As a conservative-leaning libertarian, I usually say stuff that makes my friends on the left cringe. But because I am a strict Constitutionalist, I will also occasionally say a thing or two that rankles my friends on the right side of the political spectrum. Such was the case this week when Donald Trump sent out his latest controversial Tweet.
To recap, the President-Elect decried the practice of flag-burning. Specifically, he said no one should be allowed to do such a thing. He went on to suggest possible penalties, including a year in jail and/or loss of citizenship! Wow! That would place the penalties at around the same severity as involuntary manslaughter.
While Mr. Trump is most certainly entitled to his opinion on the matter, we are also entitled to disagree. But this is not like Joe Blow at the Goodyear plant having an opinion. In a few weeks, the man who holds this unconstitutional opinion will be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States of America. His opinion could become policy far more quickly than could ours. That is why is it incumbent upon us to make sure those opinions are in line with the law of the land.
I should not have to repeat myself on this, but I will. I despise flag-burning. I detest those who do it. It is a cowardly and uninspired form of speech that is not designed to heighten awareness or discussion. It’s only aim is to shock and offend. Lord knows we already have ample opportunities to be shocked and offended in this country…we don’t need any more.
That having been said, burning a flag is nothing more than an expression. Yes, it is an expression that I vehemently disagree with. Yes, I get pissed when I see others doing it. But so what? The laws of this great land are not designed to spare our feelings. We do not have in inalienable right to NOT be offended.
Think about it like this. We (correctly) make fun of college students who act out when their feelings are hurt. We mock them when they call for measures to stop the expressions that are upsetting them so much. We point out the folly of trying to silence expressions they disagree with, for no other reason than that they disagree. How is this any different?
Over the past couple of days I have read and debated dissenting opinions from people I greatly respect. I *get it.* I understand all too well the emotions that burst inside of you when you see a miscreant use the very liberty that the flag symbolizes as a shield while they burn that flag. It makes my blood boil. I get similar feelings when I see a Klan rally…or a Nazi gathering…or the intentionally-provocative signs paraded by the execrable members of Westboro Baptist Church.
But if we outlaw an expression solely because of the feelings it stirs inside of us—what will prevent the current college snowflakes from using a similar justification for banning activities in the future which upset THEIR sensibilities?
Part of being free is the freedom to be stupid. One of the great benefits of a free society is that it allows you to identify the idiots more easily. Under a totalitarian regime, we can only guess.