When I consider all the news stories to which I pay little or no attention, this despite the fact that I claim to “keep up with the news,” I can understand why so many people accept Twitter as the voice of God, and view Facebook as just a logical addendum to the Qur’an, the Talmud, the Bible, the Vedas, etc.
Yesterday when minority President-elect Trump tweeted that flag-burners should be expatriated, he was of course displaying once again his complete ignorance of the Constitution. That this man would defend the Second Amendment to the death and so readily trample on the First is comical, but it’s also frightening. And it goes to a much larger issue—a world issue that comprises several other similarly disturbing events.
1. François Fillon’s center-right party in France recently won a primary over a more moderate candidate and now appears ready to confront Marine Le Pen, already president of the National Front, a far-right faction advocating a return to glory. It’s unclear if she means the glory days when France surrendered to Germany in 1940 or when the allies liberated the country later in the war. Either way, lots of people died in that glory: over 200,000 French soldiers, but Ms. Le Pen wants to make France great again! (It’ll look nice on a beret.) When Trump won the election she tweeted “Congratulations to the new President of the US, Donald Trump, and the American people – free!” Her father, not to be outdone added “Today, the United States, tomorrow, France. Bravo!”
2. Among other oddities, Le Pen is okay with kissing up to Vladimir Putin. She’s not alone: throughout Europe there has been a drift toward the acceptance of Putin’s method and philosophy. He is being viewed by many as possessing the kind of nationalist spirit that the EU has drained from the continent—the symbol of conservative values who opposes gay marriage, immigration, and Islam. We thought Donald Trump was the outlier with his Putin admiration, but he was ahead of the curve, whatever you may think of it.
How does all this tie into that asinine flag burning tweet?
The first right that someone like Putin or Trump would like to squelch is freedom of expression, and flag burning is such a right—defensible as a protest in the same manner as American “patriots” burning the Qur’an after 9/11, or draft-age boys in the sixties burning their Selective Service cards. You can do it and still live here.
But please don’t.
A tweet like Trump’s threatening expatriation indicates such ignorance that it will disgust people even more. Their anger will effect more protests…which will result in more flag burnings…which will result in more inflammatory tweets and a dogwhistle-to-arms aimed at every gun-toting dimwit. Then the violence…and the National Guard…and emergency powers to restore order. When it’s over we’ll have one less freedom to defend.
We anti-Trump people are going to lose a lot of battles in the coming months—freedom of speech does not have to be one of them. Feel like protesting? Wave the flag at your next sit-in or street march or impromptu seminar. After all, it does symbolize the country you’re trying to protect from authoritarian rule, doesn’t it? Seems that not setting fire to it is a small price to pay.