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One Amendment, Five Freedoms

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One Amendment, Five Freedoms

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Flag burning protected under First Amendment

What a thing of beauty, our First Amendment.

Think about it: In only 45 words, it lays out five constitutional rights.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Pure poetry.

Notice that it says nothing about how a president — any president — can imprison or strip Americans of their citizenship for exercising these rights. Donald Trump’s tweet suggesting otherwise in his rant against flag burners doesn’t change this glorious fact. We had these freedoms before he was elected and, if we’re vigilant, we’re going to have them after he’s long gone from the White House. Can I hear an “amen”?

Maybe we should memorize the First Amendment, and not just because our president-elect appears to lack even a passing familiarity with it. There’s value in committing to memory language that moves us.

Brad Leithauser addressed this in his 2013 New Yorker essay titled “Why We Should Memorize”:

“The best argument for verse memorization may be that it provides us with knowledge of a qualitatively and physiologically different variety: you take the poem inside you, into your brain chemistry if not your blood, and you know it at a deeper, bodily level than if you simply read it off a screen. (Catherine) Robson puts the point succinctly: ‘If we do not learn by heart, the heart does not feel the rhythms of poetry as echoes or variations of its own insistent beat.'”

May our hearts ring with the rhythms of our First Amendment freedoms. There’s nothing like breathing in the promise of America to help us stay calm when someone insists our country keep its word.

Take flag burners, for instance. Our Constitution and our Supreme Court insist they can burn our flag without losing their freedom. Every time they do it, though, someone else is yelling, “Oh, yeah? Well, we’ll see about that.”

I don’t enjoy seeing someone burn the American flag, mostly because I’m not a fan of watching anger meet fire. I’m not keen on American flag bandanas, either. You know that line of forehead sweat that slowly creeps over the Stars and Stripes? Just feels wrong. Why aren’t people who oppose desecrating the flag complaining about that?

After Trump tweeted his unconstitutional take on our constitutional right, I Googled “American flag” and “clothing.” My Lord, there’s a bowie knife to the patriotic heart. Page after page of stuff that surely would offend the love-it-or-leave-it crowd.

Personally, I could have done without the guy modeling the American flag bikini briefs. I’m never going to be able to un-see that particularly star and stripe. I also don’t see the charm in American flag harem shorts, American flag leggings or American flag flip-flops. The American flag under the soles of filthy feet. Say that out loud and tell me you aren’t trembling.

It’s enough to drive a girl to grab her American flag beer can koozie — you want to say cozy, but don’t, because it’s keeping your beer kool, get it? – and slide it onto the nearest can of brew. The koozie, by the way, is on sale for $9.99. (“You save $5.00!”) Nothing says America like a U.S. flag wrapped around a can of Coors.

We could have a much healthier discussion about the politics of flag burning if we were honest about why those flag burners bother some of us. Could it be that we just aren’t comfortable with fellow Americans willing to question what in high heaven is going on in America? That maybe we’re just afraid of what comes next?

We hear a lot about how defacing the flag insults our men and women in uniform, but they do not sacrifice their comfort and too often their lives to protect a strip of fabric usually made in China. They are preserving our freedoms, including the five listed in the First Amendment. Let’s stop insulting their intelligence by suggesting they don’t know the difference.

Let us breathe in the promise of America and exhale to the rhythm of our freedom.

Or not.

That’s America.

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and professional in residence at Kent State University’s school of journalism. To find out more about Connie Schultz (con.schultz@yahoo.com) and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

IMAGE: A giant American flag hangs from the West tower of the George Washington Bridge in between New York and New Jersey ahead of the U.S.-Germany 2014 World Cup Group G soccer match June 26, 2014.  REUTER/Mike Segar   

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Connie Schultz

Connie Schultz is a nationally syndicated columnist for Creators Syndicated. Schultz won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for commentary and was a finalist for the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for feature writing. She has also published two books: Life Happens: And Other Unavoidable Truths -- a collection of her previously published columns -- and ...and His Lovely Wife: A Memoir from the Woman Beside the Man, which chronicled her experiences on the campaign trail with her husband, Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown.

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17 Comments

  1. bojimbo26 December 1, 2016

    Trumpy will be the President , he won`t worry about silly little things .

    Reply
    1. dpaano December 2, 2016

      Silly things to him, but very important things to most of us. Not sure if your comment is meant as snark, but I have to agree somewhat. He doesn’t worry about “silly” things like how the middle-class survives and lives day to day. His billionaire cronies that he’s nominating for important department positions don’t particularly care either….they only care for what this government can do for them to make them richer and the rest of us poorer!

      1. bojimbo26 December 3, 2016

        Whenever I say anything about Trumpy I don`t bother putting /s at the end , he`s too much of an a$$hole . 😉

  2. jaynemcgill December 1, 2016

    One yr ago I decided to resign from my last job and I never felt this good… I started doing work on-line, for a company I stumbled upon online, for a few hours a day, and I profit now much more than i did on my previous job… My last month payment was for $9k… Amazing thing about this gig is that i have more time with my family… http://chilp.it/728813e

    Reply
  3. AgLander December 1, 2016

    Why are liberals out to shred the Constitution to pieces when they are in power but attempt to hide behind it when they are out of power? Things that make one go hmmmmm.

    Reply
    1. Thoughtopsy December 1, 2016

      Why doesn’t F**kface Von Clownstick know the Constitution? Too stupid?
      Why did the GOP avoid their Constitutional duty of holding hearings for Obama’s Supreme pick?
      Why did the GOP Senate Majority Leader say that if Hillary won, they may not hold hearings on Supreme Court Nominees for her entire Presidency?

      Oh… that’s right. Because they only use the Constitution when it’s convenient

    2. Sand_Cat December 1, 2016

      Only idiots like you go “hmmmm,” because only idiots like you are stupid enough to believe the tripe you keep posting here.

      1. Dan S December 2, 2016

        This is why I just blocked Agatha the Russian troll. They’re nothing more than a distraction to the issues discussed here. I’ve not once seen them post anything of substance in relation to what the article is talking about

        1. dpaano December 2, 2016

          Like Trump, they figure if they deflect from the original subject, people won’t pay much attention to the important things going on around them and listen instead to the BS that has nothing to do with anything!
          After all, look at how Trump has deflected from his business dealings with foreign governments and “conflicts of interest” by using the Carrier gambit to take minds away from the REAL problem of his election. He’s very good at this…..if something comes up that he doesn’t like, he just comes up with something else to take one’s mind away from the main problem! We can look forward to a lot of that in the next 4 years.

          1. Dan S December 2, 2016

            Not to mention the very generous tax breaks they just gave Carrier. Of course now anyone threatening to move jobs out of the country will want a handout from our newly elected President

  4. Aaron_of_Portsmouth December 1, 2016

    Excellent article that points out a lot of what has gone so wrong with America in the past few decades. The Constitution, that wonderful man-made and noble effort to break away from the plutocratic and aristocratic ideals in Europe has unfortunately morphed into something that is used and abused to bring back the old emphasis of placing power in the hands of the few, cleverly disguised as representing the spirit of the original Founders of what is called America. The lack of a Standard that transcends human fallibility and limitations is missing, thereby allowing for a multiplicity of interpretations and ways of distorting the intent of a noble idea to further selfish aims and materialistic ambitions.
    The 2nd Amendment alone is a fine example of the limitations of this man-made document. The intent was not some call from a Higher Power to add it, but was a response to deal with the immediate exigency of coping with pressure from the British Crown. Instead, it has been contorted to appeal to the inordinate and insane notion of nationalism that has evolved as many Americans become paranoid about how to adjust in a world that has come closer together; the same gun-loving fanatics like to abuse this amendment to assuage the fear they feel from historically marginalized members of American society like Black people, and now increasingly the Hispanic community and anyone else that doesn’t exactly fit the “British” mold of an acceptable and warm and fuzzy fellow American.

    A new Constitution will have to be formulated, taking the best from the old one and supplemented with principles forged from a Higher Standard—a Standard I’ve alluded to and explicitly mentioned on numerous occasions.

    For now, the Constitution is primarily taken as a means to further uphold a conservative pattern of thinking and behaving, and for consolidating power among certain political and racial entities in America.

    “The earth is but one country, and humankind its citizens”. (Baha’u’llah)

    Reply
    1. dpaano December 2, 2016

      Much like the Bible and its constant misinterpretation by various groups, the Constitution is often misinterpreted to mean whatever a person in power wants it to mean based on THEIR mindset. Yes, I agree, we probably DO need to update the Constitution and bring it into modern day, but I don’t see that as ever happening because there would NEVER be any consensus on what should be kept, what should be updated, and how the updates should read. It would be an impossible task to say the least!

  5. Otto T. Goat December 1, 2016

    Do you get paid to write this pap?

    Reply
  6. Ed Rhodes December 2, 2016

    I remember a letter in Playboy dealing with a court case where a group of hippies had a flag as a curtain in their van. The prosecution claimed they had desecrated the flag by punching holes in it with the wire used to hang it, but the holes were so tiny, the prosecutor couldn’t find them to show to the court. Meanwhile, behind the judge, was an American flag, NAILED to the wall with three-penny nails!

    Or as one pundent put it; “You’ll see a cop bust a hippe’s head for wearing a flag patch on his pants, while the cop has a flag patch on his shirt!”

    Reply
    1. dpaano December 2, 2016

      So true…..

  7. dpaano December 2, 2016

    The American flag CAN be burned, but only when it’s past it’s prime and is torn or damaged. Generally, you can take these flags to a Veteran’s organization and they have the right to burn these legally. But. to just willy nilly burn the American flag is appalling, especially to me, a veteran. What gets me is that realtors in our city put little plastic American flags on people’s front yards with their business cards attached to the wooden stake. I’ve complained to these various realtors and to the State Board of Realtors, but nothing has been done. They do this on Labor Day, etc., and in a week, the flags are lying on the ground, trashed, or trampled. According to the law, our flag is NOT to be used for advertising nor is anything allowed to be attached to the flag or its pole that is considered advertising. To me, this is totally against Federal law, but no one seems to care when it’s brought to their attention.

    Reply
  8. bobnstuff December 2, 2016

    Our New President elect seems to have a problem with the first amendment. He wants to go to the British system for freedom of the press. He wants to forget freedom of religion completely except for some Christians groups. He only wants speech that agrees with him and he wants to sue anyone who doesn’t. I don’t believe he understands the powers of the office of president at all. As far a flag burning, it’s better to burn a flag then the whole country or the people in it that you don’t agree with.

    Reply

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