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On Flag Burning

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Politics discussion… oh boy hope this doesn’t burn me….

My writing tool said this would take about 5 minutes for the average reader to read and finish, before you auto complete the rest of what I say with your own narrative lens, please finish the entire piece.

I saw the recent tweet by our president elect, stating that he thinks people who burn the American flag should either have their citizenship revoked, or spend a year in jail. I can only hope this is his personal opinion not an intent to try to throw anything into law, as this has already been long decided by the supreme court in Texas v. Johnson a 5-4 decision in 1989.

The Tweet in Question...

While I may not find flag burning tasteful, it is a form of speech, and the burner’s personal property that they can utilize as they wish.

Before the case went to the supreme court, Johnson’s conviction was overturned by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Personally, I couldn’t agree more with their summary decision

“Recognizing that the right to differ is the centerpiece of our First Amendment freedoms, a government cannot mandate by fiat a feeling of unity in its citizens. Therefore that very same government cannot carve out a symbol of unity and prescribe a set of approved messages to be associated with that symbol.”

Whether it be flag burning or the Westboro Baptist Church protesting Soldier’s funerals, these are the the hardest kinds of speech for us as a nation to defend, as for many of us it makes us sick to our stomach and we would want nothing more then to see it go away. But these cases are the essence of the 1st Amendment and free speech.

Justice Kennedy wrote the following in his opinion of Texas v. Johnson that I believe brings this point home.

“For we are presented with a clear and simple statute to be judged against a pure command of the Constitution. The outcome can be laid at no door but ours. The hard fact is that sometimes we must make decisions we do not like. We make them because they are right, right in the sense that the law and the Constitution, as we see them, compel the result. And so great is our commitment to the process that, except in the rare case, we do not pause to express distaste for the result, perhaps for fear of undermining a valued principle that dictates the decision. This is one of those rare cases.”

I should point out, I am only discussion the 1st amendment in regards to that the government itself is unable to stop this speech from occurring. You are free to speak, but you are not free of consequence. While you are legally in your right to burn the American flag, no private business is obligated to provide you the space in order to do so (there’s a reason many controversial groups hold meetings in public spaces such as libraries. Private business can refuse speech). Business may cancel contracts with you, refuse to do business with you, friends may leave you, these things are not covered under the 1st amendment.

One of my hosting providers I use, NearlyFreeSpeech, hosts content that many would find offensive, that many web hosts refuse to allow on their networks and get requests constantly to have the material taken down. In their FAQ they have a section about it, i will excerpt part of it here but I highly recommend reading the whole section.

“…censorship is always bad, for a variety of well understood reasons that we don’t need to repeat here. But in the case of some types of content, it has special dangers. When you censor a web site based on the extreme or dangerous views of its creator(s), you haven’t stopped those people from thinking that way. You haven’t made them go away. You certainly haven’t stopped whatever behavior those views induce when the people who hold them engage in when they’re not posting on the Internet. What you’ve actually done is given yourself a false sense of accomplishment by closing your eyes, clapping your hands over your ears, and yelling “Lalala! I can’t hear you!” at the top of your voice. Pretending a problem doesn’t exist is not only not a solution, it makes real solutions harder to reach.

So that’s why we host really, really offensive content. It’s not because we like it. It’s certainly not because we agree with it. And it’s not because we profit from it; when we find a site offensive, we donate the profits from hosting it to the charity we think does the most to work against people who hold the views represented by that site.

It’s because we’ve spent a long time thinking about this very carefully and concluded that it’s the best course of action. But that’s our opinion. We respect your right to hold — and to express — a different view.

Please note: If you found this because of a specific site that falls into the offensive-but-legal category that you were hoping to censor, here is what you should do instead:

Speak out against the views espoused on that site.

Learn more about the issue so that you can advocate effectively against it.

Find a way to become locally involved in activism related to the issue.

Donate money to related causes.

That’s what we do. Unfortunately, all of those things do take more effort than demanding censorship. But they’re both useful and effective, whereas censorship is neither. If you’re upset by something you see online but not upset enough to do these sorts of things, then “don’t look at it” is probably the best advice we can offer.”

I brought up this discussion because for me this was the tipping point for the divides I’ve been seeing. Many on the left and the right agree with me on what I have just posted (not all of course) and we have been so divided lately

Currently, 70% of democrats and 62% of republicans are legitimately afraid of the other party. We all have our differences, but we can find some common ground.

Now I know I speak from only my own perspective, that of someone who has not had serious hardship in life and many helpings of Privilege Pie, I know may of the policies for either party “as advertised’ could go against someone’s entire way of life, culture, ideology, identity, practice of business, or many other issues, and I know there’s not way I can get everyone to agree, shake hands and have the millennia of strife and conflict disappear.

Never the less, I believe some common ground can be found on some issues.

For example, Democrats, do you have issue with the current laws related to Maternity leave in the Family Medical Leave Act? Why not work with the 80% of evangelicals who share the exact same opinion on the issue.

Republicans, do you have issues with current immigration laws and proposed reform? Why not work with the 30% of Democrats who have the same thoughts as you on this issue?

We will likely never agree on anything, in some ways disagree in some ways that will never change. But I believe there is common ground between citizens that can be found to make this nation a better place.

….wait… how did I get from flag burning to this?

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