The media reacted with their usual feigned horror when President-elect Donald Trump said Tuesday that there should be punishments for anyone who burns the American flag in protest.
“Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “If they do, there must be consequences – perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!”
Every news report on this has (appropriately) pointed out that several Supreme Court rulings stand in Trump’s way if he would like to pursue such legislation. Not only has the court ruled flag-burning to be protected under the First Amendment, it has also ruled that it is unconstitutional to strip someone of their citizenship as a form of punishment.
That said, the media is also trying to turn this into an AMERICAN FASICISM story they can weave into their ongoing “Nazis in the White House” narrative. And it’s there that we need to be careful, because Trump is not that far outside the mainstream on this issue. Why, in 2005, Hillary Clinton herself supported a bill that would have put flag-burners behind bars.
Clinton’s proposed bill, by way of the Congressional Research Service:
Amends the federal criminal code to revise provisions regarding desecration of the flag to prohibit: (1) destroying or damaging a U.S. flag with the primary purpose and intent to incite or produce imminent violence or a breach of the peace; or (2) stealing or knowingly converting the use of a U.S. flag either belonging to the United States or on lands reserved for the United States and intentionally destroying or damaging that flag.
A national poll around that time found that 50% of Democrats and 69% of Republicans were in favor of a constitutional amendment that would allow Congress to pass legislation against flag-burning.
It’s a touchy subject, and it’s a mistake for the media to assume that two Supreme Court rulings prove that Americans are all on the same page when it comes to this aspect of free speech.
In an interview with CNN, Trump spokesman Jason Miller defended the boss.
“Flag burning should be illegal,” Miller said. “The President-elect is a very strong supporter of the First Amendment, but there’s a big difference between that and burning the American flag.”
There is. No question.
But we’re of the opinion that while flag burning may be a disgusting form of expression, it’s a small price to pay for the health of our First Amendment freedoms. Let’s let mockery and shame be the punishment for those who choose to burn the flag and leave prison for the actual criminals.