looks. I'm sure it'll fall under Homeland Security detail. What about flags blowing from the back of a pickup and the fresh manure picked from the barn is blowing on the flag, or a flag flown during a storm at the top of construction crane --- should they be reported? What about clothes? I often see people, especially country western singers, with flags as a jackets, shirts, even knickers. What about little plastic whirling flags that fade after a couple months outdoors? Will our city have to have special flag recycling bins --- plastic flags go into bin 1, hand painted on wood into bin 2, etc? Will the amendment have to be amended when people opt for something other than fire. Why don't they just require all flags to be made out of non-flamable material.

Sure we are divided in this country, but I never thought we'd be divided over freedom. Which way is Bush going on this one? He can always veto it.

6/23/2005 1:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It should come as no surprise that the American flag has become the religious symbol of a nation which essentially views its own constitution as a holy religious document.

Go to St. Louis airport and you will see an alcove called the "freedom shrine", where the walls are decorated with various holy texts such as the declaration of independence, bill of rights, etc. It's as if they are inviting you to pray.

As with all religions, Americanism is founded on articles of faith which are believed wholehearedtly by devotees, in the absence of any evidence for their veracity:

1) That the USA is the best country in the world.

2) That it is the goal of every world citizen to become an American.

3) That the rest of the world has much to learn from the USA.

4) That the USA has nothing to learn from the rest of the world.

5) That the future belongs to the USA.

6) That Americans are morally, spiritually, intellectually and physically superior to the sub-races of people in the rest of the world.

6/23/2005 7:52 AM  
Blogger Tayefeth said...

Sadly, I suspect that some forms of disrespect for the flag will not be outlawed by any law this Congress passes. They seem to think that claiming to be patriotic overrides the actual content of their actions, so hanging a flag from a pickup truck window until it's ragged and then tossing it in the trash won't be a problem, but burning it as a symbol of how the government is burning our freedoms will be illegal.

Never mind that the latter is more respectful of the flag and more patriotic than the former.

6/23/2005 9:20 AM  
Blogger KS said...

Patriotism means nothing if it is mandated by law.

6/23/2005 9:49 AM  
Anonymous Scott_api said...

Not sure where I read it, but the quote that comes to mind is: "It's far better to uphold the Constitution and burn the flag than it is to hold up the flag and burn the Constitution."

And no offense to the poster above, but I think you are confusing Nadlers quote to Cunninghams ethical issues, or I may be reading your passage wrong...

6/23/2005 10:03 AM  
Blogger owenz said...

It would be nice if the Republicans behind the flag burning amendment actually believed all that stuff about America being the greatest nation on earth and the flag symbolizing that greatness. Sadly, this is not the case. If there is a genuine motivation behind the amendment, it is a fear of America...a true lack of comfort with the idea of the first amendment and the freedom it represents. It's a distrust of the very freedoms inherent in the American system (see: TCR's Easy Rider quote).

Unfortunately, I can't even believe this explanation. The motivation behind the amendment is far more crass and cynical than something as genuine as honest to goodness paranoia. These people aren't concerned with dissent.

The real motivation behind this incarnation of the flag amendment is simply to give Republicans the chance to savagely attack Democrats. The red meat voters of the GOP don't get turned on by honoring the pledge of allegiance - their kicks come from attacking liberals. The reason polls showing American's dissatisfaction with Republicans in Congress cannot be trusted is because so many of those same Americans invariably respond to the truly vile and viscious attacks Republicans unleash come election time. They may hate their Republican congressman, but in the end, they believe the liberal smears and vote accordingly. It even works against moderate Republicans. Just ask John McCain's fictional "black, illegitimate child" that surfaced in the week before the 2000 South Carolina primary.

Here's Karl Rove, showing how it's done recently: "Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 in the attacks and prepared for war; liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers ..."

These people don't believe in the superiority of America. They're not even paranoid about too much freedom or anti-American speech. All they care about is acquiring power. Nothing more. The best way to do it is demonize without mercy. Americans eat it up like apple pie.

6/23/2005 11:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's nice to know we don't have more serious problems for the denizens of the Romper Room on the Hill to be working on.

Why stop at flags? Why not an amendment that offers everyone a blanket protection from being offended?

If this thing passes we will see full employment for beltway "advocacy" organizations litigating over what consitutes a "flag" and what constitutes "desecration," exemplifed by other anonymous' various examples a few posts up.

I've always preferred the Doritos approach to flag-burning: Burn all you want, we'll just make more.

6/23/2005 11:22 AM  
Anonymous kindness said...

I lived through the Vietnam era. I never burned a flag then but I did "desecrate" quite a few by putting peace symbols on them.

It is quite a paradox that those who claim to be fighting for our freedoms are the first to hem those freedoms in.

Almost makes me want to start burning flags.

6/23/2005 12:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What about a law rather than a Constitutional amendment? We have desecration laws against burning crosses. I'm assuming that law was passed because of the symbol of a burning cross was hostility towards blacks or miniorities.

Why are Republicans adamant about creating Constitutional amendments? They don't like something, they want to take something away, it's a constitutional amendment. It seems to me that amendments should only be for giving rights, not taking them away.

Talk about rights:
Pentagon Creating Sudent Database to watch your kids for the next war and nation buidling experiment. They may not call it a draft, but they record everything about your kids and then harass them by mail, phone, and in person. No wonder the Pentagon is saying parents are their biggest problem. And Supreme Court Rules Cities May Seize Homes for wealthy developers. Dateline ran a show on this topic about the abuse of imminent domain. So like when Bush owned the Texas Rangers, and the taxpayers subsidized the expansion, and Bush's friends wanted to speculate on the property around. To bad, they took your home and they made millions. Thought you owned your home. Not!

6/23/2005 12:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sadly, I suspect that some forms of disrespect for the flag will not be outlawed by any law this Congress passes. They seem to think that claiming to be patriotic overrides the actual content of their actions, so hanging a flag from a pickup truck window until it's ragged and then tossing it in the trash won't be a problem, but burning it as a symbol of how the government is burning our freedoms will be illegal.

And how. I cringe whenever I see a tattered flag being proudly flown. The owner is desecrating the flag and doesn't even realize it! Flag Day was last week. These guys that want to ban flag-burning - wouldn't it have been a good day to run public service commercials reiterating the flag rules?

6/23/2005 12:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know that there are at least 2 Republicans who aren't behind this amendment. One for a purely practical reasons- becuase it hardly ever happens in the US (where we can supposedly do something about it). I mean when are the times you see the flag being burned the most - when we are talking about flag-burning amendments. So in the attempt to "save" it they are bringing more likely incidents about.

If I thought that they actually apprecited the flag and weren't using it as a why to try and deflect attention from their nasty and increasing ethics problem - yest Rep. Cunningham I'm talking to you - or just using this is a a wedge betwenn the liberal and the sane and the ideologues, then I might take them a tad more seriously.

To me the Constitution means too much to just change it for ideological reasons. And make no mistake, that is exactly what is going on.

Wow get the flag burning amendment (or at least time to argue it in the states), some rah rah moments for the GOP, good press for an unethical man, and pictures of people burnging the flag in protest over an amendment to the Constution banning flag burning. SWEET!!! This is a win, win, win, win situation.

6/23/2005 1:11 PM  
Blogger owenz said...

[i]What about a law rather than a Constitutional amendment?[/i]

The Supreme Court has twice said that flag burning is a protected form of expression under the first amendment in the last 16 years. It has even been that close. So the only way for a flag burning law to survive constitutional scrutiny is to change the constitution itself. Yep, they are willing to attack the constitutional for something that amounts to a cheap political stunt.

The gay marriage debate is somewhat different. In Romer (1996), the court said that under the equal protection clause, a state could not create a law whose sole purpose was to injure gay individuals. In Lawrence (2003), the court said that Texas's anti-sodomy law was unconstitutional under the due process clause. The Massachusetts Supremes relied on both of these SC rulings in their holding that allowed gay marriage. Clearly, conservatives fear that a federal law banning gay marriage would be in danger of being struck down by the SC (there is also a federalism issue involved). A constitutional amendment would ensure that such a law would stand.

6/23/2005 1:20 PM  
Anonymous KevinNYC said...

I know that I can't get on the subway in the morning without choking on the thick smoke of burning flags on every street corner. If nothing else, I think so many burning flags represent a public health issue. Also so many people are out burning flags that I have to change my clothes by the time I get work or else I look like a coal miner from all the ashes. Somebody really ought to do something about all those burning flags.

6/23/2005 2:03 PM  
Blogger Nathan said...

Good post by TCR and the folks above me here.

I wrote to Feinstein about this as I found it to be a useless diversion. She is strongly for this amendment however.

Maybe we should do our best to give people no reason to burn our flag. Or, like a previous poster wrote, say, 'burn as many as you like, we will make more.'

As the true fabric of our nation disintegrates we focus on fabric being desecrated.

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