Burning the Flag is Center Stage Again

By Eric G Braun, Senior Writer, USRW

To burn or not to burn, that is the question.

Apparently, it’s time again to debate the controversial issue of whether flag burning should be legal or not. It wasn’t a topic during the Obama Administration, (no surprise there) but in fairness to the president, he followed the Supreme Court decision.

There’s a new sheriff coming to town, and President Elect Trump feels burning the American Flag should be outlawed. Trump went to his best friend “Twitter” to announce his disapproval: “Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag - if they do, there must be consequences - perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!” he wrote.

The Donald has spoken.

The issue started in 1984 in Dallas, Texas, of all places, where guns, The Bible and the flag are a way of life, and perhaps rightly so. Gregory Lee Johnson burned an American flag outside of the convention center where the 1984 Republican National Convention was being held.

Johnson was found guilty, and his case made it all the way to the Supreme Court where in a 5-4 vote, his conviction was overturned. A true patriot would never burn the flag and has a hard time allowing others to do so as well, but that same patriot has a daunting task of trusting the government. Can we trust our government to stop there, or are we setting ourselves up for further challenges to free speech? It’s a slippery slope and one that must be navigated with extreme caution.

To burn the very symbol that protects your right to burn it, is full of irony and hypocrisy, but both sides have a legitimate point, and for that we must fall back on the Constitution, something deceased Judge Anton Scalia noted in his vote in favor of Johnson. “It's the justices' job to interpret the Constitution, not to pass moral judgment," Scalia had said.

I hate the response Scalia, who died earlier this year, said at a 2014 question-and-answer session sponsored by Brooklyn Law School. "I would send that guy to jail so fast if I were king," he added, then referring to Gregory Lee Johnson as a "bearded weirdo." Scalia relied on his interpretation of the Constitution, even though he himself was against him. It’s exactly the way the SCOTUS should be, a breath of fresh air for once, not political or with an agenda.

Take away the arguments of free speech and everything pro -burners armed with a Bic lighter hide behind, and the argument is just that simple. Is it really a legal argument or a moral argument? Johnson burned the flag to protest the policies of President Ronald Reagan. He was arrested and charged with violating a Texas statute that prevented the desecration of a venerated object, including the American flag, if such action were likely to incite anger in others.  Free speech needs to be used responsibly and morally.

Has anyone bothered to notice we burn our flag abundantly more than we burn our enemies' flags?

The topic is a tough one, and even tougher for Trump if he tries to find a loophole. The court has a vacancy he must fill, with a probable two more during his term. The next foreseeable vacancy would be Justice Ginsberg, whose bizarre comments lately have others wondering if she is still mentally up for the job at 83 years of age. Trump’s proposed penalties are too extreme though, a year in jail and/or you lose your citizenship. Meanwhil,e a heroin dealer gets six months probation and a $200 fine.

What is free speech and how does a flag burning fall into that category? If you tell your boss off, you're fired for insubordination. You throw an egg at the President's limo and you're being charged with assault. Does a President deserve more respect than the flag he serves?

What say you Road Warriors?