With a rampant wave of anti-Americanism sweeping across the world and especially in the middle east images and videos of people burning the American flag have become a common occurrence.th burning of flags has in recent times emerged as the climax of any protest against a given country. The flag is not just torched. It is dragged across the streets and it undergoes all kinds of abuse before it finally meets its fate of a fiery exit. The fact however remains that the burning of flags is unacceptable and should be an offence punished by law.
In order to understand the gravity of a burnt flag it is first very important to understand the relevance of a flag to a given county. The American flag for example is a symbol of the American people. The flag stands representative of all the fifty states that together make up the United States of America. The flag is however not just an element of representation. The flag is also a symbol of freedom. This explains why every free country in the whole world just so happens to have its own national flag (Welch, p.50. Flags stand for the autonomy of states as opposed to states that are under control from other states or other forces. Thus the flag is signatory of freedom of the people of the United States of America. Flags are also recognized in constitutions as national symbols. This means that laws recognize flags as elements which are by all means part and parcel of the state. The flag is representative of the state and exactly what the state stands for. This therefore means that every citizen respective of age or political inclination has the obligation to respect the flag as it is an extension of the institution that is the state. Disrespecting a flag can be equated to disrespecting the state.
It is also very important to conceptualize and understand exactly what is abuse especially in relation to not just the American flags but all flags of free nation all over the world. Abuse can be termed as disrespect. Abuse is any action that is aimed at degrading or bringing to shame an individual or an institution either through physical action or verbally (Welch, p.64). Abuse can also be termed as degradation of virtues and symbols that are revered and held dear by a given people and upheld by the people as important and in deed integral parts of their lives. Abuse can occur in many forms ranging from mental abuse to physical abuse which adopts a more violent paradigm as compared to other forms of abuse. Abuse can be aimed at an individual, an institution or in some cases entire cultures and their institutions that they hold dear and that are the very building blocks of their civilization. A very good example of abuse to a given religion or rather culture would be a person taking statues of Buddha which are held dear by Buddhists all over the world and handling the statues in a way that can be termed as not appropriate for example throwing the statues on the ground and even setting them on fire. Any individual performing such actions would receive the highest levels of condemnation from Buddhists all over the world because this is an abuse too their philosophical ideal as well as an abuse of their religious institutions which have existed for centuries and which they hold true and dear.
The question thus arises as to what is the exact meaning of the burning of the American flag. Another question that is very important to this discussion is what message are the people burning the American flag trying to put across and exactly what are their motivations towards such actions. More often than not people who burn the American flag do so in absolute anger. A person can literally feel the wave of emotions that are raw in nature while watching videos of people burning the American flag. People who burn the American flag do so in outrage and pure anger. The question however still remains as to the exact message intended to be put across by the American flag on fire. The answer to this question is very simple, rejection.by burning the American flag people declare their rejection of the United States of America as a country and as an institution with global appeal (Goldstein, p.103). The rejection however does not stop with the state. The rejection goes deeper to the very heart of the United States of America. By burning the American flag people do not only signify their rejection of the American nation but they also declare their outrage and rejection of the American people. This therefore means that there are in rejection of the United States of America in its entirety starting from the highest echelons of power all the way down to the simplest of American citizens. The message being put across by the burning of the American flag is also very important. The message in play as far as the burning of the flag is concerned is that of hostility. By burning the flag of the United States of America or any other country in the world people are openly declaring their hostility towards that particular country and all of its citizens. If the people burning the flag had the capability they would inflict unspeakable harm on the country whose flag they are burning. Burning of a flag can even be considered as an informal declaration of war because it is a violation of the sanctity of a symbol that is representative of a people and which is greatly revered by the people who it represents.
The first amendment however is very categorical as far as freedom of speech is concerned and the limits to this freedom of speech. According to the first amendment all the people have the freedom to express their opinions and emotions in whatever way that is appropriate (Lewis, p.79). This is to say that the first amendment by all means condones the burning of the flag. If an individual feels greatly repulsed by the United States of America and the individual feels it appropriate to express their dissatisfaction and utter disgust at the United States of America then the first amendment by all means gives the individual the freedom to take out all their frustrations on the flag of the United States of America. This is because any actions against the flag of any given country send the strongest message as far as expressing dissatisfaction with that particular country is concerned. This therefore means that the burning of flags is by all means the epitome of freedom of expression.it is the only way to truly express oneself in terms of one’s emotions towards a state or an institution that identifies with the flag in question and reveres or respects the flag. The only issue as far as flag burning is concerned is the ethical aspect of the issue. Flag burning is to say the least very disrespectful.as much as the first amendment rallies for freedom of expression ethics also demands respect not only for individuals but also for institutions especially the ones that have been in place for centuries. It is by all means acceptable to offer one’s opinion on an institution or even a nation but this expression should by all means be civil and sensible n terms of its appeal and reflection on the person expressing the opinion (Lewis, p.71). Liberties are the right of every citizen on the planet earth but no citizen has the liberty to in anyway violate the sanctity of the liberty of another citizen for any reasons whatsoever.
people who burn the flag should however not be punished. This is because freedom of expression is a universally accepted human right. The people burning the flag have the right to express their frustrations in whatever way they see fit and appropriate and convenient to their ccause.as such they should be left at liberty to express their opinions and by all means put their messages across for the world to see and judge. Burning f flags is adopted by many people because it is effective and itv sends a very strong message about how the people feel . Burning of flags is therefore one of the most effective methods of freedom of expression.
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Goldstein, Robert Justin. Flag burning and free speech: the case of Texas v. Johnson. Lawrence, Kan.: University Press of Kansas, 2000. Print.
Lewis, Anthony. Freedom for the thought that we hate: a biography of the First Amendment. New York: Basic Books, 2007. Print.
Welch, Michael. Flag burning: moral panic and the criminalization of protest. New York: Aldine de Gruyter, 2000. Print.
Wirenius, John F.. First Amendment, first principles: verbal acts and freedom of speech. New York: Holmes & Meier, 2000. Print.