May 1999
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Angry Dan's Column

Sorry, but flag burning is speech, too.

by Daniel Strohl

I know everyone thinks they've heard just about enough of the talk about the proposed anti-flag burning amendment. Free speech this. Honor your country that. That's because this is an important subject with important issues behind it.

I don't think I need to expand on the importance or the value of free speech. It's the vital energy behind journalists, politicians and all those neanderthals with modern consciousnesses. But the concept of free speech means we have to give liscense to those with opinions contradictory to our own as well as those similar to our own. So as distasteful as flag burning may be to some, it still needs protection as a valid form of expression (read speech). And sorry to say folks, this principle also means we must continue to protect racist, obscene, violent, sexist, homophobic and any other speech we find distasteful. Whether we choose to listen or not is up to our own sensibilities.

Another problem I have with this proposed amendment is that it singles out one form of expression -- flag burning -- and says it's not protected. It's not paranoid to say that this can be seen as a foot in the door toward taking away other constitutionally-granted rights; flag burning is interpreted as political speech, which is widely agreed upon as the most protected form of speech and the original intent behind including that one little clause in the First Amendment.

The argument that the flag should be protected because it symbolizes American values is quite annoyingly stupid. First of all, I challenge anyone to pin down and define American values. There'll be no agreement whatsoever on it. And if we were to pin down any of those values, I bet one is the value of free speech.

So voice your displeasure to your representative, senator and state legislators, especially if they are all for this amendment. This isn't a subject to ignore.


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