Saturday, July 01, 2006

Our Senate and the Flag

This week, the United States Senate came from within one vote of kicking into overdrive the process to amend the U.S. Constitution to outlaw something that is not a problem in our society: flagburing. Amazing! In the 1970s, women all over our country were being denied equal rights in the workplace and everywhere else and yet, the Equal Rights Amendment could never get passed. H. Ross Perot unsuccessfully ran for president in 1992 partly on a platform of advocating for a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution which would prohibit deficit spending by the U. S. government. He got nowhere! And, now our Senate, if it had had one more vote, would have probably initiated an amendment to change the 200 plus year old Constitution to outlaw something that most of us have never witnessed! All I can say is these Senators are terrified to stand up for what it right and are cynically using our flag to play politics in the face of the upcoming November election. Shameful! And, as a Democrat, I am even angrier at the 14 Senators from my own party who voted for the Amendment.

Dennis Rogers, a columnist for the Raleigh News and Observer had a great column on this issue this week. I will include it below:

Dennis Rogers, Staff Writer
There comes a moment in every military funeral when the emotions are almost too much to bear. For many, it begins when pallbearers gently lift the American flag from the casket.
It is a choreographed display of military tradition and respect. Time seems to stand still as stoic young soldiers slowly and reverently fold the flag.
There must be no wrinkles or creases in this, the last flag. At the end, when the flag has been folded exactly 13 times, there must only be a constellation of clean white stars showing on a field of bright blue.
The senior officer cradles the flag gently against his chest as he steps forward to present it to the family. Then there is a final, lingering, farewell salute. Often the only sound is weeping.
Seven times this year I have witnessed this painfully beautiful ballet. Seven times I have watched as broken-hearted wives or parents, with trembling hands, took the flag. They almost always clutch it to their heart, as if it is the last embrace of the young son, daughter or husband they sent off to war.
America's respect for our flag is heartfelt. That's why it's so sad to see politicians exploit that love for their political gain.
Just as surely as mosquitoes arrive in time for Fourth of July celebrations, so does the annual attack on the Bill of Rights. Last night, the Senate narrowly defeated yet another proposed constitutional amendment to give Congress the authority to outlaw desecration of the American flag.
The amendment is aimed at those who would burn the flag as a form of protest. Sens. Richard Burr and Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina supported the measure. The House had already passed it.
Be honest now: When is the last time you saw someone burn an American flag?
That's what I thought. Once again, politicians are creating a problem that doesn't exist so they can score political points by solving it. By forcing a vote on the proposed amendment, they hope to embarrass those with the courage to stand against it.
The Supreme Court has said for more than 15 years that flag burning, however irritating, is protected by the Bill of Rights. So, says Congress, let's change the document that has guaranteed freedom for two centuries.
The flag is not in jeopardy. There has been no rash of flag-burnings -- but you can bet there will be, if this amendment passes. The only thing really at risk is Americans' right to express what they think.
You can callously use a flag to draw customers to your used-car lot. You can drape it around your sweaty shoulders when, stoked on steroids, you win a sporting event. You can print it on a beach towel and sit on it.
But burn an American flag because you're mad at your senator and have chosen a dramatic way to make your point -- the very essence of political speech -- and some politicians want to put you in jail. It's not what you do, it's what you think that bothers them.
More than 2,500 American service members have been killed in the past three years. Perhaps if lawmakers spent more time at their funerals and less time creating straw enemies, they would know these Americans are more important than a flag made in a Chinese factory.
If politicians want to protect our real symbols of freedom, they can start with soldiers being sent into harm's way.Dennis Rogers can be reached at 829-4750 or

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