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 They Made Me a Flag-Burner 

June 23, 2005 
Last year there were 141 incidents of flag-burning in the United States. A chilling statistic, you say?

But those are just the ones that were reported! We have no way of knowing how many other flags people Today's column, "They Made Me a Flag-Burner," deals with impeachment of judges and Supreme Court justices -- Read Joe's columns the day he writes them.burned in their basements. The real number, from coast to coast, may be twice that high.

While our brave men and women are defending our freedom overseas, hippies within our own borders are torching Old Glory and lighting their reefers from it! Right here in River City! We got trouble! Don’t it just make your blood boil? Well, I should say!

Such behavior sends a message, loud and clear, to terrorists everywhere: “Come and get us! We don’t have the guts to fight. All we care about is drugs and sex. We’re ready to be taken.”

But don’t worry. The U.S. House of Representatives has just voted to ratify a constitutional amendment to ban flag-burning. This would repair an inexplicable oversight of the Constitution’s Framers, who made no provision whatever for protecting the flag. How could such wise men have left us with such a gaping vulnerability?

Maybe they didn’t. Maybe they would say that burning a flag during wartime constitutes treason, giving aid and comfort to the enemy. And since we are pretty much perpetually at war, this should take care of the problem. Flag-burners can be tried for treason and shot.

One congressman said the proposed amendment would have pleased the people in the World Trade Center who perished on 9/11. If ever there was a cogent argument for amending the supreme law of the land, I guess that’s it.

[Breaker quote for They Made Me a Flag-Burner, which deals with impeaching Supreme Court justices: The real danger we face]Seriously, folks, the purpose of this amendment might as well be to prove to the world that this is still the country that passed Prohibition. The whole thing started in 1989 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that flag-burning is part of “the freedom of speech” protected by the First Amendment.

That was ridiculous, but so is the fury flag-burning provokes. It’s a bit like the Muslim outrage over “desecrations” of the Koran; thanks to the printing press, sacred texts are now mass-produced, hundreds of millions of them exist, and there is no way to protect them all from abuse.

And a flag, also a mass-produced object, being in no sense sacred, can’t be “desecrated.” In England, for example, you can burn the Union Jack with impunity, and nobody cares.

If every one of your neighbors burned an American flag in his front yard tomorrow, what harm would it do? They’d merely be destroying a bit of their own property. You might deplore their attitude, but that’s a different matter. I was irritated when an artist insulted a crucifix a few years ago, but I never thought the law should punish him for that; I just thought the government shouldn’t be subsidizing him.

As a matter of fact, I myself was taught to burn the flag. If Congress were to subpoena me, I’d have to confess under oath that I once belonged to a subversive organization called the Boy Scouts of America, which instructed its members that if a flag should be soiled, torn, or even allowed to touch the ground, it must be burned.

A curious taboo, I thought, but I wasn’t one to question authority. My scoutmaster thought he was being patriotic. Today patriotism has come full circle and regards burning a flag as sacrilege.

It seems a rather tedious effort to amend the Constitution every time the Supreme Court makes an absurd ruling, which happens on average every week. Just this week it has more or less abolished property rights, a decision that may have more far-reaching effects than its merely silly 1989 decision about burning flags.

If you’ll read the Constitution in question, you’ll notice that it provides for impeachment. This was meant to be used — not rarely, but always. Every government official should be constantly aware that he can lose his job if he abuses his power, just as most people know they can be fired at any time for abusing their employers’ trust.

But impeachment has become a dead letter, like so much of the Constitution, and it happens so seldom that members of the Federal judiciary feel their jobs are safe, no matter what they do. Until Americans start insisting that overweening justices be canned for usurping power, we can expect them to go on treating the Constitution with contempt. Unlike flag-burners, they are a clear and present danger.

Joseph Sobran

Copyright © 2005 by the Griffin Internet Syndicate,
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