1984: Joey Johnson, a communist rabble rouser, went to Texas to protest Reagan administration policies at the Republican National Convention. He and his comrades trashed their protest route, spray painting and vandalizing businesses. One of them pulled an American flag from its pole along the way. At the Dallas city hall, Joey lit that flag on fire.
Common sense would suggest that everyone in the group should’ve been arrested for their various antics. But that’s not how things work in America. Only Joey Johnson was arrested-because of what he did to that flag. You see, Texas had a law about destroying “venerated” symbols and representations. He was convicted, and received fines and remanded to a year in prison.
Yes, back then you could get majorly busted because you disrespected a piece of cloth. Johnson and his lawyers appealed the conviction, and after upholding and turnover by lower courts, his case went to the Supreme Court. They ruled in Johnson’s favor, citing first amendment concerns regarding his right to free speech. Even Antonin Scalia, who was never much for extending rights that offended his sense of originalism, concurred that flag burning is symbolic speech.
1989: Congress passes a new version of a flag protection statute. This did not survive a Supreme Court challenge.
1995-2006: Every session of Congress tried to pass a flag desecration amendment. Failure. It would have been the most bizarre use of the Constitution since Prohibition, the only time it was used to limit freedom and action.
So it’s settled. Now, it has been pointed out to me that just because something is settled case law doesn’t mean that good jurisprudence has been applied. We can look at things like Dred Scott or Plessy and know this to be true. But it seems like there is no judicial or political will great enough to stop someone from burning the flag. Personally, I agree with the courts-it’s just a flag and if you are not proud of it, you don’t have to respect it. That is your right in what is ostensibly the freest country in the world. A lack of patriotism is not a crime. Now of course that offends certain sensibilities because the first thing some like to cite when getting enraged about disrespect for the flag is that so many soldiers died fighting under the colors for “freedom”. I’m a veteran who wore the flag on my shoulder and I think that argument is garbage-it should be fairly clear to anyone with an acquaintance with the nearly unbroken string of wars we have participated in that we are rarely, if ever in it for freedom’s sake. Start by asking the Indians and work your way up to Iraqis to find out how we do freedom. I asked the Iraqis. They were fucking pissed, because in removing Saddam Hussein, we scorched that country with ruthless destruction and the whole country fell apart as a result. You will remember that primary targets were infrastructure in our “shock and awe” campaign, and I still don’t think they can keep the lights on all day in Baghdad. We know well now what Iraq was really all about-selling off the country’s resources to the oil companies and enriching friends of Dick Cheney.
November 29, 2016: President-elect Donald Trump tweets that flag burners should lose their citizenship and go to jail.
What the everloving fuck? Where did that come from? Is this occurrence an impending epidemic that requires a statement from the guy’s who’s going to run the planet? Did someone torch a flag in public lately? Trump must’ve seen this story on Fox. I mean, I know Trump’s a born again fascist and he’s really enamored of the colored cloth as you can see here:
Yeah, I can’t believe he’s gonna be president either. I’m revulsed and shocked by this bizarre hypernationalistic display, not to mention how it showcases the president elect’s mental juvenility by hugging a fucking inanimate object. And the bitch of all this is that it’s not the flag he cares about, it’s why the students burned it-because of his win of the presidency. And like a whiny ass titty baby, his thin skin couldn’t take the affront.
In the wake of the tweet, the media has gone in a few directions with interpreting it. One popular reaction is to stop paying attention to Trump’s online behavior because it is a red herring deployed to get us not thinking about what he’s really up to with his controversial staff and cabinet picks and his conflicts of interest that show that Trump is out for nothing but to enrich himself. I don’t think this theory holds much water-there is ample journalism available to watch Orange Caligula lose his head on social media and point out that his advisers are maniacs, lackeys, and deregulation freaks as well. Highlighting both paints a more complete picture of this fucking nutbar. Another strain of thought is that he is working on undermining the media by bypassing it, and this makes it very difficult for journalists to fight against that because you’ve got a self reinforcing rightwing news system(of which Fox is a large part of) that will report anything this idiot says. And when straight journalism tries to undo the lies and misinformation and just plain lunacy, he can say that the media is biased. Believing Trump’s tweets are a great way to have shit for brains and never have any real information, but some people, namely 1/2 the country like it. But the point is that it becomes harder for journalists to do the persuading that needs doing because Trump’s conditioning people to not listen. Ominous, eh? However, I don’t think Trump is smart enough to know that he’s declawing the press by lying and making up things that they will find false and therefore show their bias. He’s as much a victim of the phenomenon of instant communication as we all are, where any unexpurgated brain rot can be shared with hundreds of thousands of people.
As for me, I think it just makes him look like the ill-informed, oversensitive caveman he is and we should broadcast his dribblings far and wide in the hopes that the Electoral College will save us.
Hah! I’m kidding, the electors are morons appointed by the parties. Good fucking luck with that. Good fucking luck to us all, we’re gonna need it. I picked a terrible time to stop drinking.
UPDATE: Mitch McConnell says that Donald Trump can eat his unwiped asshole if he tries to bring the flag burning issue before Congress. Mitch Fucking McConnell, who busied himself subverting the Constitution nearly all of this year by withholding advice and consent from President Obama on the Court vacancy, is on the correct side of this issue. And his disinterest in Donald Trump’s brain droppings remains even as he prepares to make McConnell’s wife part of the Cabinet. I look forward to these two weasels fighting each other in the future.