Should burning the flag be a protected form of free speech? Consider this:
Was the flag burner trespassing?
Did the flag burner hurt anyone?
Did the flag burner catch anything else on fire?
Did the flag burner burn a public flag that they did not own?
Was it an act of treason, in and of itself?
If the answer is “no” for all five questions, then the flag burner is not a criminal. They were just someone that took their own flag onto public property where they are entitled to go, and they burned it (unfortunately they don’t have a flag anymore) but didn’t hurt anybody or anything in the process. If we’re going to send a person to jail for this, then we will have to reevaluate thousands of actions that people perform every day that should be equivalently considered obnoxious, disturbing, anti-patriotic, or criminal. There will be social accountability enough from family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues that the flag burner will have to face, and possibly realize that “I will never do that again!”
Come on, we’ve got to get a grip on ourselves, take a step back and get some perspective, and not be so mentally and spiritually brittle! This is America. We are tough, flexible, resilient, and open-minded, so we can absorb the actions of a flag burner. We can’t rule-make a person into being civil and/or patriotic – it’s either in their heart, or it’s not.
Kudos to Mr. Pickens for throwing down an idea! We need new ideas and the discussion they instigate is good and is our democratic way. But I think the greater problem than the election process is the accountability process on the back end. If the federal government was a corporation and we were its shareholders, the CEO (President) and board (Congress) are driving our company towards bankruptcy and we have no way to stop it. The best idea I ever heard was Warren Buffett’s idea: “I can end the deficit in five minutes. You just pass a law that says that anytime there’s a deficit of more than 3% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), all sitting members of Congress are ineligible for reelection.” You may argue that an idea this radical can never be implemented (the same feasibility of passing a flat tax), but until we have a real financial check-and-balance that does not depend upon politicians, a new election process will not bring us any improved accountability. “Trust” and “accountability” are what we must restore and the irony is that the way our current political system is designed, the overwhelming objective evidence shows that professional politicians cannot get the job done. So how does it get done?
When it comes to politicians, let the citizen be on their guard. Successful politicians are consummate performers possessing a good sense of humor, a flair for the dramatic, a winning smile, a talent for schmoozing, good timing and how to work the moment and the crowd, a gift for gab, and quick on their feet. With these talents, a politician can talk about anything from technical to non-technical; local to global; silly to important; a topic they know something about to a topic they know nothing about. They may not always know what is best, and they may not always be good decision-makers, and they may not always be truthful or trustworthy, but they ARE determined and clever survivors and will always tell a majority of the voters what they want to hear to sustain their position.