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9.11 investigation | imperialism & war | political theory

House Passes Bill Banninng Flag Burning

The US House of Representatives approved a constitutional ammendment today, giving congress the power to ban the desecration of the flag. Currently, the bill has a distinct chance of passing the Senate as well, due to the republican gain in the last election. It then would move to states for ratification within the next seven years, and would permanently amend the US constitution.
"Ask the men and women who stood on top of the Trade Center," remarked Rep. Randy Cunningham, (R-Calif.) "Ask them and they will tell you: pass this amendment."

The basis of the sentiments behind this bill are the same sentiments that justify the destruction of civil liberties in favor of "security" and the overt racism of imperialist war in the name of "regime change for democracy". We are living in a time of intense propaganda, where words and other symbols have taken on more and more power and (often illusory) meaning in the interest of centralizing power for the Bush administration and its corporate allies. One still very potent symbol is that of 9-11. It is no accident that Rep. Cunningham used it, invoking fear, to sell this anti-flag burning amendment. 9-11 is spoken of with reverence only, because to investigate the event as a complex and military event is to open the door to a discussion of US imperialism and as Ward Churchill has termed, "roosting chickens".
Do you remember the intense fervor with which the symbol of the US flag was tied to the symbol of the event of 9-11, how every American was expected to display a flag at the front door, and politicians donned little pins and ribbons to display their "patriotism"? This was a genius move by whichever political thinktank designed it. For not only did the flag become a method of intense social control (fostering racism, xenophobia, and anti-muslim violence) but it came to define "American" as a specific brand of Bush loving, rightwing fundamentalist, "morally" militaristic, manifest destiny bullshit that was forced down the throats of everyone who didn't take to it willingly.
Those who oppose any of this have become illegitimate "Americans" or even "un- American". The flag has been a sugar-coated pill of facism, introducing and controlling the public mind into compliance using a familiar face to mask intentions that are ugly.
So what do people do when symbols are fostering their oppression? Perhaps they should fight back. Flag burning has gotten pretty popular, expressing that many people see the flag as ALREADY desicrated, soaked in blood and greed, and that it is cleansing to destroy the symbol.
Other dissenters have argued in favor of "reclaiming the flag". During the house proceedings, Rep. Jerrold Nadler said, "If the flag needs protection at all, it needs protection from members of Congress who value the symbol more than the freedoms that the flag represents." While he is arguing for free speech, he is reaffirming the power of the flag. He does not seem to see that the flag in his head (perhaps the one he pledged alliegence to in school)is not and never has been pure sugar coating. It is, and always has been the vehicle for social norms that have committed genocide countless times, mass produce poverty, stripped the earth of vital resources, and created the most imperialist nation on the face of the planet.
The current amendment reads "the congress shall have the power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States." This current anti-flag burning bill is in direct confrontation with the 1989 Supreme Court Decision that ruled that flag burning is protected under our constitutional right to free speech. The 1989 court decision came out of the context of the Vietnam War and resistance to the draft. The resistance was strong enough that it threw a wrench in the politics of drafting military "recruits", and also pushed the supreme court into upholding free speech. Since 9-11, resistance to the Federal Government's activities has been dismantled piece by piece, and we stand in the midst of losing whatever protections have been made by reformist struggles in the past.

Where is our resistance now? Are reformist pursuits futile now that the faction in power has defined the structures, symbols and language of our culture into a totalitarian monologue? What are our options, and who will burn the flag after it is banned? Who will resist a draft if it is levied soon? Does anyone even care about more than their own coveted symbols anymore? Has reality gone out the window? I'd like a moment of silence in remembrance of all the kids starving, people bleeding to death, dying of corporate pollution diseases, and dispalced off their homelands by US interests who exist in the world RIGHT NOW. It's high time to remember that these symbols that bind us and in many cases blind us are worthless in comparison to real, actual, breathing life. It's time to fight for what counts.

The amendment is H.J. Res 10.
burn it 22.Jun.2005 14:02

theresa mitchell

Ain't life funny, I just got off the bus after talking to a man who was last seen on national television burning a flag--to protest US direction of the Contra war.

I'm thinking of a public flag-burning to protest the imperial war--but with a twist: it would be pumped up as a big thing, I could bring big flags, then whip out a tiny birthday-cake flag and burn that. Heh.

why burn it, the american flag stands for nothing 22.Jun.2005 15:34


burn the yellow ribbons instead
the real american flag that you can burn
the real american flag that you can burn

The flag is just a rag! 22.Jun.2005 16:22


"The Flag Desecration Rag"
---David Rovics

They tried to pass an amendment in the U.S. Congress
Seems these thugs have some grievance to redress
They said we all must pledge allegiance, 'cause that is what they need
We may not desecrate their symbol of hypocrisy and greed

But the flag is just a rag (2x)
Just a worn-out, tired, dirty, blood-soaked rag

Pledge allegiance to the symbol, well how about the deed
Allegiance to democracy or blind authority
It's a flag of war from L.A. to Vietnam
It desecrates itself each time the Air Force drops a bomb

But the flag is just a rag (2x)
Just a worn-out, tired, dirty, blood-soaked rag

Like they say in Mexico*, "Yankee Go Home"
Uncle Sam and his club thinks the world's there to roam
And to make the point well they do the traditional thing
Light a match and let freedom ring

But the flag is just a rag (2x)
Just a worn-out, tired, dirty, blood-soaked rag

So burn it, stomp it, tear it up or at least hang it upside-down
Tie it to your foot and drag it on the ground
Let everybody know how many lives are gone
'Cause of idiots who said, "My country right or wrong"

But the flag is just a rag (2x)
Just a worn-out, tired, dirty, blood-soaked rag

One incident last year 22.Jun.2005 16:33

Brian the Green

I heard on the news that there was one flag burning incident in the entire US last year. I'm sure glad Congress is working hard on this meaningless piece of political shit. I have some Red, White and Blue rolling papers and I think I'm going to go smoke a fat one and burn old glory!

Witness 22.Jun.2005 18:36


If the news reported only one flag burning incident, they are wrong and not where the protest action is. I was witness to numerous flag burning incidents in the last year. I, myself, will not create "violence," but how can some protesters state disapproval? Burning the flag is satisfactory for them.

I dislike what America has become, and I will NEVER even hold an American flag. We are corrupt and a shame to the world.

I do not want a flag amendment to stop the burning practice, and we are in trouble, people.

This is only a Distraction 22.Jun.2005 19:05

impeach Bush & Cheney

Congress approval rating in latest poll 17%. Most people believe Congress works for someone other than them. Now with the latest pretend legislation it will be confirmed for all to see. When this silly bit of buffoonary gets to the State legislatures where real people legislate it will die a quiet death. All the while Bush and company needs to be arrested and tried for crimes against humanity. Congress is irrelevant when real problems need real solutions. Flag burning amendment, what a JOKE!

why 22.Jun.2005 19:37

enquiring mind

... is it not OK to burn a flag but it's just fine & dandy to print flags on chairs that people put their butts on (saw one last week) and thong undies sold at Meier and Frank? Grosses me out! If we're going to respect it let's go all the way-no flag merchandise at all. Fucking hypocrites

Do not give in to a dirty past 23.Jun.2005 00:24


There's been much discussion on this site about the U.S. flag and it's signifcance. Information and research about it can be interpreted different ways I suppose. It's my personal choice to regard the flag as an honorable symbol of rights and liberties of the highest ideals unique to this country that belong to all of us.

That's why it amazes me that passionate young activists seem willing to allow corrupt individuals to co-opt this symbol. Corrupt individuals in politics, economics, and the military, just to cite a few sources, for years, have brandished the flag, exploiting and dishonoring its integrity as they devised to profit personally with little regard for the integrity of the flag or nation that uses it as its symbol.

I would hope activists have in mind to restore the original ideals the flag symbolizes, rather than let the people who've destroyed it's honor in the eyes of the world continue to do so. If burning the flag is required in order to do this, that is not desecration, but don't let devious forces trick you into cancelling your right to this symbol and its role as a symbol of the honorable sacrifice untold citizens have made for the goal of freedom, liberty and equality of all.

Spirit is in the Heart not the cloth 23.Jun.2005 01:46

Ben Waiting

burn it if you want dont if you dont want to

do it within your full rights like today, or do it and get arrested under stupid new Bush Laws tomorrow

This country under is pratically burning its whole constitution not just a few flags.

I personally dont need to burn the flag or want to but I know it should be considered as: right to free speech which I support with all my vested rights and freedoms and demand it be protected. Usually this bill dead ends with truth prevailing.

If not or if so there is seriously other important issues going on that compare to this issue like life-and-death ...heck it represents alot yes ...but its just a cloth too.

Red, White And Blue Bonfires 23.Jun.2005 06:17


I know for a fact that more than one flag was burned in the past year, regardless we should have a bonfire of flags to ramp up those figures. One flag at a time isn't enough to show my disdain anymore, let's burn a few hundred flags at one single event. Preferably stolen flags.

DISTRACTION ALERT !! 23.Jun.2005 10:39

a watcher

When the house is burning, it a bad idea to argue aboout the drapery.

That's what this is, another useless waste of time and money by the 'fiscally conservative' reactionary right-wing of the Republican Party.

In fact the protester in the street burning a flag [any flag] give it more respect and authority of symbol the rube that hangs a tattered rag off the back of his manure truck.

By the way - I, personally, oppose the act for a couple of reasons. 1) it gives the fascists footage to fire up their mouth-breathing minions on FAUXNews, and, 2) it stinks! Most modern easily obtainable flags are made of polyester or some other similar petrochemical based material, creating a putrid smoke.

If you MUST perform such a display, at least find a natural fiber flag, it burns better and doesn't exfixiate bystanders.

RE: Distraction Alert 23.Jun.2005 11:01


Isn't everything congress does a distraction? I mean I haven't been watching everyday, but I don't remember them debating a bill to feed or house the poor, or give healthcare to those who aren't priviledged enough to afford it. Really I can't recall the state doing anything that isn't just a big charade.

Very sad 24.Jun.2005 00:54


What worries me even more than the obvious attack on 1st amendment free speech is the fact that the media talking heads are saying that Democratic Senators will be pressured to vote for this amendment because they have to think about re-election in 2006 and beyond. And "supposedly" the majority of Americans support this amendment. In other words: Getting re-elected seems to have more weight than defending free speech and the constitution.