Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Ultimate Form of Free Speech?

Once again, Congress rejected a proposed amendment which would have given Congress the power to made it illegal to burn, or otherwise desecrate, an American flag. And it was close. The resolution had passed the House, but failed to pass the Senate - by ONE vote. If it had passed, it would have to have been ratified by 3/4 of the states (38 total) for it to become an amendment.

Personally, I'm a little torn on this issue. On the one hand, I hate the thought of someone burning an American flag. It simply does not sit well with me. On the other hand, I firmly believe that they have the right to do so. Obviously, I know I'm not the only person to feel this way. Sen. Dan Inouye (D-HI) said:

"This objectionable expression is obscene, it is painful, it is unpatriotic. . . . But I believe Americans gave their lives in many wars to make certain all Americans have a right to express themselves, even those who harbor hateful thoughts." (Now, before anyone goes off and says anything about Sen. Inouye, it should be pointed out that he served in World War II, and lost an arm during that service, so it's clear that this man is a patriot.)

And I think I agree with him. It is exactly this level of freedom for which the men and women of our country have fought. The old saying, "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it" comes to mind here.*

Now, the cynical side of me would like to digress just a bit. I think that the reason this came up now is because the Right-wing wants to energize thier voting base for the November elections, when it is entirely possible that they will dealt a heavy blow to the number seats they hold in Congress. Same reason they brought up the Constitutional ban on gay marriage a little while back. The question is, will it work? I don't know - we'll find out in November. And on that note, please be sure to go vote. I know it's not a Presidential election, but it's still important. Oh yeah, that whole argument about "one vote never matters" . . . it certainly did yesterday!

* While this quote is commonly attributed to Voltaire, it really came from The Friends of Voltaire, written by Evelyn Beatrice Hall and published in 1906 under the pseudonym Stephen G. Tallentyre. Hall said that she was paraphrasing Voltaire's views.

No comments: