The 4th of July is for burning things, right?

US flag burningIt's gonna be awful tempting to burn a few American flags this year, while I still can. You can get them so cheap...and they burn so good!

On the other hand, maybe it will be more fun once its illegal - hell, most things are.

On the third hand, perhaps it's the period when it's clear that the idiotic amendment is going to pass, but before it takes effect, that is most rife with opportunity. My entrepreneurial mind swims with opportunities to make a buck helping out my fellow free and independent spirits. You know, the folks who will do something just because someone tried to forbid it for a dumb reason. I could be the one-stop desecration dispensary - American flag trash bags, duraflame logs, toilet paper, and tampons.

That last and most tasteless suggestion indicates the tricky issue of exactly what a flag is. The ugly poppy pod, grown for ornamental purposes all around the country, is ambiguously legal until the moment I grind it and soak it in hot water, at which point it becomes Schedule II substance code 9670. Well, what if a stripe or a star is missing from a so-called flag? Or how about a whole color? A tampon sold in a blue and white flag-like pattern might not really count as a flag - until the user adds red.

Juvenile joking aside, there is a real point here about the uselessness of this useless amendment. Let's consider two possibilities for how the resulting laws are interpreted, either (a) small changes in design make an object not a flag, or (b) small changes don't change its symbolic nature.

In (a), people can desecrate giant objects that are almost exactly flag-like with impunity. Over webcasts, live on TV, they can burn them, boil them, piss on them, shit on them, whatever. These objects make people react emotionally the same way, they have the same symbolic significance, so the law has really accomplished nothing. People are still making the same statements and protests in essentially the same way.

In (b), we are really prosecuting an attack on the symbol. Yet there are an infinite variety of ways to indicate the symbol, to stretch the envelope of what is permitted, so in order to actually stop such desecration, we must almost become thought police. Texts like this very article you're reading, delightfully conjuring up vivid images of bloody flag tampons, are pretty serious symbolic attacks. You can either reach new heights of fascism by banning them, or you can allow them, and hence not actually accomplish your goal.

Either way, the law doesn't do one tiny burning flaglet of good - except to make some dough for my future store. I'm a clever and creative guy, and no matter what the interpretation of "flag", I'm sure I can find something in the grey area. Hell, I can sell the illegal stuff too - but it'll ship from Canada. Land of the Free indeed.

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Though one has to wonder

Though one has to wonder what there is to be gained in doing something with the specific intention of offending somebody.

Yes but this could be the

Yes but this could be the first step towards the dream of all us libertarians: Spontaneous private law. Right now the government protects flag burners from the righteous indignation of the citizens. For example, laws against assault and battery, etc, but with this new amendment the rights of your customers would be preserved and in the case of citizens rights even expanded. You could even sell them special ass whipping sticks.

hey, no beating up my

hey, no beating up my customers! That's bad for industry growth.

I disagree with the

I disagree with the amendment. I submit the following substitute amendment.

Congress shall enact legislation to protect the right of the citizens to whip the ass of anyone caught physically desecrating the Flag of the United States

Burning something in effigy

Burning something in effigy (like a 49 star flag) is not burning a national symbol. Those symbols are canonized in a certain form. Anything else is a representation that while potentially offensive, isn't desecration.

So light up. I would, but fireworks are much more fun.