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Dec 04 2016

Flag Burning is Protected Criticism

Most of us don’t like the idea of burning our flag. The flag represents some of our most treasured principles. It represents liberty, self government, and the elevation of the rights of individuals over the rights of the government. It also represents the history of fighting for those principles and the willingness to sacrifice life itself to defend what is most important. The flag is a banner that leads the struggle against tyranny in all forms. This makes the flag a sacred symbol to most of us.

The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States prohibits the government from passing any laws that abridge the right to free speech. The Supreme Court has ruled that burning the flag is a symbolic form of speech which is protected.

It’s important to remember that symbols represent things, events, and ideas. Those who think they can attack the ideas represented by a symbol by attacking the symbol are mistaken. They have lost their way inside a “semantic disturbance” where the map is confused with the actual territory. Destroying a map does not affect the territory. Burning the flag does not destroy the principles it symbolizes.

The same reasoning brings us to an understanding that defending the symbol as though it were the same thing as the principles it represents is the same mistake made by those who attack the symbol. Defending the symbol does not preserve the principles. The core principles we treasure are better defended and preserved by enacting them. Defending the right to free speech is an act of fighting to preserve liberty.