The author I mentioned in my last post replied to me! I'm so honored. Here's what he said:
When I first retorted to the author, I did laugh away the fact that the Cinco de Mayo event he described was six years old. I also mentioned that the Morgan Hill Unified School District had distanced themselves from the Live Oak Hill High School administrators by stating publicly that the school system does not disallow the wearing of patriotic clothing. Of course, he missed the larger point.
The title of his new post is "Freedom of Speech-Apply it Both Ways." He starts it this way:
I couldn't agree with him more. Freedom of Speech is a right granted to American citizens under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. It's a rather simple statement that has had a remarkable effect on our society. Here's the language of the text:
Such a simple set of ten words, yet so powerful that it has sparked discussion, dissent, and heated arguments for the past 224 years.
Wait what? OK, kudos for sourcing, but gimme a second. How does one say, in the same breath, that freedom of speech is an inalienable right while also claiming that "unfortunately" it is legal under the U.S. Constitution to desecrate the flag?
As Palestinian-American writer Yousef Munayyer says, "Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from its consequences." Freedom of speech, put simply, allows Americans to say whatever they want—with a few exceptions—without fearing punishment from the state. Over the course of its 224 years of existence, this right has been clarified again and again at the highest levels of our government, in order to ensure that every single person in the United States feels free to criticize the government (and others) without facing fines or prosecution.
But you can't say whatever you want and expect that people aren't going to criticize you for it. As I write this, I understand that there are a great many Americans that disagree with me, fundamentally, on many issues. Some of these Americans may use their own platforms to criticize me. That is their right. I don't get to claim a violation of my freedom of speech because someone on the Internet thinks that my blog posts are ridiculous. Private companies and private persons are not bound by the First Amendment; the states and the federal government are. Freedom of speech is guaranteed. Freedom from consequences never is.
That having been said, let's move on to the issue of flag desecration. This is an interesting subject that sparks a great deal of debate, especially during times of civil strife in this country's past and present.
The right to desecrate the flag of the United States has been protected by the Supreme Court on multiple occasions. While the U.S. House of Representatives has attempted multiple times to pass a constitutional amendment that gives Congress the power to prohibit the desecration of Old Glory, it keeps failing. The last time an attempt was made on this right was in 2006, and the amendment failed in the U.S. Senate by one vote.
Laws prohibiting the desecration of the U.S. flag date back to 1968, when Congress passed legislation to prohibit Vietnam War protesters from burning the flag during their demonstrations. A number of different states, including Texas, followed suit, penning statues against flag desecration into their penal codes. (Sorry for picking on Texas so much but, seriously, get your act together, guys!) In 1984, Gregory Lee Johnson was charged with the desecration of the U.S. flag, which was defined in the Texas Penal Code as a venerated object. He was sentenced to one year in prison and a $2,000 fine. Thus began the landmark Supreme Court case Texas v. Johnson, another case of the author failing to do his reading.
The Supreme Court held that Johnson's conviction was inconsistent with the First Amendment of the United States. Why? Because...
But that's insufficient. As in Dariano v. Morgan Hill Unified School District, an individual's freedom of expression can be limited if, say, that individual's expression amounts to "fighting words"—legally, words or actions expressed for the purpose of inciting violence from their target. There's a test that the Supreme Court uses to determine whether a law or regulation set forth by the state has violated someone's First Amendment rights. If it passes the test, then it does not violate the First Amendment. This test was put into place during another landmark case, United States v. O'Brien, and it goes like so:
- The regulation must be within the constitutional power of the government to enact.
- The regulation must further an important or substantial government interest (e.g., keeping the peace).
- That interest must be unrelated to the suppression of speech.
- The regulation must prohibit no more speech than is essential to further that interest.
In Texas v. Johnson, the Supreme Court determined that...
I think the following words by Chief Justice Earl Warren are just perfect.
And it shouldn't. Because that wouldn't be in the spirit of the First Amendment. Let's remember that the First Amendment was designed for the purpose of protecting people from the state, specifically when said people wish to criticize the state. That's speech. That's freedom. It's a right that people fought and died for, as the author is fond of reminding us. The author appears to believe that an exception should be created for the rule because he finds flag stomping personally offensive.
That's not how rights work.
There's a number of people going from Trump rally to Trump rally with a giant American flag and stomping on it in protest. It's called the "Fuck Your Flag Tour," directed by a group that calls itself "FukYoFlag," which formed in 2015. They hold that stepping on the U.S. flag is a way of protesting the killings of Black men by police officers throughout the country. They don't only protest at Trump rallies because they believe that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton stands for the same imperial system that the FukYoFlag group decries.
But are they lauded by liberals, as the author claims? Casey Abbott Payne, who runs the #BlackLivesMatter Milwaukee Facebook group, stated, point blank, that:
And I think she's right. Most liberals have a deeply held respect for Old Glory. I would never stomp on a flag. I would never wear it either because (a) it's disrespectful to the flag and (b) it's tacky. But as I said yesterday, strawmen are easier to argue against than facts. In general, liberals do not support FukYoFlag and their tactics, but we can empathize with them. Maybe empathy is what's missing here.
Another question comes to mind. Are the members of FukYoFlag bad actors? Take a look at the following video, and decide for yourself:
The representative for the group says that, until there is freedom and respect for all people, regardless of the color of their skin, the symbol that is the U.S. flag is "bullshit." It's not a crazy message. If one takes the time to listen to what they're saying instead of reacting to what they're doing, one might see that these are reasonable individuals, hugely frustrated with a system that has been harming them for a very, very long time. If their actions are offensive to you, that's the point. They're trying to get attention. And it's working.
So maybe they're not such idiots after all.