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Flag Desecration, What Does It Mean?

Can you accidentally desecrate it, or do you have to mean it?

I love the American flag.  I’m proud of it, too.  And I don’t like to see people stomping on it or desecrating it in any way.  But I don’t like to see a dead cat in the road either.  Fortunately both are rare.

flag cake

Is eating this cake


Even if they weren’t rare, passing a constitutional ban against dead cats, burning flags, or anything else I don't like to see doesn’t make a lot of sense.  Such things aren’t really morally wrong—just distasteful.  But I understand why the flag desecration issue gets so much attention—why some passionate patriots want to put something in the United States constitution about it.  They want to take desecration out of the arena of free speech, short circuiting court challenges to any such laws congress might pass.

flag sock

Is walking with socks

like this flag desecration?

But any flag desecration law or constitutional amendment raises many questions.  For example:

What constitutes desecration of the flag?  Is it just burning, or is it also stomping or tearing?  How about making a boat sail out of it, or clothes, or hand bags? 

And can desecration be incidental or accidental, like letting it fall in the mud?  Or must it be intentional disrespect?  If so, does that include throwing things at it?  Or cursing at it?  Or saying it’s ugly?

cloth flag

Does this qualify

as a US flag?

Then there is that other problem.  What exactly is an American flag?  Is it a certified ensign sold with a certificate (and certified by whom,) or are all reasonable facsimiles included?  What about one with only 39 stars, or one with 14 stripes?  Do the colors have to match exact chromatic standards?  What if the colors are rosy-red, off-white and sky blue?  Does the flag have to made of cloth?  How about one made of cardboard, or jelly beans?  Can a crayon drawing of Old Glory be consider a flag?  Is the virtual mangling of a computer image of the flag of the United States desecration?  (See image at right, below.)


If you put your mouse cursor

on this picture, are you

desecrating the flag?

Isn’t it possible that the law writers could dictate how and when the American flag must be displayed?  Couldn’t they make it a requirement that we always salute the flag?  That we all had to own one?  That we had to wash it in warm water once a month?  Or else…

And would any flag desecration law stop the countless (i.e., approximately zero) incidences in this country of flag burning?  Or instead, would we see more of it overseas because our enemies will know what really riles red, white and blue-blooded Americans?

Anyway, I don’t think such an amendment is needed because I don’t think any one person can desecrate the flag.  One unhappy person might burn a replica of the American flag, but the real one exists unsullied and grand in the form of the millions of likenesses of it across America, not only on flag poles, but in magazines and movies, and in our hearts and heads.  It is indestructable because whatever you think you did to it, it always exists like new.

So let the fools jump on their copy of the flag.  They can’t touch Old Glory.