Flag burning ban sacrifices what’s most important

Marcus Afzali

On June 22, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a constitutional amendment to outlaw the burning of the American flag. The amendment is now being sent to the Senate for approval. The Senate rejected similar amendments in 1995 and 2000.

With the Republican Party picking up four seats in the Senate during the November elections, the amendment has a moderate chance of passing. If passed in the Senate by a two-thirds vote, the amendment will be sent to the states for ratification.

It is understandable why so many (people) have such strong feelings for the flag and are willing to fight to “protect” it. The flag is a magnificent symbol of our great nation. It stands for the concepts of liberty, freedom and justice. Millions of Americans have died in combat to protect the rights that our flag represents.

But serious questions must be asked about how the new amendment would actually “protect” our flag. Is the symbol of the flag more important than the concepts that the symbol represents? Is protecting the symbol of freedom a greater priority than protecting the freedoms themselves, such as freedom of speech and freedom of dissent?

By passing an amendment that limits freedom of expression, aren’t we doing more of a disservice to our flag than anything else?

Many supporters of the amendment say they find the burning of the American flag extremely offensive. Let me join them in saying I also find the burning of the American flag offensive.

But is that grounds for passing a constitutional amendment against something that does not infringe on anyone’s life, liberty or property? Do our constitutional rights only exist as long as they aren’t found to be offensive by someone else?

Many of the views we hold today about equality and justice were at one point found offensive by a majority of American people. This does not mean that anyone had a right to silence these views.

I do not think anyone who supports this amendment is a bad person. The American flag symbolizes everything that is great about this nation and I admire all those who want to fight to “protect” it. What I do believe is those who are fighting to “protect” our flag are hurting it more than they are helping it.

Those American soldiers who died fighting for our nation fought to protect the rights the flag represents, not the flag itself.

A flag is nothing but a piece of cloth; it is the rights that we view it to symbolize that have true importance. By limiting freedom to protect the symbol of freedom, we are attacking the very rights that we believe our flag stands for. And if this amendment passes and is ratified by the states, our flag will become nothing but a hollow symbol of the rights we once had.

Marcus Afzali is a senior political science major.