Last week, the House of Representatives approved a constitutional amendment that would allow Congress to ban the burning and desecration of the American flag. The measure, however, is expected to fail in the Senate.
"The American flag is not just a piece of cloth," Rep. Joe Knollenberg, a Michigan Republican, said. "It is a symbol that reflects the values, the struggles and the storied history of our great country."
But as well-intentioned as Mr. Knollenberg and the 304 other representatives who voted to amend the Constitution may be, they seem to have lost sight of the principals that forged this nation.
When the framers of the Constitution met to draft the blueprint for our government, it was freedom of speech, our First Amendment, that sprang immediately to mind. They knew their fledgling Democracy would wither and corrupt without vigorous, open debate. In our country's 223-year history, that amendment has never been tampered with.
When someone burns an American flag, it stirs debate -- a right we enjoy because we live in a country that protects free speech, and a right that gives us the freedom to publicly condemn people who burn American flags.
Flag burning, as distasteful as it is, forces people to re-examine what the flag means, or doesn't mean, to them. And it is, after all, the meaning we assign to our icons, not the icons themselves, that gives them value.
If our principals of freedom do not apply to our most sacred symbols -- the American flag, the Statue of Liberty, the Constitution on which these lofty ideals were set down -- then what are our convictions as a country really worth?
Those who would hold the treasured symbols of our personal freedoms above and apart from the freedoms they represent would eventually have us all bound by the chains of tyranny.
Let us not forget why our founding fathers rose up in 1775 against England and laid down their lives in that bloody battle for independence that we will celebrate Sunday.
They fought for the right to self-determination, and they fought for the right to protest against oppression by the state without fear of retribution.
They dumped tea. They might even have burned flags.