The Right To Stomp

Flag Assault

Noooo, that’s assault, and it’s a crime.

There are a lot of problems here.  Let’s enumerate them, shall we?

  1. This meme is based on a logical error called a non-sequitur (Latin for “does not follow”).  It opens with a premise (“Stomping on the U.S. flag is free and protected speech”), then leaps to a completely non-supported conclusion (“Stomping on a flag-stomper is free and protected speech”) based on nothing more than a superficial similarity between the two acts.  In fact, stomping on any person is probably a crime, regardless of what unsavory act the stompee perpetrated.
  2. It’s disturbing how many people think that violence – or the threat of violence – is an acceptable way of addressing folks they disagree with (and they wonder why gun control advocates push for stronger gun laws).  Toddlers are often told to “use their words” when they feel frustrated, but apparently that advice has lost its grip by the time people acquire the sophisticated vocabulary necessary to heed it.  Adults who create and share memes like this are operating on a preschool level of problem-solving.  Rather than try to sway public opinion with impassioned speeches, thoughtful essays, or protests, their first thought is to come out swinging.  Sounds like somebody needs a time out.
  3. This meme is representative of the kind of hyper-patriotism that is actually, in my opinion, harming our nation.  It’s fine to love the United States, but you should realize that no nation – not even ours – is perfect.  When you hold fast to the idea that the U.S.A. is perfect, you do a disservice to your country.  When you pledge to blindly defend the nation and its symbols, with violence if necessary, against ideological criticism, then you are no longer an asset to your nation.  You are a wart, a blemish.  You are not upholding the ideals of this great nation; you are preventing them from maturing.  By violently squelching unpleasant growing experiences, you become the guy who peaks in high school; so enchanted with the way things are now that he resists moving forward.  Don’t be that guy.  You should seek to address the issues that drove somebody to desecrate the flag, not to punish them for doing so.  Speaking of which…
  4. You ought to champion the rights of people to stomp on the flag, even if you strongly disagree with the message they’re sending.  The First Amendment protects all Americans’ rights to speech, including speech that criticizes the U.S. government, its policies, its citizens, or its flag, symbolic speech, and speech that others find offensive. The Supreme Court has ruled twice (in Texas v. Johnson and in United States v. Eichman) that laws prohibiting flag desecration are unconstitutional.  Despite numerous attempts by Congress to pass a Constitutional amendment that would settle the issue once and for all, none have succeeded.  At least for now, flag desecration (distasteful as it may be) remains a valid and protected way for an individual to express his or her opinion.  You cannot claim to be an American patriot when you are unwilling to tolerate people making full use of the protections offered by the American Constitution.
  5. The name of the website that apparently produced this meme, AmericanStrong.com, is particularly ironic.  Somebody who is so offended by displays of ideological dissent that they must hurt the dissenter is the opposite of strong.  The website should be called AmericanInsecure.com.
  6. To the person who said “I’m prepared to go to jail if I see someone stomping on our flag”: are you prepared to be labeled a terrorist?  Because if you hurt or threaten to hurt somebody in order to intimidate them into espousing your political position, or to punish them for expressing their own, that’s what I’ll call you.  Of course, that’s just my opinion, and you don’t have to agree with it.  My opinion does not come with the threat of violence; only the assertion that the person who stomps an American flag is causing less harm to this nation than the person who stomps the stomper.
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Why The White House Won’t

white house honors god

In what way, one can’t help but wonder, must the White House honor God in order to make this meme’s author happy?  I conducted a Google-quest to find peoples’ opinions on what it means to honor God.  While there was some diversity in opinion, most people held that to honor God, you should live your life devoted to Him.  (One author claimed that “honoring God” entailed living a life of sexual purity.  If that’s the case, the White House lost it’s connection to God a long time ago.)

That’s all fine, but at this point I must voice a protest against the message of this meme: While I think it’s fine for a President to honor God, the White House definitely should not.  The President is a person, but the White House is an institution – a symbolic representation of the power of the leader of the executive branch.  As the sole seat of executive authority, the White House must be firmly secular.  And while the President abides there, s/he should keep his/her religious convictions, wherever they may lie, completely separate from his/her executive duties.

Despite conservatives’ numerous attempts to retcon the United States’ position regarding religion, our nation is – and was always meant to be – secular.  The First Amendment to the Constitution makes that clear.  Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, nor prohibiting the free exercise thereof.  The White House isn’t part of Congress, of course, but it is part of the same government, and as such, it should not honor the God of Abraham any more than it should honor Vishnu, or Ra, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster.  The White House should mean the same thing to the Muslim, to the Hindu, and to the atheist as it means to the Christian.  If it doesn’t, then the White House – in fact, the entire government – has lost its status as a symbol of all Americans.  The Founding Fathers recognized this danger, which is why they penned the Bill of Rights in the first place.