Burning Gods: Fear and Free Speech in America
By Carol Roper
What do you think of flag-burners? Of those who feel so much hatred for the United States that they feel compelled to burn, publicly, the symbol of our unity? Sometimes it makes me really quite angry, other times, it simply makes me sad. As an American, I love my country. And, despite the growing political takeover of those who would suppress everything but the Christian outlook, I do still feel this is MY country, too.
One of the things I love about my country is my ability to disagree - with as much or as little as I like, about how our government is handling things. I have the right to say what I please... and that right is based squarely in our Constitution.
That right, then, is also afforded to everyone else, be they Christian, Arab, Jew, Buddhist or atheist. Be they left wing liberals or right wing Ku Klux Klanners. And so, that right goes to those who would burn our flag as a political statement. I find it offensive and hurtful... but not nearly as offensive and hurtful as seeing the KKK marching to proclaim hatred and bigotry!
So why does our legislature now think that they must pass a law banning one's right to burn a flag?
From the news release of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State:
This afternoon, after several hours of debate, the House voted 286 - 130 in favor of H.J. Res.10, which proposes an amendment to the Constitution allowing Congress "to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States."For some reason, the House seems hell-bent on turning this into a religious issue. It is NOT. Our flag, precious to us as it is, is only a flag. It is NOT a god, nor even an attribute of a god! It's an important symbol to us, most certainly, but it is NOT sacred. It is NOT a religious symbol... Seven times the House has tried to get this absurdity made law, but so far, the Senate has had the Constitutional sense to vote it down.
Now, however, the religious right has garnered the money and power to scare the bejesus out of our elected officials. Suddenly, they all have 'got religion'. The mob mentality of religious fervor scares them, as it should. It scares me... for I am an atheist, and as such, have already been subjected to harassment, disdain and exclusion -- simply because I believe in ONE LESS god than the Christians. That, somehow to them, makes me an immoral, evil person. My children have been told to run away from my home by fundamentalist Christian parents. Their children have been taught to taunt mine with curses of eternal damnation. And we fly the United States flag with pride and honor...
What will happen as all our freedoms are slowly taken away... why are we not able to, as a country, see what's happening today - the greater picture expressed in such proposals as making it illegal to burn a US flag? Do our legislators think that making it illegal will stop the burning of flags - US or any other? And, what other way will these flag-burning protesters choose to make their feelings known if they do abide by such a law? The cure may kill us.
What comes next? Shouldn't we be thinking about how to better uphold the ideals of our forefathers - of having a country which welcomes all?
I, for one, believe that we should be seeking ways to improve inclusion. To keep everyones' freedoms. Even the KKK. Even the flag burners. And even atheists!
Carol Roper is an artist, writer & designer, wife and mother of two, and a fervent advocate of TRUE equal rights for all.
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