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What flag would Jesus burn?

click to enlarge Antiwar protesters burn a U.S. flag in protest of the war - in Iraq on October 25, 2003 in Washington, D.C. - JEFF FUSCO/GETTY IMAGES
  • Jeff Fusco/Getty Images
  • Antiwar protesters burn a U.S. flag in protest of the war in Iraq on October 25, 2003 in Washington, D.C.

The flag amendment that just passed in the U.S. House by a huge margin, and which may pass in the U.S. Senate and even become a part of the Constitution, was predictable.

After all, the last refuge of a scoundrel is patriotism, and the scoundrels infesting the nation's capital, who put this country into an unwinnable and pointless war based upon lies -- along with the gutless sycophants in Congress who backed them -- now are being called to account by an American public finally grown weary.

What to do? Dredge up that moldering corpse: the so-called flag protection amendment.

The joke is that the flag is desecrated daily for commercial purposes, waving proudly in front of the corporate headquarters of war profiteers like Halliburton, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Bechtel, GE, Westinghouse and Exxon Mobil, as well as the homes of tax cheats like disgraced Tyco CEO Dennis Kozlowski. It decorates all manner of commercial products, from the backsides of women's shorts to a line of patriotic condoms.

None of this abuse of the national symbol bothers the right-wing charlatans in Washington. Only burning the thing.

The late Yippie co-founder Abbie Hoffman had Congress' number when he responded to a subpoena to testify in Washington wearing a shirt rendered from a cut-up American flag.

What a pathetic joke it will be for future schoolchildren. What are they to think in their civics classes, as they read the high-minded and carefully crafted words of the Constitution, with its careful detailing of the branches of government, the delineation of powers, the enumeration of the rights of the citizenry and the banning of slavery, and suddenly come upon this cheap amendment?

Suddenly, they'll learn that the beautiful First Amendment they read earlier is not really true: If they want to protest government actions by burning a piece of red, white and blue cloth, they can be locked up.

And all to cover up the mendacity and cowardice of a gang of war criminals in 2005.

Make no mistake: This is about thought control. The proper way to dispose of an American flag is to burn it -- something the Boy Scout organization does often as a patriotic public service. So it's not the burning that would be banned under this proposed amendment. It's the thought that is in the mind of the flag-burner.

You have to wonder what these important people, who earn $158,100 a year of our tax dollars to do their work, will do next to earn their paychecks.

Will they pass a constitutional ban on pie-throwing?

Will they make it illegal to parody the president?

I come at this as someone who spent a year working in the People's Republic of China, a totalitarian country where there are almost as many flags displayed as in the U.S. and where desecrating the national flag is a serious crime. I never thought I'd live to see the day when my own country would sink to China's level in adopting such draconian rules against peaceful protest. But it looks like I will, after all.

Dave Lindorff is the author of This Can't Be Happening: Resisting the Disintegration of American Democracy.


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