'To Amend or not to Amend' - the Flag Desecration Debate
-John F. Schmidt, July 7, 1999
"To be, or not to be:
that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer:
the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them?"
William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, Act 3, Scene 1.
June 27, 1999 is the tenth anniversary since President Bush, criticizing a Supreme Court decision upholding the right to desecrate the American flag as a form of political protest, called for a constitutional amendment to protect the Stars and Stripes. Should we support an amendment to the Constitution that would permit Congress and the States to do what they had been doing for almost 200 years, or to 'suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune' and permit the Supreme Court to get away with its effrontery?
It is a subject worthy of thought. Since the founding of the Republic desecrating an American flag would have been more than illegal; it may well have proven fatal. Even the friendly banter at my barber shop on Saturday turned surly when one of the older men observed that in the years following World War II, anyone foolish enough to simply leave the flag out after dark was inviting a rebuke.
Why do Americans take such umbrage at any disrespect shown to the flag? What is the flag? It is a symbol. It stands for what we Americans idealize of our nation. It is fairness, and equality under the law; it is self-respect and respect for others; it is freedom to live our lives as we see fit, not slaves of some despot; it represents a place where a nobody can become somebody by playing by the rules; a place where you can worship God according to your conscience and do so publicly; it represents a dead son at Omaha Beach, or a buddy dead in some rice paddy in Viet Nam; a stand taken against oppression; it's a token of noble ideals, and what a people can be when they live under law to God and agree to live at peace with one another; it is something worth fighting for. The flag is potent stuff.
So it has been illegal to trash the flag until fairly recently. And only when the Supreme Court, in deference to a new way of looking at things, decided that 'speech' - in particular, political speech - could incorporate anything that was repugnant or subversive no matter how far it went. They broadened the definition of speech to include acts subversive to our ideals. So flag burning was added to the list of first amendment rights.
Traditionalists grapple with the ruling, but we always seem to have a problem putting our finger on exactly where the trick lies. After all, we agree with the concept of free speech, yet we find our ideals turned against us. Many sigh and reluctantly accept the idea that we have to put up with blasphemy and all sorts of corruption to honor the idea of free speech.
But we have fallen for the old 'bait and switch' routine. The enemy has used the same words, but changed the underlying cultural meaning. The error is rooted in a subtle re-definition of what "free speech" means. To see the error, we must remember that a tremendous cultural shift has occurred in America. We changed from a Theistic base of thinking about reality to an A-theistic basis. The idea of free speech under the old regime was tempered by the understanding that we lived under God's laws. Since we understood that God never authorized us to blaspheme Him under the rubric of free speech, we also understood that free speech had similar limits when it came to attacking the common good (in this case the flag, which represented that political common good). Just as God would not authorize any speech against Himself, no attack would be countenanced against the Constitution and our American system in general. In particular, our flag is a symbol of that government and system. Therefore, it was not a violation of free speech to punish flag desecration, since the person doing it was actually attacking the 'good' - the basis of the freedoms he claimed to be protecting him. To permit that kind of action would be subversive to the good that the flag represented.
No such thought exists in the new regime of free speech. In this new world, there is no God, and therefore no objective right and wrong. All political ideas are equally valid - and equally invalid. Therefore all speech must be tolerated, since only then can we make progress. Seen in this light, flag burning can even be regarded as a positive virtue, since it exposes old, outmoded ideas and permits the formation of new, better ones. This new spirit is "Ever learning, but never able to come the knowledge of the truth". Naturally, the Supreme Court could not permit any punishment of flag burning when such an important issue as the eternal search for truth was at stake.
Do you see the problem? Words and concepts have new meanings poured into them. But the traditionalist continues plodding along, using the same words in the same traditional ways, while the new thinkers take the same words and redefine them, and then apply them according to the new definition - all without telling anyone what they are doing - and we fail to catch and call them on it.
So the solution is simple. Rip the cover off of what they have done, and expose them for what they are: revisionists, highjackers, criminals, liars. And liars they are indeed. They know full well what the founders meant when they wrote the Constitution. They know what you and I mean when we use the words. They are counting on us not catching them at their shell game. They have stolen the meaning of the Constitution and replaced it with a false meaning. That must be exposed and reversed.
Now here is the catch. To reverse it will require a return to the definition based on a God-centered worldview. Will you go along with me on this, or do you secretly long to live in a world without God like the Liberals do?
I do not accept the idea that an amendment is needed to make it possible to ban flag desecration. If an amendment is needed now, why was an amendment not needed by the Court to change the meaning of the Constitution? How can we be bound to follow the process of amendment when the Court does not have to?
The solution to this is very simple: the constitution grants to Congress the power to restrict the scope of the court's activities. Congress (if it has the will) can also impeach a court it finds operating unconstitutionally. Congress, as well as the President and the court officers, all swear an equally-potent and valid oath to defend the Constitution of the United States. It is not the sole prerogative of the court to interpret the Constitution. That power is vested in each federal officer. And the final word rests with the people, in the form of the legislative branch, not the Supreme Court.
To support a constitutional amendment as a remedy for flag desecration is to tacitly admit that the court has the unilateral power to amend the Constitution any time it wants simply by re-interpreting it. That makes the court the master of the Constitution, not its servant. It also transforms our government into an oligarchy, not a representative republic.
Therefore, supporting the idea of an amendment is actually a major mistake since it diverts attention from the usurpation, and instead focuses on a false remedy. It squanders the energy and efforts of the people in fruitless attempts to scale the amendment barrier, while the thieves revel.
So we should not continue to 'suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune', but to take arms against the usurpers lies, and 'by opposing, end them.'