Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Should Bush Go to Jail for Flag Desecration?

This one is just too good to pass up. I've long hated this whole notion of laws banning the desecration of the flag, especially passing a constitutional amendment to protect the flag. In general, if the flag needs to be protected by curbing free speech, then that is desecrating the symbol more than any burning of an individual flag can do. Furthermore, what ever happened to private property? Aren't people allowed to do whatever they want with their private property (as long as it doesn't directly harm others)? But, lastly and most importantly, a law banning the desecration of the flag is thought crime, the most insidious type of law possible.

Hear me out. If I have a flag that is old and frayed, and I want to get rid of it, the preferred method (according to whatever US code they have on this subject) is to burn the flag in a proper ceremony (but to burn it nonetheless). So, if I burn a flag and say "I love this flag and all it symbolizes and the government in power right now," then I'm an exalted citizen of this country (a true American in the words of Sean Hannity). If I burn the flag and say "I hate Bush, I think this country is on the wrong track and is becoming a dictatorship," then I have committed a crime (probably so, according to Hannity). See the problem? The determination of whether you have committed a crime is not your actions, but your POLITICAL view while you do it (to be contrasted with typical mental state requirements that may gauge whether you are trying to harm someone - say the difference between a car accident and intentionally running someone down with your car). So, to stick with my parenthetical hypo, a law that says running someone down in your car because they are a Democrat is allowed, while running someone down in your car if they are a Republican is not allowed, would be a thought crime. That is a morally wrong law.

The US Code for the District of Columbia actually prescribes the manner in which you may treat a flag, saying that writing on it is a misdemeanor. So, how many Republicans think that President Bush should go to jail for this?

Of course, very few will say that he should, they will point out that the statute is only designed to prevent actual desecration, meaning the intentions of the perpetrator are key. But, what if this was John Kerry doing this? Wouldn't they scream and howl? Couldn't some right wing prosecutor fashion an argument that John Kerry should go to jail for this? Wouldn't a right wing jury be chomping at the bit to put him away for this? What if they charged and tried John Kerry for this in the most conservative southern state, in it's most conservative county, with a right wing jury, in front of a right wing judge? He'd be in jail now.

On the flip side, what if they tried George Bush for this in Berkeley, in front of a left wing judge with all left wing activists as jurors? Or, should he be impeached? This could be considered (under the very liberal standards set by the Congress in 1998) a high crime OR misdemeanor (is desecrating the flag worse than perjury?).

So you see, here in color, the idiocy of these laws. Maybe this will put paid to that stupid notion of passing a constitutional amendment that would restrict the 1st Amendment and carve out an area where you go to jail for having the "wrong" political beliefs.


N. Stein said...

"Maybe this will put paid to that stupid notion...." Ah! An optimist! To think that reasoned argument could carry the day.

Online Degree said...

You are right... it is definitely hard to execute judgement on a law based entirely on intention and beliefs of the perpetrator (or patriot?)

surfsidekick said...

Yeah, it'a fine line. I thinka judge would probably rely upon the "spirit" in which the law was created.


PD Dude said...

I'm sorry, but I deleted the long post that put a full (or partial, it was too long to try and figure out) brief as part of the comments. If anyone's interested, they can go to the website of the poster, where there is more info on that (and other) subjects. But, while I'm not planning on restricting comments in any appreciable way, I want to make the section user friendly, and 10 page posts of excerpting a brief if not user friendly.

Here's his website.

Anonymous said...

> Should Bush Go to Jail for Flag Desecration?

Unfortunately, he's not mentally competent to stand trial.

Anonymous said...

While I agree with everything you argue, I just want to bring up a technicality...the picture is of Bush signing the flag in Michigan. Doesn't the DC Code say "within the District of Columbia?" Therefore, this example would not work.

breakdown said...
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