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The Joys of Flag Burning: Why Troublemaking Punks May Annoy You
Here's an excerpt from his latest piece:
I almost set fire to the American flag a half dozen times as I spoke to my Liberation Brew TV audience year after year, asking the question, ”Why would someone want to burn the American Flag?” As I dangled the miniature flag in my hand, just out of reach of a candle flame, I would list the dozens of good reasons why someone might like to destroy this symbol of American power. I would also speak of the many reasons that people want to honor it. The United States represents a beacon of hope and perceived freedom to many around the world. Unfortunately, it also represents some of the worst oppression and genocide in the history of the planet. How many millions have we enslaved? How many hundreds of thousands have we slaughtered?
Though I still have the TV show on local cable, I haven’t done a threatened burning in a while now. In part, that’s because I haven’t been inspired to. Perhaps a little history is in order here. Beginning in the late nineteenth century states passed anti-desecration laws primarily in response to the over commercialization of the flag. All kinds of companies were using it to link their products to patriotism, and a lot of people who considered themselves real patriots, didn’t like it.
There was little trouble and there were few incidents regarding desecrating the flag until 1963 when a man responding to the assassination of civil rights leader Medgar Evers was arrested for burning a flag. In the years following, as the Vietnam War unfolded, flag burning incidents and arrests became a common feature on the TV news, and were occasionally reported after that. Finally, in I989 the Supreme Court, citing the First Amendment, declared all laws against desecrating the flag unconstitutional. Even though local governments have found ways to charge people who burn the flag with public safety violations, that’s not been good enough. Between 1990 and 2006 our congress tried seven times to pass a constitutional amendment that would make desecrating the flag no longer protected speech.
Read the troublemakingpunk.org, and see what you would like to argue about. Enjoy the opportunity for a stimulating discussion about oppression, classism, racism, sexism, and the evils of corporate capitalism.
Dr. River Smith is a psychologist, alternative TVproducer, social change educator, and bean spilling punk. We know you'll like him.