Editorial June 30 

Why do they hate America? It’s not the flag that makes America great, it’s the freedom. Other countries have flags, some of them rather pretty. They don’t have anything as beautiful as Americans’ right to say what we please, or to worship as we want. American troops have died fighting to pre-serve those rights. Descendants of American heroes are now asked to dishonor their forebears, to voluntarily surrender what could not be taken forcibly, and they are beseeched to do so by politicians who value liberty about as much as Middle Eastern terrorists do. One of their favorite arguments, in fact, is that the United States must deny liberty to its people because our enemies deny liberty to theirs. The kindest thing that can be said of such politicians — and it is too kind, really — is that they misunderstand the country they are sworn to serve. Nonetheless, the House of Representatives has capitulated, approving 286 to 130 a constitutional amendment backed by President Bush and his party that would outlaw flag-burning. The amendment goes to the Senate next. Confused and intimidated, three members of the Arkansas House delegation voted for the amendment — Berry, Boozman, Ross. Only Rep. Vic Snyder voted “no.” How often does Vic Snyder show the best side of Arkansas to the nation? Very often indeed. It’s noteworthy that Snyder is the only veteran in the Arkansas delegation, having served as a Marine Corps rifleman in Vietnam. He has no inclination toward, or need for, the pretend-patriotism that some of his non-veteran colleagues adopt. The flag is a symbol, and like other symbols, it can’t be destroyed no matter how many times you put a match to it, how much cloth is consumed. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-NY, explained it to the House bluntly: “If the flag needs protection at all, it needs protection from members of Congress who value the symbol more than the freedoms that the flag represents.” The true purpose of flag-burning is not to start a fire, but to inflame passions. It is a form of free speech, and as such, protected by the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights. The United States Supreme Court has so ruled. To protect unpopular speech is why we have a First Amendment, remember. The speech that everyone agrees with needs no protection. The true purpose of a ban on flag-burning is to stifle dissent. Nothing could be more un-American. This country was founded on dissent. Slaves were freed because of dissent, women enfranchised, law-breaking presidents removed from office. And when we have strayed furthest from our ideals, whether exterminating Indians, lynching blacks, or imprisoning Japanese-Americans, it is lack of dissent that has betrayed us.


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