The Instigator
Khaz
Con (against)
Losing
1 Points
The Contender
MrPhobos141
Pro (for)
Winning
2 Points

Should burning or otherwise desecrating a flag be illegal?

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 1 vote the winner is...
MrPhobos141
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 5/30/2016 Category: Politics
Updated: 8 months ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 580 times Debate No: 92033
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (10)
Votes (1)

 

Khaz

Con

Title says it all. I'm looking to discuss this topic with anyone who believes that burning of flags (specifically the American flag, since I am an American) should be illegal. Feel free to share reasoning, caveats, and even potential punishments for your position.Thanks in advance, and I look forward to this discussion.
MrPhobos141

Pro

I do not believe that it is right for someone because they are not happy to have the right to desecrate the US flag. The flag is so much more than a cloth. It is a symbol of hope, freedom, and belief in a system that has single handedly been responsible for the modern world of today. Millions of men and women in the field of combat has died for this flag and the belief that the world could be a better place. By burning the flag they are basically saying they do not want to be the USA and that the sacrifices made by the armed forces of this nations military throughout all of our recorded history, from the patriots at Valley Forge, to the soldiers storming Omaha beach in Normandy, essentially are irrelevant to them and that their sacrifice so that these people have the right to protest is lost upon them as they are single handedly telling these veterans and soldiers to essentially that what they have sacrificed does not affect them and their lives one bit. It is of the highest form of disrespect and offense to these people and the people who gave everything so they can complain about the fact they aren't being heard appropriately in the government. Instead of burning the flag why don't they actually try and fix it, instead of pissing off millions of Americans who have bled for the flag and would like nothing more than to quite frankly knock their teeth out for this act of utter disrespect.
Debate Round No. 1
Khaz

Con

Before I say anything, let me make it perfectly clear that I am not asking whether it is disrespectful or not. I think Pro and I can both agree that it is incredibly disrespectful. With that in mind, I stand by my resolution that it should be legal nonetheless, just like I believe many non-harmful acts of disrespect should remain legal, such as flipping people off, blowing raspberries, or direct insults.

I can agree, for the sake of argument, with all of the things that Pro says in his argument, which I believe can be summarized in this shortened quote: "By burning the flag they are basically saying ... that the sacrifices made by the armed forces of this nations military ... essentially are irrelevant to them..."

I think the biggest reason why this does not justify outlawing the act of desecrating a flag is in the first snippet, "By burning the flag, they are basically saying...," because it encapsulates my point. It is a form of protest, which is protected by the Constitution, and a form of speech (expression), which is also protected. The only restrictions that have been placed on free speech (as far as I know, and please correct me if I'm wrong), are "Shouting fire in a crowded theater," which came from the landmark Schenck v. United States case in 1919, which basically said that speech could be limited if it posed a direct threat to public safety; and the "Fighting words" clause, which has since been weakened to the point where, “White son of a b___, I’ll kill you,” “You son of a b___, I’ll choke you to death.” and “You son of a b___, if you ever put your hands on me again, I’ll cut you all to pieces," do not fall under the category.
(https://www.thefire.org...).

I would contend that desecrating a flag, given that it is done safely (for example, if burning, it could be done in a nonflammable location a safe distance from onlookers and any flammable material, just like fireworks), endangers no one. By banning things like this, the government sets an unsettling precedent of reserving the power to restrict people's rights to anything deemed widely offensive.

I also don't believe in the government's right to decide what you can and cannot do with your own property, given that your actions harm no one else.

Whereas the first amendment was originally drafted with the purpose of making it impossible to arrest people simply for criticizing the government, banning flag desecrating would do just that, as that is the reason many flag-burnings take place.

If I may suggest something (and this is my personal opinion), perhaps many of these offended veterans can try to see these flag-burnings as critcisms of the corrupt government, or the petty and wasteful wars that troops are sent to fight in by often corrupt government officials (which can be seen as honoring the troops instead of disrespecting them). In fact, some Vietnam vets agree with me (https://news.google.com...).

In a quote I strongly agree with, the ACLU director of Seattle in 1989 said, "Liberty needs protection, not its symbol."

I also found some great quotes from veterans on this page: (http://thinkprogress.org...)

“During my years of military and civilian service during the cold war, I believed I was working to uphold democracy against the totalitarianism of Soviet Communist expansionism. I did not believe then, nor do I believe now, that I was defending just a piece of geography, but a way of life. If this amendment becomes a part of our Constitution, this way of life will be diminished. America will be less free and more like the former Soviet Union, present-day China, Iraq under Saddam Hussein, or Afghanistan under the Taliban.”

“As offensive and painful as flag burning is to me, I still believe that those dissenting voices need to be heard…The freedom of expression, even when it hurts, is the truest test of our dedication to the belief that we have that right.”

as well as this one: (https://www.aclu.org...)

"As a Vietnam veteran who lives daily with the consequences of my service to my country, and as the son of a WWII combat veteran, and the grandson of a WWI combat veteran, I can attest to the fact that not all veterans indeed perhaps most veterans do not wish to exchange fought-for freedoms for protecting a tangible symbol of these freedoms. I oppose this amendment because it does not support the freedom of expression and the right to dissent."

Now, I still believe that veterans have a right to be offended by these displays, and on some level I feel it as well. But I do not believe that the rights of people to express offensive beliefs should be abridged simply for the fact that they are offensive.
MrPhobos141

Pro

There have always been bounds on free speech. The best known example is that it is illegal to shout `fire` in a crowded theater. It is also illegal to libel people with unproven allegations. How can one defend attacking the basis of our free speech, the flag, and accusing it of gross acts without proof? The flag stands for free speech and equality of men. It is a symbol, and as such can never be wrong. To burn it, then, is an act of libel - one is libeling universal truths, rights and principles with terrible actions. That flag can never commit these acts - it is impossible. Why don't they go instead and protest the government that made them want to protest in the first place. The flag does not affect in the least part the government or the actions of the government. The only reason a flag should be burned is if it is being retired by the US military. Burning the flag is akin to denouncing these values that are symbols of the country of their residence. You voice your disapproval of the government without burning the flag. The Flag represents the nation. Disrespect the the Flag and you disrespect the nation. If you do not like America, find a different country to live in because quite frankly they think differently (not a bad thing). The Flag was created by our Founding Fathers to represent the idea of limited government and liberty/revolution. But this argument goes beyond the American flag and instead it encompasses all national flags for each country. By this I mean that no countries citizens should burn their own flag. (ex. Egyptians don't burn their flag, Germans don't burn their flag, etc.) ((if they burn another countries it shouldn't matter and influence the foreign policy of the nation's flag being burned by it showing that countries people hate them)) Although I agree with you no one should have he right to interfere with another persons liberties of free speech. I mean if you were mad at say a political party would you burn a Donkey, Elephant, or a porcupine. The people's problem is with the government... Not the nation, and should be dealt with directly not through means that cause unnecessary conflict and possible violence.
Debate Round No. 2
Khaz

Con

How can one defend attacking the basis of our free speech, the flag,

The flag is not the basis of our free speech. That is the Constitution.

To burn it, then, is an act of libel - one is libeling universal truths, rights and principles with terrible actions

I don't see how burning the flag is accusing the flag of anything. As you said, the flag cannot commit any act at all. It is amoral and inanimate. People do not burn the flag to protest anything the flag, but things that people do. You cannot libel an amoral object. In no way does the libel law apply in this case.

Why don't they go instead and protest the government that made them want to protest in the first place.

To some people, this act of defiance is the protest. Whether you think it is a stupid way to go about it or not does not matter - Americans have the right to peaceful protest. As long as it's peaceful and follows other applicable laws (no doing so on people's private property, for example), flag burning (or other forms of desecration that we have neglected to mention) is and should be protected by law.

Burning the flag is akin to denouncing these values that are symbols of the country of their residence.

People are allowed to denounce these values if they so please.

You voice your disapproval of the government without burning the flag.

One could, yes, but the government doesn't get to choose how people protest (unless, of course, it puts the innocent public in harm's way).

The Flag was created by our Founding Fathers to represent the idea of limited government and liberty/revolution.

Whether this is strictly true (that the founding fathers created it), I can generally agree that the flag represents the ideals of America. This is part of the reason I don't believe desecrating it should be illegal; it seems counterproductive to expand the government's control over how one may express one's discontent in the name of limited government and liberty. It's hypocritical, in my opinion.


The people's problem is with the government... Not the nation, and should be dealt with directly not through means that cause unnecessary conflict and possible violence.


Again, I don't believe the government should decide how its citizens peacefully protest. Violence that erupts due to these cannot be blamed on the demonstrators unless they themselves throw the first punch. In many ways, this is like blaming the freedom riders for the reactions of pro-segregation southerners. In their time, what the freedom riders were doing was incredibly angering to many people, and they did it knowing there was a large chance that violence would be the response. But was it their fault for going through with it anyway, or the counter-protestors' for actually beginning the fight?

No, this isn't to compare the right of flag desecration to the desegregation of interstate public transportation in the 60s, but I do believe the principles are similar.

Finally, as I said before only briefly, I do not believe that the Constitution grants the government the right to decide what people do with their private property unless these actions endanger others. If a man wants to buy his own flag and demonstrate by stomping or spitting or even burning, why should the government be able to say he can't?
MrPhobos141

Pro

MrPhobos141 forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3
10 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Khaz 8 months ago
Khaz
Not really. Like I said, "otherwise desecrating" could also be stomping or spitting on a flag, or burning it in the improper way (like dousing it with gasoline and throwing it into a garbage can or something). In cases where intent is obvious, I'm asking if it should be illegal or not.
Posted by ButterCatX 8 months ago
ButterCatX
But where do we draw the line ate retiring or desecrating? It seems like people could be disrespectful and say that they are retiring the flag, it is hard to judge intent.
Posted by Khaz 8 months ago
Khaz
"Or otherwise desecrate," meaning out of protest, not retiring the flag. Another form of desecration could be stomping on a flag or spitting on it. The point is the same - should those acts of protest be legal?
Posted by ButterCatX 8 months ago
ButterCatX
The problem with anyone who chooses pro, is that it automatically shows that they are uneducated disrespectful people as burning of the american flag is the only way to retire it properly, so it isn't even a rude thing to do but respectful. And I would be p!ssed if I wasn't allowed to retire flags.
Posted by David_Debates 9 months ago
David_Debates
Alright, then I'm with you on this one. Interested to see your opponent's arguments.
Posted by Khaz 9 months ago
Khaz
@David_Debates, I should've probably been more clear. "Con" is just to say that my answer to the question posed in the title is negative. So, no, I do not think flag desecration should be illegal.
Posted by David_Debates 9 months ago
David_Debates
I'd debate you, but I am confused why your position on the subject is Con, when you seem to be arguing that it should be illegal. If you change your position on the argument, I'd be more than happy to debate you.
Posted by lord_megatron 9 months ago
lord_megatron
Burning of flag in the same country or different country? If say a US citizen burns the Egypt flag in US, it would be an act of war and surely it should be illegal.
Posted by iamasuperuser123 9 months ago
iamasuperuser123
I think it should be illegal but i don't believe it should be a serious crime.
Posted by corporealbeing 9 months ago
corporealbeing
I agree with the instigator and am looking forward to hearing the contender's argument.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by dtien400 8 months ago
dtien400
KhazMrPhobos141Tied
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Total points awarded:12 
Reasons for voting decision: Both were civil and both had fair grammar/spelling. Conduct to Con because Pro forfeited. Con not only rebutted all of Pro's points, but her main argument, that she does "not believe that the Constitution grants the government the right to decide what people do with their private property unless these actions endanger others," is absolutely spot-on and was never rebutted by Pro. Great job Con! Great debate.