Flag burning really isn’t the issue

Published 3:52 pm Thursday, June 30, 2005

By Staff
I'm anxious about sharing my opinion on flag burning with you because I don't want to be construed as a "Jane-Fonda-lovin' pink-o commie liberal."
I'm not that and don't want to be thought of that way.
But this issue of a constitutional amendment banning flag burning bothers me. It's once again in the news because of this week's successful effort in the U.S. House of Representatives to pass a constitutional amendment to ban the burning of our flag. To become law, that measure must pass the U.S. Senate by a two-thirds majority. Those on both sides of the fence agree it stands a better chance of passing now than it has in the past.
If the measure passes the Senate, it would move on to the states for ratification.
I'm not an advocate of flag burning - far from it. In fact, I think someone who would disrespect our flag and disgrace him or herself by burning it is totally despicable and not deserving of the privileges that go along with being an American citizen. That's my opinion on flag burning. It's disgusting, unnecessary, has no redeeming value. The fact that someone would even consider desecrating our flag makes me very sad. It's a symbol to be honored, to be revered.
Through my work here, I've made good friends with a number of veterans, particularly several who served in Viet Nam. Their stories are chilling. We who have not served can never even imagine what they went through for us.
I'm awed by what they and others like them sacrificed for all that our flag represents.
If I were to ever witness someone burning our flag, it's very likely Ric Huff himself would have to slap handcuffs on me and haul me off to jail because I'm sure it would elicit in me a very ugly response. I'm not typically a violent person, but I'm pretty sure it would make me want to hurt somebody.
However, as difficult it is to imagine as patriotic Americans, a violent rage would be the wrong response.
So is a constitutional amendment banning it.
The toughest part about being an American is also the part that makes our way of life so special, and that's accepting the opinions of others even when they differ from our own.
Passing a contitutional amendment banning flag burning would chip away at the First Amendment.
That's the bedrock of what makes us free. That's the absolute foundation.
We'd all get along OK - I know I would - if no idiot ever again burned a flag. But that dastardly act really isn't the issue here.
The issue is we should take every measure possible to safeguard those very rights that allow us to live in freedom. And, unfortunately, those are the same rights that allow the burning of our flag.
My job at this newspaper tests my sense of patriotism often. Over the years, we've published many letters to the editor that have made me absolutely sick to read. But, we've printed them nonetheless. As part of a free press, I see that as our most important job.
Those of you who visit regularly our Readers' Forum on our online edition are no doubt familiar with one frequent contributor who regularly posts messages which are, kindly put, inflammatory in nature. This person hates everyone and everything - doesn't have a good word or opinion to share.
Our website administrator here recently forwarded to me one of the writer's online postings. It was so unfair, so disgusting, so evident in its nastiness, he suggested we stop allowing this writer to post anything.
I've got to admit, it was tempting. This writer is just miserable and angry and apparently wants everyone around him to be, too.
But, no, it would be wrong to not publish his postings simply because we don't like what he has to say. Precisely because he's an American, he's entitled to his opinion. And because he's an American, his community newspaper provides him with a forum in which to spew his venom.
It's against the law to yell "Fire!" in a crowded theater. As sickening as it may be, it should not be against the law to demonstrate your issues with our government by burning a flag.
Our veterans didn't sacrifice for our flag. They sacrificed for what our flag stands for. Tampering with our First Amendment freedoms would be far more dishonoring of their service than is burning a flag.
Jan Griffey is publisher of the Niles Daily Star. Readers are invited to submit their opinions for publication.
Have comments? jan.griffey@leaderpub.com