Last week, an Air Force veteran was arrested on the campus of Valdosta State University over her intervention at a protest where the American flag was being desecrated.
Now, before going any further, let me be clear: the veteran in this instance broke the law. Left or Right, vigilantism is wrong, and we need to discourage these practices even where an injustice is taking place. I mean, we call out left-wing activists out for vigilantism, so we have to be morally consistent and admit it is wrong on our side. Granted, this places us in the ideologically difficult position of defending the liberty of those who would desecrate the flag, while at the same time arguing that they shouldn’t have that “right.”
Well, not quite. That is how the Left wants it to appear, and that is how we always seems to be characterized; but that isn’t our position at all. Our position is in fact that the desecration of the flag should not be included within the First Amendment protection at all—and this is a reasonable position, despite rulings handed down from the Courts. Remember, being at ideological odds with the Supreme Court is nothing new, and certainly does not mean you’re categorically wrong; just ask Oliver Brown. Although we have an uphill battle on this one, the Court has already upheld the idea that free speech may be restricted in certain situations (like yelling fire in a theater). Our argument to protect the flag simply takes that general argument a little further.
Our argument needs to distinguish forms of protest which criticize the government from the ones which call for the effective overthrow of the government.
Protesting an individual politician, policy, or political party are all fine, and certainly fall within the mindset of the founders’ intentions for freedom of expression. However, the flag is a symbol which is much more specific to the government as a whole, and even more specifically the Constitution. As such, we should make the clear and persuasive argument that the desecration or destruction of that symbol is equivalent to calling for the destruction of the government it represents. It essentially leans towards treasonous activity—symbolic as it is—which should not be condoned.
Those who redesign the flag to make their point call for reform of the government. Those who destroy the flag call for the destruction of that government. That is the distinction we need to make. Not everyone will accept this line of thinking, and that's fine; but many more will be receptive to this line of reasoning to protecting the flag than any other. Who knows, this may even be the niche exception that the wise nine persons of the Supreme Court can accept too.