US Flag Burning: Who the Heck is Trump to Issue Threats?!

US Flag Burning: Who the Heck is Trump to Issue Threats?!

When you are a citizen of a country, you are receiving far more than just a label of citizenship.  You are responsible for the integrity and security of the country and society itself.  And these aren’t things that some can be allowed to just compromise.  At the same time, there are various – and competing – ways that a society can be run.  Freedom of Expression and right to disagree – and even be aggressively non-mainstream – has been a luxury that those from the Western democracies have enjoyed.  That is what brings new ideas forth and also test the old ones.  Both in social norms and in governance.  Vietnam protests and fight for gay rights came because what was known as the “fringe” had the conviction to fight for what were basic rights.

At the Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, someone burned the US Flag on the campus on November 10.  And instead of reprimanding the student, the college of 1400 students decided to not fly the flag at all!  This is how it happened:

  • Many students in the campus were not happy with Trump’s victory and were protesting it.  The college “siding with the student” lowered the flag to half mast.
  • On November 10, some students burned the US flag.
  • On november 11, the college officials replaced the burned US flag and flew it full mast.
  • Next day the Hampshire trustees voted to US flag to half-mast again
  • On November 21, the President Jonathan Lash posted on Facebook that no flags, US or otherwise will fly over the campus.

This burning of US flag recently and the incidents post that have become a major issue.

Let me say it very clearly, that we find burning the flag of a country an act of deceit and ungrateful behavior.  Many are fighting for that flag and giving up their lives for it.  If you cannot contribute anything to this country, at least don’t make fun of those who live and die for the flag!!

The law, nevertheless, is not mine’s to write or enforce.

There is Congress and the Supreme Court to make and interpret the laws and Law Enforcement agencies to enforce the laws.  Who the heck am I – as outraged as I may be – to threaten people around with “dire consequences”?!  And by same measure, who is Donald Trump to threaten the people with any consequence?!  Presidents in democracies DO NOT punish people!  That is done in dictatorships like Pakistan! In a democratic society, even if as a President you are God’s own shit, you cannot unilaterally – by your decree – punish anyone!  Laws are handled by the Congress and the Courts and enforcement is handled by law enforcement agencies and they cannot and should not be dictated around by any President or official of the executive!  Period!

US Supreme Court and the US Flag Burning

In 1989, in Texas vs Johnson case, the Supreme Court ruled by 5-4 that flag burning was a form a speech and thus protected by the First Amendment.  In this case Gregory Johnson was convicted for violating the Texas state law when burned what was called as “desecration of a venerated object” (US Flag).  That year Congress passed the Flag Protection Act 1989 and in the very next year in 1990, in another case – United States vs Eichman – US Supreme Court again upheld the right to burn the flag and called the Act passed by Congress as unconstitutional!

And, interestingly – although not surprisingly – President-elect Trump has jumped into the whole fray.

His tweet calls for taking away the citizenship or jail for those who did this.  Now, both of these positions are NOT lawful or constitutionally supported.  As despicable as they may be.  Supreme Court has given the right to burn the US flag to its citizens.  That is the law.  I may disagree with it, but then freedom is not something that can be decided by one person – it is a collective endeavor.

And, legally that’s where it rests.  Period!

For a President-elect to throw out threats which are legally untenable is tantamount to dictatorship.  It is dictatorship-in-disguise.  Even he doesn’t take any action but those who are passionate – specially on the right of the society like the alt-right movement – will take law in their hands, as many are.  He is acting as their cheerleader here.

What is Trump Doing Watching TV programs?

In this short but very insightful discussion, Paul Begala makes a case for a calculative strategy that may have led Trump to tweet what he did.  Margaret Hoover, the Republican strategist on the panel quickly counters him by saying that he watched a Fox News program on this issue and right after that he sent in his tweet.  Anderson also points out how based on a previous program of his, Trump also tweeted something.

Hoover bursts Begala’s bubble and says that there was NO strategy, unlike the latter attributed to the great leader!!  It was a tweet by instinct!  No complicated thinking involved.

Now, that is absolutely scary!!  Here are the two issues that make it downright scary as hell:

  1. Trump has no knowledge of law and constitution and yet he tweets impulsively – and in a few weeks he will have the Nuclear code at his command!!
  2. Why is Trump watching programs at primetime?  Shouldn’t he be educating himself with the secrets and intelligence briefings?  Specifically on ISIS, China and Russia?

I am not sure about you, but if someone as juvenile as Trump – backed by support of passionate fans – with no knowledge or RESPECT for law keeps watching TV programs and joins debates via social media – then the future of the world seems desperately scary!  Really scary!  Diplomacy needs serious people and serious work.  And, this guy is spectacularly incapable of it.

Featured Image Source: Flickr/Donkethotey

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