On Tuesday morning, President-elect Donald Trump sent out a tweet that has since been the topic of much discussion anywhere you can find a conversation happening. While Trump’s Twitter feed has no shortage of controversy, this simple tweet has people worried — or excited — about just how authoritarian the upcoming president will be.
Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag – if they do, there must be consequences – perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 29, 2016
First off, it should be made plain that flag burning was ruled legal in 1969 after a decision handed down by the Supreme Court, ruling it protected under the First Amendment. Attempts have been made to make it illegal to do so, but these have failed. One recent attempt came from none other than failed Democratic candidate for President Hillary Clinton back in 2005.
And this isn’t surprising coming from a Democrat. Authoritarianism is their bread and butter. However, coming from an incoming president who has assumed the mantle of Republican, this is worrisome. Authoritarianism for patriotism’s sake is still authoritarianism, and Republicans — last time I checked — claimed to be against that sort of thing.
Free speech should remain free whether we like it or not. Yes, burning the American flag is reprehensible, but let’s remember that at the end of the day this is an object likely purchased by someone. It’s their property, and they may do with it as they wish.
The flag is a symbol of America, but it is not America itself. The men and women who shaped this country, bled and died for it, did not do so for this flag. They did it for the people who live on in the freedom and prosperity they bought for this country with the sacrifices they made.
I’m struggling to see how imprisoning people after limiting their free speech is representative of the values we hold as Americans. How burning cloth should equate to someone losing their rights as a result. Yes, I can see perfectly how burning the American flag would generate harsh emotions, and urges for comeuppance, but telling the government that it should make forays into our rights as American citizens can only be deemed foolish.
If we say that Trump can do it, we say that other presidents can as well, and many of those presidents are not going to agree with you about what constitutes as proper free speech. Always keep in mind that the power you give to one president is a precedent for the next, and like any power you give government, it’s bound to grow.
Let me be clear.
I would rather 1,000 American flags be burned then one American citizen go to jail because they practiced their right to free speech in a way a president didn’t like.
That is not the kind of power we would want corrupting a leader absolutely, especially leaders coming down the line. If we’re going to err, let’s err toward freedom. We are not Democrats, or social justice warriors, or leftist authoritarians of any stripe. Let’s allow people to practice their right to free speech, no matter how dumb it is.