24 June 2005

The "Let's Pander to Jingoism" Amendment

A constitutional amendment (proposed by Rep. Randall Cunningham [R-CA] ) to outlaw (H.J. Res 10) passed in the House Wednesday with 94% of Republicans supporting it and 60% of Democrats opposing. The amendment's designed to overturn a 5-4 Supreme Court ruling in 1989 that flag burning is a protected free-speech right. (The 1989 ruling threw out a 1968 federal statute as well as flag-protection laws in 48 states.) The bill faces an uphill battle in the Senate, where it is called S.J. Res 12. The proposed new article to the constitution would read:

"The Congress shall have power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States."

This pandering to jingoism has a long history among Republicans. When we take away silly proposals such as flag-burning amendments and Commandments posted on walls, the only truly original idea that the current administration has provided is the idea that a small group of wealthy elites should be allowed to monopolize government largesse along with the world's resources. Looking at the previous flag-debate back in 1997, I ran across the following nugget from representatives who opposed the amendment:

H.J. Res. 54 responds to a perceived problem-flag burning-that is all but nonexistent in American life today. Studies indicate that in all of American history from the adoption of the United States flag in 1777 through the Texas v. Johnson decision in 1989 there were only 45 reported incidents of flag burning.

What does that work out to? One burnt flag every 5 years of so. And for this, we need a Constitutional amendment? Perhaps our representatives have too much time on their hands. Maybe we need to set up a textile mill next to the capitol so that we can at least get a little worthwhile work out of them.

Bloggers from both sides of the political spectrum have voiced their opposition to the flag-burning amendment (check out Dummocrats, Seeing the Forest, Nashville Truth, That's Life in the 125 , The Old Dominion, Scrutiny Hooligans, and Daily Curmudgeon.) I also ran across a useful page titled A brief history of flag burning. I wonder what's next. Will our diligent representatives next propose a follow-up amendment forbidding the desecration of our flag with poetry?


Glen Dean said...

While I don't agree with every point. It was stil a good post. Also, thanks for the link.

Imagine all of the court cases that would result from the vaguness of that wording. I have American flag coasters. Would that be considered desecration? It could.

Karlo said...

Perhaps we should just have an amendment banning the desecration of any image that anyone has a particular fondness for. That would save us from the need for extra amendments in the future.

The Continental Op said...

"I wonder what's next. Will our diligent representatives next propose a follow-up amendment forbidding the desecration of our flag with poetry?"

Actually, that would almost certainly fall under the amendment just passed by the House -- which authorizes Congress to enact legislation banning any "desecration", not just burning, of the flag. In fact, the existing federal flag protection statute (the one that the Supreme Court held unconstitutional in Johnson v. U.S.) specifically prohibits writing on the flag. See4 USC sec. 8(g).

So my e.e. cummings flag and its kin would undoubtedly land me in trouble with the feds if this amendment goes through. Perhaps I'd better burn them to get rid of the evidence!

Karlo said...

Am I subject to a lesser charge for stealing the flag from your site?

The Continental Op said...

None at all. It's under a Creative Commons license, after all! I'm glad you liked it enough to use it.

Karlo said...

I really like the flag pic. Thanks!

Sky Niangua said...

Good post.
More proof that the conservatives have no idea or do not care about the needs of this country. When the masses are hungry, unemployed, uninsured and overwhelmed only the most shallow could worry about the burning of a flag. It is a symbol..nothing more.

Karlo said...

I would add that it's symbol that divides as often as it unites.