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.
If we rationalize torture in the name of war and saving American lives, then we become the barbarians and in so doing, we write a blank check to our enemies to reflect the same barbaric behavior. Like child abuse which propagates from generation to generation, this vicious cycle of abuse and violence will only stop when someone has the courage and leadership to break the chain of torture, and that should be us.
Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? Shadow
The priesthood, police force, and military force are massive, global communities that attract people who want to do good to make a difference in the world. But because they are so massive, they also attract a small percentage of imposters with bad intentions who infiltrate and hide within these professions to silently and secretly wreak havoc. Their leverage is magnified by many times because they operate in a environment of trust which enables them to ambush kids and adults they are sworn to serve and protect. This is a dark corner of human nature that will be very difficult to stamp out. So some priests will molest boys, some cops will occasionally kill people on the street, and soldiers will sometime rape women of their enemies. Our only hope is to be constantly vigilant and never give up on the ideal of giving every kid a chance grow up in a safe and loving environment without abuse, without violence, and without trauma, so that we stop planting the seeds of evil that may someday sprout again.
There are societal issues so complex and divisive among us that it is hard to know what is the right thing to do (immigration, abortion, for example). One way to approach these issues is to build our decisions upon principles that can be applied consistently:
If there is a law in place, then enforce the law.
Consistently follow through with accountability as defined by the law (this always seems to be the hardest part).
If it is a bad law or a law that does not match our current set of principles and what we want to do, then change the law accordingly.
In the meantime, don’t rationalize lawlessness as a solution because lawlessness breeds more lawlessness which undermines our framework for a safe and civil society.