Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The Anti-Flag Burning Amendment Is Dead

The proposed amendment to make flag burning a crime died in the Senate today, falling one vote short of the number needed to send it to the states for ratification.

Rick Moran of Rightwing Nuthouse wrote eloquently, before the news of the amendment's defeat came out, on why he opposes the amendment.

I understand that many of my conservative friends -- and even Arlen Specter, the hypocritical bastard -- are in favor of the proposed amendment that the Senate will start debating today on criminalizing the burning of the American flag.

But in a nation born of dissent, it seems to me that passing an amendment that would contradict one of the main things the flag represents is not only wrong but does an injustice to those who fought and died to protect it.

I know I'll get a lot of flack for that last statement. But how meaningful can a heroes' death be if we place a limit on what he died for? Must we also pass an amendment saying that this religion or that religion is outlawed? Should we amend the Constitution to prevent the New York Times from publishing all secrets? Perhaps we should have an amendment that outlaws lobbying? Or that limits demonstrations against the government?

We'd never think of amending the Constitution for any of those things. Even the New York Times, arrogant and self righteous though they may be, must be allowed to decide whether or not to publish information that may harm national security. We don't like it. We believe they did it because, at bottom, they disagree with the government's contention that we are at war and that publishing secrets gives aid and comfort to the enemy. But in the end, they must not be prevented from making their own judgments in such matters because to limit their decision making also puts prior restraint on their ability to publish. That is de facto censorship and cannot be allowed in a free society.

Given how openly many Republicans these days advocate filing criminal charges against newspapers, like the New York Times, that don't allow the government to tell them what to print; and given the fact that the Times is being labeled "traitorous" by most right-wing bloggers for doing what journalists are supposed to do, it's a relief to find that at least one right-winger can separate his belief that the Times should not have published the article from the idea that the media should retain the right to make such judgments.

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