The US Congress is once again talking about the constitutional amendment to prohibit the physical desecration of the US flag. The House joint resolution (H.J. Res. 10, 108 sponsors) was introduced on March 2, and the Senate (S.J. Res. 12, 51 sponsors) on April 14.
What Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy said when this was introduced the last time, in 2004, still holds true:
...this comes at a time when there already are many, many pressing demands on this Committee�s time. There is a serious lack of ongoing and meaningful congressional oversight in connection with the war on terrorism. The Senate Judiciary Committee has not fulfilled its responsibility to ensure the rights of the American people, and the government�s accountability to the American people, by providing vigorous oversight of the most insular and unilateral Administration in memory.
In 2000, General Colin Powell said:
I would not amend that great shield of democracy to hammer a few miscreants. The flag will still be flying proudly long after they have slunk away.
When this came up in 1997, Roger Pilon of the CATO Institute concluded his Congressional testimony thus:
It is said also that the flag is special because men have fought and died for it. Let me suggest in response that men have fought and died not for the flag but for the principles it represents. People give their lives for principles, not for symbols. When we dishonor those principles, to protect their symbol, we dishonor the men who died to preserve them. That is not a business this Congress should be about. We owe it to those men, men who have made the ultimate sacrifice, to resist the pressures of the moment so that we may preserve the principles of the ages.
I came across the following on a blog called We Are Not Sheep, which happened to be precisely what I was thinking when I first heard that this proposed amendment had reared its head again (emphasis is the blogger's):
...any action taken to diminish the First Amendment, and the right to dissent contained (therein) is, in and of itself, flag desecration.
I am also reminded of what an old friend said about this long, long ago, in the pre-Internet dark ages: "I think it's desecration of the flag to have the KKK carry it in their marches." Well, what more could I say? You don't even need to deface the flag in order to desecrate it. All it takes is not honoring what it stands for. The flag can be that fragile if we undermine what it represents - the Constitution and the Rights that it guarantees.
[My del.icio.us: flag desecration | civil liberties | US Constitution]