America Haters

Soon enough, our Senate will consider an amendment banning flag burning. Alabama’s senators will support it, as both have done in the past. To them and their kind, I ask “Why do you hate America? Why do you hate freedom?”

I also offer these insights from much more intelligent people.

Dispatches from the Culture Wars:

One of the very first things that Hitler did upon seizing power in Germany was ban the burning of the German flag; the punishment was imprisonment. In China, where we all watched the student protestors at Tianenman Square burn the Chinese flag, their actions result in a minimum of 3 years in prison. The other two nations that punish those who burn their flag at the moment: Cuba and Iran. And what was Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist doing on the 63rd anniversary of the Barnette [more on this below] ruling? Holding a press conference to announce that he’s bringing a proposed constitutional amendment to ban flag burning up for a vote in the Senate. Those who forget history, as they say…

Prof. Eugene Volokh:

America is different from most other countries, and even from most other democracies. In America, all ideologies are protected, even those that the majority thinks are evil.

Why is this right? Because the First Amendment was drafted and interpreted by people who intimately understood cultural, religious, and political conflict, and who knew how calls for censorship could launch the most bitter of culture wars.

The Amendment is a truce: “I won’t try to suppress your ideas, if you don’t try to suppress mine.” And the flagburning amendment risks shattering this truce.

Finally, as DCW points out, yesterday was the anniversary of West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette. In that case, Scotus held that public schools cannot force students to salute the flag. An earlier case gave schools the green light to do just that. The earlier court’s rationale:

‘National unity is the basis of national security,’ that the authorities have ‘the right to select appropriate means for its attainment,’ and hence reaches the conclusion that such compulsory measures toward ‘national unity’ are constitutional.

Barnette’s response, written by Justice Jackson (emphasis added):

National unity as an end which officials may foster by persuasion and example is not in question. The problem is whether under our Constitution compulsion as here employed is a permissible means for its achievement.

Struggles to coerce uniformity of sentiment in support of some end thought essential to their time and country have been waged by many good as well as by evil men. . . .

Ultimate futility of such attempts to compel coherence is the lesson of every such effort from the Roman drive to stamp out Christianity as a disturber of its pagan unity, the Inquisition, as a means to religious and dynastic unity, the Siberian exiles as a means to Russian unity, down to the fast failing efforts of our present totalitarian enemies. Those who begin coercive elimination of dissent soon find themselves exterminating dissenters. Compulsory unification of opinion achieves only the unanimity of the graveyard.

It seems trite but necessary to say that the First Amendment to our Constitution was designed to avoid these ends by avoiding these beginnings. . . .

The case is made difficult not b ecause the principles of its decision are obscure but because the flag involved is our own. . . . To believe that patriotism will not flourish if patriotic ceremonies are voluntary and spontaneous instead of a compulsory routine is to make an unflattering estimate of the appeal of our institutions to free minds. We can have intellectual individualism and the rich cultural diversities that we owe to exceptional minds only at the price of occasional eccentricity and abnormal attitudes. When they are so harmless to others or to the State as those we deal with here, the price is not too great. But freedom to differ is not limited to things that do not matter much. That would be a mere shadow of freedom. The test of its substance is the right to differ as to things that touch the heart of the existing order.

If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us.

Those word were spoken in 1943. Even in the middle of World War II, the Court recognized the importance of these principles. We know what Shelby and Sessions will do. Hopefully the rest of our leaders have a bit more wisdom than Alabama’s two senators.  

Explore posts in the same categories: Free Speech, Scotus

3 Comments on “America Haters”

  1. Mark Paris Says:

    I like to call it the “Flag Worship Amendment.”

  2. Dan Says:

    I gave up sending Sessions and Shelby emails several weeks ago.

  3. Kathy Says:

    You should email this post to their staff and to every major newspaper in the state — God forbid they should do their own research. I’d love to see the S boys slammed with your words.

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