The Instigator
Cindela
Pro (for)
Losing
37 Points
The Contender
coolman
Con (against)
Winning
48 Points

Should it be within our 1st Amendment Rights to burn the USA flag in public?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/19/2007 Category: Politics
Updated: 9 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 2,125 times Debate No: 689
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (5)
Votes (27)

 

Cindela

Pro

Hello, I am here to debate the topic of "Should it be within our 1st Amendment Rights to burn the USA flag in public?" I would like to start off by thanking everyone for reading this debate. I would also like to thank those who are going to partially judge this debate. Finally, I would like to thank my opponent for accepting this challenge. Let it be noted that at the time of this challenge, my opponent was against allowing burning of the flag to be legal.

My first argument will be my only argument for this round. Flag burning is a form of speech, and under our first amendment rights, we have a freedom of speech. We can say what we want, as long as it does not directly create harm to others. Thank you.
coolman

Con

I was hesitant to accept this debate challenge. I understand your desire for rights. I have a feeling much of this debate will be based on personal opinion; I do not find the legality of Flag Burning necessary because it is something I personally would never have a desire to do. However, for this debate I will try to keep in mind that not everyone feels that way, and that just because you think it should be your right doesn't mean you would act upon that right. So here it goes:

1) I love this country. I love our freedoms and what America stands for. By saying this, I am not implying that I never disagree with our government. I do believe the government exists to serve us, not to rule us. And sometimes I do feel like that is not the government's agenda. Still, you have to consider what the American flag represents. I do not believe our flag represents our current government at any given time, rather I believe it represents the foundational principles that this great country was built on. Principles such as freedom and democracy. To be frank, if you disagree with those principles, you are being un-American, and as far as I'm concerned you can get out of this country. You have the right to leave. To be general, I would say that our country's laws exist to prevent un-American behavior. So it makes sense to me to outlaw Flag Burning, either by amending the first amendment or by some other means.

Now, let's say that the current government crosses the line and itself begins defying those principles. As far as I can tell, metaphorically THEY would be the ones burning the flag. And if it is your desire to protest them for it, I feel one could find a better way than to desecrate the very symbol of our foundational rights that they are denying.

2) You might argue that it is contradictory that the American flag stands for freedom and rights, yet you are denied the right to burn it. I would respond with this argument: IF you have the right to desecrate the flag, WHY WOULD YOU, as it is the very symbol OF that right? To me, THAT is contradictory. Therefore I find it unnessecary to maintain that right.

3) We are given the freedom of speech. Unlike many countries, we CAN speak out our opinions against our government. Elsewhere, one might be arrested or even put to death for such acts. Still, our right to free speech is not limitless. One could not stand up on a plane and yell, "BOMB!", and then say, "Just kidding, I'm just exercising my right of free speech." This doesn't directly harm anyone (as you put it), but it would cause great disorder. Similarly, I feel there are more orderly, constructive ways to protest the government when necessary. You have the right to assembly, petition, etc. USE THEM! For those who feel that the flag IS a symbol of our government rather than a symbol of our foundational rights as I do, I find Flag Burning is still an unnecessary, immature, and unproductive demonstration.

4) Let's say hypothetically, that the government made a law that said you cannot stand in public and yell negative racial slurs at passersby of other races. Now let's say you do NOT believe in the equality of people of all races (for the record, I DO believe in said equality, this is just an example for comparison). There would be many better ways to voice your opinion than standing on a crowded street shouting racial slurs. It would be ridiculous to fight for that right, just as it is ridiculous to fight for the right to burn our country's flag.

What purpose does it serve? What progress does it make? If you disagree with the government, does burning the flag magically help you break ground in your mission? Okay, it might catch people's attention better than conventional methods, but so would yelling racial slurs at passersby in public. Doesn't make it right.

So, to sum up my opening argument:
-If you believe the American flag symbolizes our foundational rights, desecrating the flag is un-American and should be outlawed.
-If you believe the American flag symbolizes our current government, there are more productive and orderly ways to demonstrate your protest, why waste time tryig to maintain that right.
-IF legalized, it would be contradictory to burn the flag that symbolizes your right to burn the flag.
-The freedom of speech is not limitless. It has boundaries to maintain order, prevent harm to others, etc.
-Burning the flag is an unnecessary attention getting statement, but otherwise it is unproductive, pointless demonstration of anger.
Debate Round No. 1
Cindela

Pro

" I do not believe our flag represents our current government at any given time, rather I believe it represents the foundational principles that this great country was built on." YOU may believe this, but it does not necessarily mean that other believe it as well. You are assuming that people all believe in those priciples, when in reality, some do not. For many people, the flag is a representation of the government. Burning the flag for them may not mean that they are un-American, as you put it, but just as a way to communicate their protests!
"Similarly, I feel there are more orderly, constructive ways to protest the government when necessary. You have the right to assembly, petition, etc. USE THEM! For those who feel that the flag IS a symbol of our government rather than a symbol of our foundational rights as I do, I find Flag Burning is still an unnecessary, immature, and unproductive demonstration." This is a purely opinionated argument. You might feel it is unproductive, but others might not. There is no way to make an assumption about other people based upon YOUR EMOTIONS!
"It would be ridiculous to fight for that right, just as it is ridiculous to fight for the right to burn our country's flag." The debate topic is not ""Should we fight for the right to burn the flag." The debate topic is "Shoult it be within our 1st Amendment Rights to burn the USA flag in public?" There is a difference.
"What purpose does it serve? What progress does it make? If you disagree with the government, does burning the flag magically help you break ground in your mission? Okay, it might catch people's attention better than conventional methods, but so would yelling racial slurs at passersby in public. Doesn't make it right." I am not saying that burning the flag is the best way to protest, but I am just just waying that we should be able to do so when we feel the need arises. And yelling racial slurs is aimed at specific people, in your example and could provoke a riot or somehting along those lines, whereas burning the flag is not aimed at a certain person or people, just an institution.
"Doesn't make it right." I am not arguing that burning the flag is the right thing to do. I am just arguing that we be able to do it if we feel the need to do so.

Now to elaborate on my point and insert a new one.
I believe that burning the flag is simply a way to conveying your feelings for the government. Burning the flag shows that you believe strongly about the government, and you wish to show your emotions. It is not meant to provoke others into aggression.

Also, prohibiting flag burning does not only prohibit the act, but also the prohibits expressing opinions that could not be stated in any other way as effectively. Illegalizing flag burning is criminalizing the viewpoints behind it, and that is a clear breach of freeedom of speech. Allow me to give an example. In the 1989 Supreme Court Case of Texas v. Johnson, Justice William J. Brennan, Jr. said, "if there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea offensive or disagreeable." This clearly states what I had said earlier. Prohibiting the act of flag burning will prohibit the opinions behind it.

Thank You.
coolman

Con

>>"YOU may believe this, but it does not necessarily mean that other believe it as well."

Yes, actually I did also express my opinion to those who feel the flag is a symbol of our government as well. I know not everyone will agree with my personal stance on the flag's symbolism.

>>"Burning the flag for them may not mean that they are un-American, as you put it, but just as a way to communicate their protests!"

The part that gets me about this is "for them". If all actions were based on the doer's perspective, how could we enforce any laws? "For him, that man deserved to be murdered." I will get to the other portion of that comment later.

>>"This is a purely opinionated argument."

And your argument isn't? Yours is just the opposing opinion, but still opinion. It may be my opinion that there are 'better' ways to protest, but it is fact that there are 'other' ways to protest.

>>"There is no way to make an assumption about other people based upon YOUR EMOTIONS!"

Or yours. In your opinion, flag burning doesn't harm others. What about family's who lose one of their own serving our country in the military, only to have someone show up at the funeral to burn and kick around the flag whose country they died defending? I don't think it's an unfair assumption that that experience would be very painful. But you would say that doesn't matter, because the burner's intention is just to protest the government and military?

>>"And yelling racial slurs is aimed at specific people, in your example and could provoke a riot or somehting along those lines, whereas burning the flag is not aimed at a certain person or people, just an institution."

You don't think a flag burning could provoke a riot? I know plenty of people who would love to get their hands on someone burning the American flag, just like many people would love to get their hands on someone yelling racial slurs. And burning the flag is not aimed at certain person or people? Now you are assuming that no one else has a different view on what the flag symbolizes. What about the people who believe the flag symbolizes their freedom and liberties? They could absolutely take a flag burning as a shot at them and their beliefs.

>>"I am not arguing that burning the flag is the right thing to do. I am just arguing that we be able to do it if we feel the need to do so."

Still I wonder when this kind of demonstration would be 'needed' and would be useful beyond self-satisfaction? Example?

>>"I believe that burning the flag is simply a way to conveying your feelings for the government. Burning the flag shows that you believe strongly about the government, and you wish to show your emotions. It is not meant to provoke others into aggression."

Just as you argued with me, you can't assume everyone holds this same belief. I supplied an argument for either case/perspective. What would you say to those who believe the flag symbolizes their freedom and the country's foundational principles?

>>"Also, prohibiting flag burning does not only prohibit the act, but also the prohibits expressing opinions that could not be stated in any other way as effectively."

Excerpts from an article on law.com:

"Ruling in an important First Amendment case, the U.S. Supreme Court said Monday that states may outlaw acts of cross burning that are intended to intimidate. The Court recited the long history of cross burning as a virulent "symbol of hate" in upholding most parts of a Virginia law that bars cross burning on public or private property."

" "This statute prohibits only conduct, not expression," wrote Justice Clarence Thomas. "Just as one cannot burn down someone's house to make a political point and then seek refuge in the First Amendment, those who hate cannot terrorize and intimidate to make their point." "

Yes, this article is about cross burning, but I think it strongly parallels flag burning. Many people have much faith in their country just as people have faith in their religion and may be threatened by the burning of such a symbol. Someone burning a flag may not do so with the intention to threaten those who interprets the flag's symbolism differently or to threaten members of the government, but that doesn't mean it won't be taken that way. And I find it naive to assume that the act is not capable of provoking or leading to more aggressive actions.

The first amendment reads:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people PEACABLY to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

You may consider this mere opinion as well, but I find the act of flag burning less than peaceful.
Debate Round No. 2
Cindela

Pro

"What about family's who lose one of their own serving our country in the military, only to have someone show up at the funeral to burn and kick around the flag whose country they died defending? "
You make it sound like the protestor is purposely trying to make the family feel bad. How would it be different from people driving on the street and seeing protests against the military when they themselves have lost loved ones in a war protecting their country? There will always be people who do not agree with what other people express.

"Now you are assuming that no one else has a different view on what the flag symbolizes. What about the people who believe the flag symbolizes their freedom and liberties? They could absolutely take a flag burning as a shot at them and their beliefs."
I just wanted to ask a question here. Are you interpreting the flag burning to show that the burners do now want freedom and liberties? I do not understand what you are trying to tell us.
"Still I wonder when this kind of demonstration would be 'needed' and would be useful beyond self-satisfaction? Example?"
This is irrelevant to the topic. We are not arguing when it would be needed, we are just arguing should we be able to do it or not. We are also not arguing where it would be useful, just should we be able to do it.

""Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people PEACABLY to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

You may consider this mere opinion as well, but I find the act of flag burning less than peaceful."
Burning the flag is not assembling. Burning the flag is only a form of speech, not assembly.

Burning the USA flag is only a form of speech, and freedom of speech is protected under the 1st amendment, unless the US government just ammended the Constitution while I was typing this.
Thank You
coolman

Con

>>"You make it sound like the protestor is purposely trying to make the family feel bad. How would it be different from people driving on the street and seeing protests against the military when they themselves have lost loved ones in a war protecting their country?"

How would it be different? It is hard for me to take this question seriously. Only an irrational protestor would not realize the pain it would cause a family to show up at their loved one's funeral to burn a flag. But to make another parallel - would it not be different for me
A) to come to your best friend's funeral and scream insulting profanities about him/her and who he/she was than if
B) you at some point read where I had made insulting comments about him/her in some kind of written article?
It is absolutely different and to deny that only demonstrates either stubbornness, irrationality, or heartlessness to me.

>>"I just wanted to ask a question here. Are you interpreting the flag burning to show that the burners do now want freedom and liberties? I do not understand what you are trying to tell us."

This is the question I attempted to pose to you in the first place. I and many others view the flag as a symbol of freedom, so yes, I do ask why someone would desecrate that symbol. But you say that flag burners do so to protest the government. I was simply stating that many people feel the flag symbolizes much more than just our current government, whereas it seems your argument assumes everyone agrees with your interpretation. You did this just after you told me that I could not assume everyone holds my beliefs.

>>"Burning the flag is not assembling. Burning the flag is only a form of speech, not assembly."

Okay, you got me on a technicality there, but simple logic tells me that if the government wants people to assemble peaceably, they would also want people to exercise their freedom of speech peaceably. Nonetheless, I see that you do not deny that flag burning is not a peaceable exercise.

But hey, if you want to talk technicalities, flag burning is NOT speech. Speech as defined by Merriam-Webster:

1 a: the communication or expression of thoughts in spoken words b: exchange of spoken words : conversation
2 a: something that is spoken : utterance b: a usually public discourse : address
3 a: language, dialect b: an individual manner or style of speaking
4: the power of expressing or communicating thoughts by speaking

All of which consist of vocal speaking.
Debate Round No. 3
5 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Posted by Cindela 9 years ago
Cindela
Is there any particular reason that I am losing this debate by such a large margin? I thought that I had debated this well enough that even if I was losing, which I am, it would be by a small margin, not a large one? Anyone? Can someone tell me what I did wrong?
Posted by Cindela 9 years ago
Cindela
Actually, I commented on the fact that you were against having flag burning legal. But that is immaterial. I agree. It was an interesting debate. It forced me to read up on it as well. I had a lot of fun debating this one.
Posted by coolman 9 years ago
coolman
To you as well. To be totally honest I'm not really against having the RIGHT of flag burning. You commented on the 'Against Flag Burning' status on my profile. Which is true, I AM against the act of flag burning, because of my own interpretation of what it stands for, but it's not up to me whether or not other people are allowed to do it. Nonetheless, it was fun to argue my point and you made some very good points as well. It also gave me an excuse to do some research and become more knowledgeable on the topic.
Posted by Cindela 9 years ago
Cindela
Good debate, coolman. I really enjoyed it. Thank you.
Posted by Devils_Advocate 9 years ago
Devils_Advocate
Cindela easily won. Good job.
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