Essay, Research Paper
The American Flag and its Growing Controversy
Step 1: Details
The American flag, to many, is the symbol of life and liberty. Freedom from oppression and the ability to run one’s own life with minimal government intervention is what our country fought for all those years ago. The day after the SpanishAmerican War was declared, schools mandated the worship of the flag (Kaminer). So, when the issue of burning our great flag arises, everyone should be against it, right? Well, not exactly. The first amendment of the Constitution states that American citizens have the right to express themselves through free speech. Essentially, burning the American flag is speech without dialogue. Therefore, according to the Constitution, flag desecration is legal. However, flag protectionists are not going to give up that easy.
The main controversy surrounding this issue is whether an amendment forbidding flag burning would infringe on our first amendment rights. In 1989, the Supreme Court ruled that flag desecration was protected under our first amendment rights. In 1995, a constitutional amendment that would have given Congress the power to ban flag desecration was introduced to the Senate and the House of Representatives (Kaminer). The amendment passed through the House but failed in the Senate by a mere three votes. In February 1997, a similar amendment was again introduced to the Senate and the House
Of Representatives (Kaminer). It also failed, but it does show the growing concern about the issue of flag burning.
Protectors of the flag argue that burning an American flag is like spitting in the face of America and its democracy. On the other hand, flag burners argue that under America’s democracy, they were given the right to express themselves freely. Obviously, this issue may never be settled with a positive outcome.
Some arguments that flag burners have raised in their own defense include such things as having a flag bumper sticker on a car. They believe that if they cannot burn a flag because it is considered desecration, then an old, faded bumper sticker should be considered desecration as well (Apel). This brings up a valid point. Who decides where the line should be drawn between desecration and patriotism?
Step 2: Obligations, Ideals, and Consequences
As this issue continues to be brought up in our government, the obligations for everyone involved will continue to rise. Congress has the most important obligation of all. They are not only obligated to resolve the issue, but they are also obligated to American citizens in a way that is supposed to be unbiased. On the other hand, citizens are also obligated to understand and respect the government’s decision. Not everyone is going to be happy no matter what decision is made, so we as a society are obligated to respect each other’s views and morals.
Ideals play a very important role in the issue of flag desecration. Ideals serve as the basis for actions. Obviously, social responsibility is an ideal that needs to surface when an issue is dealing with the Constitution. If an amendment is ever added to the
Constitution making desecration of the flag illegal, the public has to be ready to deal with it, and follow it. Our government, however, needs to practice the ideal of fairness and integrity when such an issue is brought up. They need to listen to all sides and decide which course of action will contribute to the greater good of the country.
After this issue is finally settled, it will be interesting to learn what consequences are adopted for flag burning (considering it becomes illegal). It will also be interesting to find out where the line would be drawn for flag desecration. Who knows? I might be arrested for wearing my flag swimming trunks to the beach. Again, our government has to be prepared to back up their decision, and that includes such consequences as dealing with protestors.
Step 3: Possible Courses of Action
Coming to a decision on this issue is going to take time. There will be a group, or groups that will feel like they have been cheated. Nevertheless, they need to realize that the government is taking what they feel is the best possible course for flag desecration.
One possibility is the passage of certain legislation that will consider all flag desecration illegal. If that does occur, many changes are going to have to take place. Flag burning web sites such as the ones that I used for this paper would be eliminated. The government will have the responsibility of drawing a line on the issue. They would have to decide if they are going to ban just flag burning, or include less violent acts of desecration, such as a flag napkin. Those are just a few of the possibilities that may occur in the future, depending on what judgment is made.
Another possibility is to leave things as they are. People will still lobby for a ban on flag burning, but the government would not have to draw lines around the issue. Again, the government needs to be fair and show integrity with the decision.
A third course of action could be a ban on flag burning for the purpose of protest against America. This would still make flag burning legal, but not as a malicious act towards the country. So, the people who burn flags as a way of disposing of them because they are old and tattered would still be protected under the first amendment. This course of action would allow all other forms of desecration to be legal. Things such as swimming trunks, neckties, napkins, bumper stickers, ect. would continue to be legal. Whatever comes of this issue, our social responsibility needs to be the main ideal that becomes known.
Step 4: The Most Ethical Course of Action
I believe that the most ethical course of action would be a ban on flag burning as a malicious act towards America. This way, the people who deserve punishment for desecrating the flag would be punished, and the people who believe burning a flag is protected in their first amendment rights could burn a flag.
This decision is the most ethical because it is fair to American citizens, it shows the integrity of our government, and it is the only course of action that meets both sides in the middle. I strongly believe that our government would agree with my decision. It would not only put a stop to the fighting that takes place over this issue, but it would also make people feel like they got want they wanted. If a Vietnam veteran wants to burn his
old flag that has been hanging outside his house for years as means of disposal, who is in a position to question his action? He has obviously served our country
in the most honorable way, and if burning a flag seems to be a patriotic way to dispose of it for him, then I back that one hundred percent. I think Americans against flag burning should consider these facts before they decide to ban it indefinitely. I believe that the Supreme Court was fair in deciding that burning a flag is protected under our first amendment rights because it shows how great a democracy America really is. If the government starts taking away some rights, who is to say that they will not take away others. That is another fact Americans need to take to heart before they decide which course of action is right or wrong, ethical or immoral.