The main US law that defines the rights and obligations of Americans is the American Constitution endowed with the supreme legal force. This document controls and regulates the action of the fundamental laws of the state. Since the US Constitution was adopted, the Congress of the country has received a number of projects for its amendment. Despite a large number of proposed draft amendments, most of them were rejected. From the variety of the proposed changes, only the 33 amendments were implemented, and five of them have not been ratified by the several states of the country (Collins and Chaltain 30). The American Constitution has existed for over 200 years, and during this time, it has only been slightly changed, notwithstanding the fact that the country has enriched its territory. This paper examines one of the proposed amendments and analyzes different aspects of it regarding the possible issues if the modification is adopted.
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One of the latest proposals is dated July 30, 2015, and it is S.J.Res. 21: “A joint resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States authorizing the Congress to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States” (Vitter 1). It has been sponsored by the Republican David Vitter (Senior Senator from Louisiana) and referred to the congressional committee on the same date. After the committee reviews it, it will be further sent to the House or the Senate. The amendment refers to the national flag desecration as the intentional destruction or damage to the flag (Vitter 1). Such actions may have a protest character and be linked to the behavior that affronts the country’s national symbols. In addition, the flag is a symbol of power, and insulting behavior towards it may be regarded as disrespect to the authority.
It should be noted that in some countries, the desecration of the flag is recognized as a crime. For instance, in Russia, the desecration of the flag is prosecuted, but it applies only to the Russian flag meanwhile, the behavior of the citizens in relation to the foreign flag is neither limited nor penalized in any way (Collins and Chaltain 254). In addition, there are no restrictions with respect to this element of national symbolism for the citizens of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, but inappropriate behavior towards foreign flags is banned in these countries.
It is worth mentioning that the national flag is one of the most important national symbols for Americans, along with the national anthem, which is honored and respected. However, the media highlights cases when the US citizens show disrespect to the flag, for example, activists, protesters, and even schoolchildren throw the flag on the ground and trample it underfoot (Collins and Chaltain 254). The press covered cases when residents burned the flag in their yards and uploaded photos of the process in their social accounts, which further resulted in judicial or police proceedings and provoked a response in the society. Many human rights activists believe that it was a radical way in which the dissatisfied Americans were trying to reach out to the authorities. However, in American society, the national flag is a very crucial element of history and national identity. For example, soldiers carry the flag-raising ceremony in the framework of important events; thus, the citizens often perceive the disrespectful treatment of this national symbol as a personal offense. In this regard, during several decades, many amendments to the Constitution were proposed that would protect the integrity of the American flag. Nevertheless, none of them has been approved so far.
On the one hand, I agree with those who would vote for the amendment protecting the national flag. Unique national denomination indicates the unity of the American people and denotes the authority, which is why it should be merited and defended accordingly. It is a symbol of self-identification, pride, and the country as one. On the other hand, I agree that the Constitution secures freedom of speech for people, and they may express their attitude in different ways. Nonetheless, the discretion of the flag is rather an action than speaking. Consequently, it is a controversial question whether the destruction or burning of the flag can be referred to as an act of speech expression. Moreover, the word discretion implies that the matter is sacrosanct and holy; however, the flag does not have any spiritual meaning. Thus, it can be stated the flag itself cannot be desecrated.
In conclusion, in 1988, the US Supreme Court ruled that in accordance with the country’s Constitution, the desecration of the American flag should be perceived as a manifestation of freedom of expression (Collins and Chaltain 358). Yet, for many people, this form of protest is unacceptable. In different states, there were cases when activists who dared to trample and burned the American flag lost their jobs. It should be noted that though the Old Glory is a symbol of the country, it is not the essence of America with its guaranteed freedoms. Thus, the proposed amendment would not guarantee any change in the minds of the American citizens and would not improve the overall situation in the country.
Collins, Ronald, and Sam Chaltain. We Must Not Be Afraid to Be Free, New York: Oxford University Press, 2011. Print.
Vitter, David. S. J. Res. 21 Joint Resolution 2015. Web.