Flag burning is legal but disrespectful

Sahn Choi, Staff Writer

When a United States soldier, marine, sailor or airman dies in combat, the Armed Forces provide a military funeral if requested by the deceased’s family. These funerals include military elements such as the attendance of honor guards or the ceremonial act of a rifle party firing blank cartridges into the air three times.

Some may be unfamiliar with these customs, but most are familiar with the image of a spouse, child or parent weeping over a casket — a casket delicately draped with the American flag.

In light of the results of the election, there has been an increase of flag burnings across the nation. Most of these flag burnings are done by college students, college students who happily accept student loans from the nation whose flag they burn.

Burning the flag is well within one’s first amendment rights. It’s also well within one’s first amendment rights to take exception to flag burning and condemn anybody who participates in this ineffectual and detestable act.

On Nov. 29, president-elect Donald Trump tweeted that “Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag — if they do, there must be consequences — perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!”

The last time an act criminalizing flag burning was introduced was in 2005, when none other than Trump’s opponent Hillary Clinton sponsored legislation punishing flag burning with one year in jail and a $100,000 fine.

“Burning a flag, to me, [is] despicable, and I believe that there is no denying — when we talk about our flag — Americans’ emotions run deep. And we know that when we look at the flag and it’s deliberately and maliciously destroyed, that is an intimidating experience in many instances,” Clinton said.

The act did not pass, nor should it have. The flag is a universally-recognizable symbol of freedom. Banning the act of flag-burning would infringe on the very liberties it represents. Being able to express discontent — even through wildly disrespectful acts such as flag-burning — is a distinctly American right that few people around the world have.

While flag burning is perfectly legal, it is objectionable, at least to this writer. There’s a difference between a right to protest and a blatant insult to those who happily inhabit this great nation. More importantly, burning the flag is a reprehensible affront to those who have died on behalf of the country and its flag.

According to a 2015 count from the Department of State, more than 4.4 million people are on the legal immigrant visa waiting list for the United States. If flag-burners are unhappy with the privilege of living in this country, they are more than welcome to leave and find a country whose flag they don’t feel compelled to set fire to.