Tuesday morning, president-elect Donald Trump tweeted out, “Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag – if they do, there must be consequences – perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!”
At this point, it isn’t even funny to laugh at how ironic that statement is. It is the very same amendment that protects those expressing their disdain for the country that protects our future leader expressing his disdain toward people burning the flag.
Don’t get me wrong, in no way am I supporting burning the American flag, but to persecute someone for promulgating his or her beliefs is even more un-American.
To those who say, “Well, how about telling that to the parents who received a folded up flag instead of their child coming home?” I say, remember the fact that their child fought for people to live in a country where they don’t have to live in fear for ex-pressing their disagreements with our government. Try burning a flag on the streets of Cuba during the reign of Fidel Castro.
Before the United States Supreme Court ruled on the case of Texas v. Johnson in 1989, flag burning had not been considered protected free speech. The battle in the courts over people burning the American flag, or doing other offensive acts to the flag, actually dates back to 1907.
The first case to be ruled on was about two businessmen who wanted to sell beer that had flag labels on the bottles, but state law prevented them. The Supreme Court upheld the law, Halter v. Nebraska (1907).
The Court moved closer toward its historic 1989 decision in 1974, when it said in Spence v. Washington that a person couldn’t be convicted for using tape to put a peace sign on an American flag.
In the Court’s decision of Texas v. Johnson, the staunchly conservative, late Jus-tice Scalia noted that burning the flag is a form of expression. He went on to say “speech doesn’t just mean written words or oral words, it can be semaphore; burning a flag is a symbol that expresses an idea.”
Scalia added that if he were the country’s king, he wouldn’t allow people to go about burning the flag; however, he continued, the First Amendment exists to prevent that.
There have been many Trump supporters who have since brought up the fact that Hillary Clinton co-sponsored the Flag Protection Act in 2005, which would’ve made flag burning with the intent to incite violence or disturb the peace punishable by a year in jail and a $100,000 fine but did not call for the stripping of citizenship.
However, I think those supporters have forgotten the election is over. What Clin-ton thought in 2005 in completely irrelevant; let’s not pretend like both candidates had-n’t flip-flopped numerous times and that Trump hasn’t reneged on nearly every single one of his campaign promises.
We don’t even know if Clinton feels the same way, but we do know that the per-son set to take the oath of office this coming January thinks people should lose their citi-zenship for expressing their right to propagate their ideas.
If we outlaw burning the flag, what precedent does that set? Should burning a copy of the Constitution be illegal too? How about the U.S. seal or even a picture of Pre-sident Trump himself?
On Inauguration Day, when Donald Trump puts his hand on the Bible and says the words, “I do solemnly swear… to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States,” we the people will have good reason to doubt he has any clue as to what he’s talking about.