Symbolic Speech

Flag Burning should be considered as a “symbolic speech,” to encourage and motivate us, as Americans, to take pride in our freedom and not hesitate in expressing our opinion without any restrictions. Our forefathers established this land for one reason; freedom. Through individual demonstrations as well as many individuals gathering together to burn the flag is a representation of the freedom in which America is built upon.The First Amendment of the United States Constitution allows all the people the right to freely express and demonstrate their thoughts and beliefs even if it means taking a stand against the government. In the 1989 case of Texas v. Johnson, Gregory Lee Johnson was convicted of burning the flag in public, while protesting, which was a violation against Texas State law.

According to what U.S. Justice Brennan stated, when appealing to the Court, Johnson was participating in a march, against the policies of the Reagan Administration and some of the corporations in Dallas, Texas during the Republican National Convention. While marching down the street, a flag was offered to him by a fellow protester, and as way of expressing his disapproval to the administration’s and corporations’ policies, he lighted the flag into flames. Johnson’s display of burning the flag did not physically harm or physically endanger any individuals or was it initially an attempt to purposely offend anyone. The Court of Criminal Appeals, upon Johnson’s actions, concluded that what he did was simply an act in which the First Amendment in the U.S Bill of Rights protects and supports.

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U.S. Justice Brennan stated Johnson’s actions were clearly a harmless effort to display hisopinion in opposition to the issues involving the Reagan Administration and the Dallas corporations. Through burning of the flag, Johnson demonstrated bravery in taking a stand for what he believed in and showed the power and privileges of what being an American citizen is all about.

According to Marc Perkel, in “Flag Burning is our Patriotic Duty,” individuals, who are true patriots, use flag burning as a way of confronting the government of its wrong doings and voice the opinions of the people. As Martina Bexte writes in her article, “The Vietnam War Protests,” young adults in the United States burned the flag as a symbol of rebelling against the choices President Nixon was making in handling the Vietnam War in the 1960’s. Because of the shortage of volunteers to serve in the army, many young men were drafted into the war. They were not happy about this, and they protested against the drafts. Thus, according to Bexte, Anti-war movements were formed and in addition to striking against the drafts. People also went against bombing innocent villages and killing innocent people in Vietnam. The protesters, representing the citizens and the principle of a free America, held non-violent, anti-war rallies, concerts, speeches, and marched through the streets as well as burning the flag. Protesters of the Vietnam War took action in displaying their beliefs.

Burning the flag challenged the choices made by the government, which proved that they were deeply concerned for the freedom and justice of the people. Flag Burning had a greater impact on influencing people compared to just expressing them in words. They expressed that the people should have the greater impact when making decisions in America. In other words, flag burning was a way of showing the government thedisapproval of the people. Vietnam War protesters took responsibility as Americans to demonstrate that the people of the nation should be the decision makers in the government.

The flag is simply a piece of cloth. It does not represent freedom or justice when it is just in its physical state. Although the flag work as a tool to help people differentiate our country from other countries (a good example of this would be in the Olympics), it does not necessarily represent the principles America stands for. There are many other symbolic materials that can take in the place of the flag, such as the Statue of Liberty, or even the White House.

Burning the flag can be compared to people throwing bottles in a baseball game. The fans that really care for the game go to the extreme in protesting against the referee because they care about the game. Throwing things into the field does not mean that they do not like baseball. They are just expressing their opinion and those types of people are more likely to come back for another game.

Just like going against the umpire’s call, flag burning is a way for people to make notice of their disagreements to the government. People become offended when they observe burning of the flag because they emotionally accept the flag as a symbol of all the principles in which America stands for. The more we psychologically accept the flag to possess such symbolic meaning, the more we believe that burning the flag is disrespecting the nation.

Burning the flag merely represents opposition or rebellion of certain actions taken by the government; it does not mean we want to destroy the symbolic meaning it can portray of our nation.The flag is simply a flag and throughout history, citizens of this countryhave been demonstrating the burning of the flag to promote the primary principal of our nation – freedom. Their devotion and loyalty to out country led them to protesting and in doing so, has encouraged us to take a stand for what we believe in. If flag burning wasnot allowed, this country would be contradicting its freedom.

Displays of burning the flag should be an open option to express one’s beliefs in the United States; after all, we do live in a free country.