Apparently Bill Frist has decided that constitutional ammendments against flag-burning and gay marriage are vital to national well-being. Speaking on Faux News, Frist was asked:
HOST: Are gay marriage and flag burning the most important issues the Senate can be addressing in June of 2006?
Below the fold, I give Frist’s reply and some comments.
FRIST: Let me tell you what the agenda is real quick. Secure America’s safety here at home. I mentioned supporting our troops overseas, making sure we pass that supplemental bill, making sure we tighten down our borders. securing America, a healthier America, so we’ll continiue to –
HOST: All right. But …
FRIST: Let me tell you, right now there’s no prioritization there. Securing America” values. I hope tomorrow and today as people see that American flag, and I’m going to Arlington cemetery tomorrow and I’m going to see that flag waving on every grave over there. When you look at that flag and you tell me that right now people in this country are saying it” okay to desecrate that flag and to burn it and to not pay respect to it, is that important to our values as a people when we’ve got 130,000 people fighting for our freedom and liberty today? That is important. It may not be important here in Washington where people say, well, it’s political posturing and all, but it’s important to the heart and soul of the American people.
Now, if you ask me, what the Republicans are doing here are looking for two issues that will distract people from what’s really important, and once again cloak themselves are the party that stands for “American values”.
Last June, the House proposed a amendment against flag burning. I wrote the following then (note the guest appearance by that fine exponent of “American values”, Randy Cunningham).
I see that the House – having I guess solved all the real problems in this country – yesterday voted (286/130) to support an amendment to ban flag-burning. The proposed one-line amendment to the Constitution reads, ?The Congress shall have power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States,? and is designed to overturn a 5-4 Supreme Court ruling in 1989 that flag burning is a protected free-speech right.
Asinine statement by Randy (Duke) Cunningham (R-Calif):
Ask the men and women who stood on top of the Trade Center. Ask them and they will tell you: pass this amendment.
More insightful statement by Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), whose district actually includes the site of the former World Trade Center:
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.
[Comment added May 28 2006: Certainly the past year's revelations about wire-tapping etc makes Nadler's point even more poigniant]
Reed Cartwright makes the following point:
Desecration of the flag occurs everyday and not by anti-government protestors. I know of very few people out side the military who know and follow proper flag etiquette. The people most likely to consider themselves ?True Patriots? desecrate the flag by not following proper etiquette. ? However, you won’t see politicians ever trying to criminalize people who do these things because they really don’t care about the flag. What they care about is people who are vocally oppose their politics.
Now I?m not a citizen of this country, but I have chosen to make it my home for the last twelve years. I also grew up in a country where, because of the ?Troubles? in the North of Ireland, burning of the Irish tricolor by Protestant extremists was an almost daily sight on television. And you know what? It didn?t bother me. What?s more, in Ireland the flag is not used as a decoration on t-shirts, cars, towels, hats, outside car dealerships, etc etc. It is displayed at state and civic events. Reed is correct – people here, and politicians in particular – don?t care about the flag in any meaningful way. And they certainly don?t care about free speech.
[Comment added May 28th 2006: My next-door neighbour, a self-identifying Christian (Promise Keeper), Republican-voting, vet, is flying three flags this weekend; a Marine Corp flag, a Christian flag, and the Starts and Stripes. The Christian flag is flying above the Stars and Stripes. As Wikipedia notes "No other flag ever should be placed above it. The flag of the United States is always the first flag raised and the last to be lowered." Can I argue that my Republican neighbor has perfectly made my point above for me?]