Flag Burning Essay

1330 words - 5 pages

Flag Burning

Flag Burning can be and usually is a very controversial issue. Many people are offended by the thought of destroying this country's symbol of liberty and freedom. During a political protest during the 1984 Republican Convention, Gregory Lee Johnson was arrested for burning an American flag. Years later in 1989, Johnson got the decision overturned by the United States Supreme Court. In the same year, the state of Texas passed the Flag Protection Act, which prohibited any form of desecration against the American flag. This act provoked many people to protest and burn flags anyway. Two protestors, Shawn Eichman and Mark Haggerty were charged with violating the law and arrested. Both Eichman and Haggerty appealed the decision because the law was inconsistent with the first amendment to the Constitution. The right to petition the government for a redress of grievances is protected by the first amendment of the Constitution. Burning American flags and other such actions are not treasonous and should no be treated as so, as long as these actions are done to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
The dissenting opinion to the previous idea is that the government's legitimate interest in preserving the symbolic value of the flag is, however, essentially the same that may have motivated a particular act of flag burning. The flag uniquely symbolizes the ideas of liberty, equality, and tolerance -- ideas that Americans have passionately defended and debated throughout our history. The flag embodies the spirit of our national commitment to those ideals. To the world, the flag is our promise that we will continue to strive for these ideals. To us, the flag is a reminder both that the struggle for liberty and equality is unceasing, and that our obligation of tolerance and respect for all of our fellow citizens encompasses those who disagree with us -- indeed, even those whose ideas are disagreeable or offensive.
While the Republican National Convention was taking place in Dallas in 1984, respondent Johnson participated in a political protest. The purpose of this event was to protest the policies of the Reagan administration and of certain Dallas-based corporations. The demonstrators marched through the Dallas streets, chanting political slogans and stopping at several corporate locations to dramatize the consequences of nuclear war. On several occasions they spray-painted the walls of buildings and overturned potted plants, but Johnson himself took no part in such activities. He did, however, accept an American flag handed to him by a fellow protestor. The demonstration ended in front of Dallas City Hall, where Johnson unfolded the American flag, drenched it with kerosene, and set it on fire. While the flag burned, the protestors chanted. No one was physically injured or threatened with injury, though several witnesses had said that they had been seriously offended by the flag burning.
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