Wednesday, June 22, 2005
A Form of Nobility
Let's start this missive by stating what should be obvious: Defending something or someone does not equal acceptance or approval of that thing or person. In today's hyper-patriotic culture of "with us or against us" any form of defense for something held to be "bad" (or criticizing any action considered to be "good") is taken as proof positive of some deep flaw in your character. "Right answer, wrong subject," in my opinion. In other words, look in the mirror...
Once again the feel-good Amendment to ban flag-burning is skipping its way up the Congressional ladder. Usually, the more demagogic House has been the one to pass it and the slightly more mature Senate has been the one to be sane. But now, with Republicans out to prove they love their country more than the next person (even if most of them couldn't be bothered to fight for it when they had the chance) being in control of the Senate, the chance is good that the bill will be passed, at which point the states will vote on it - and it will most likely pass.
I'm against it. It's trying to legislate patriotism, something that never worked in states that could throw you in jail for not being patriotic enough. The flag is a symbol of our country. Some people don't like our country, and therefore don't like the flag. So they burn it. Some burn it to be cool, or rebellious. This upsets other people who do love our country, and some of these people are so offended by it that they want the flag to be declared sacrosanct. (In other words, they're like the people who are so offended by religion that they protest things like people wearing crosses in government buildings - what they don't like should be banned.)
But it's just a symbol, folks. You can't force people to like the country behind the flag by refusing to allow them to burn the flag. It don't work like that. If you could force people to like things by forcing them to do it, or not like stuff by forcing them not to do it, Shakespeare would always be a bestseller even to this day and the drug war would have been a knockout in the second round. Passing this Amendment won't do a blessed thing but allow some people to pat themselves on the back - and sadly, point to people who opposed it and call them unpatriotic.
But isn't the point of having ideals and beliefs defending actions that are allowed by your ideals and beliefs, but are ones that you don't agree with?
Captain Preston was the man in charge of the British Soldiers involved in the Boston Massacre. He was tried for murder in October, 1770. One of the men who defended him was John Adams - you may have heard of him, second President of the United States. He got off. A few months later, the soldiers themselves were on trial, and again John Adams was one of the men who defended them, and again they went acquitted. Nowadays, this would have been enough to recommend censure, have him vilified by the press and talk radio, be called a traitor, and what have you. But he did it, because he believed them to be innocent. He was all for independence, but also saw that these men weren't guilty.
On a much less important level, my own experience. When I was in high school, the whole 2 Live Crew cuss-fest happened. For those of you who can't remember, 2 Live Crew was a rap band whose main accomplishment was rapping - badly - about sex. Badly. These guys could make teenagers turn into monks from their rhymes. Broward county, in Florida, declared them obscene, arrested a record store clerk for selling the album "As Nasty As They Want To Be", and also arrested the band for a concert at a local store.
I had heard the album, and it was bad. Awful. Not even funny-bad, but bad bad. It's wasn't even my kind of music to begin with - I preferred, and still prefer, loud music. (In fact, as I type this I'm listening to System of a Down, and Microsoft Media Player says I would also like Ashlee Simpson, No Doubt and Kelly Clarkson. I hope they code better then they recommend...) The only reason these 2 Live Crew sold so many albums was because of all the fuss raised about them; a lesson which has STILL not taken hold. But I argued against the actions of Florida because, hey, to me they were wrong. I wouldn't have bought the album if you had paid me to do so, and never listened to it when it wasn't in my friend's tape player and he wouldn't turn it off, but declaring it obscene was the wrong act to do and I had to argue against it.
It's very easy to hold your beliefs and ideals when you never find yourself defending something you personally don't like. It's harder to do so when it IS something you don't like but you feel should be allowed, and it's more noble. Your ideals hold above your personal likes and dislikes. Flag burning should fall under this category, and should be allowed. But in today's world, it's more important to wrap yourself in the flag instead of following what it stands for.