We don't need a constitutional amendment to protect our flag. But Congress has yet to get the message. The U.S. House is scheduled to begin debate today on House Joint Resolution 36, the first step in the process of adding a 28th amendment to the Constitution. The goal is to override a 1989 Supreme Court ruling that said flag desecration is political speech protected by the First Amendment.
This is an issue that divides the most loyal of patriots: those who believe a country that can't protect its symbol can hardly protect its other freedoms, and those who believe the freedom to soil the flag is the epitome of what American soldiers have died for.
Both sides have passion and emotion. But what this perennial debate ignores are some very real problems with patriotism in 2001.
Better that we respect our flag by living up to its high ideals. By teaching our children about citizenship. By understanding the unique constitutional protections that have allowed dissidents to burn the flag, or tear it to pieces, or spit on it.
Yes, defacing the flag is insulting and offensive, but one price of liberty is the occasional insult or offense. We should not amend our Constitution just for fear of that.
Indianapolis Star, July 17
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