Excuse me while I pull out my Pocket Constitution (tm) and my attitude and pound some of these arguments into dust. Actually, the people posting in the thread have done a good job of it already, but I'd like to say this in my own way.
First off, for those too lazy to click the above link, the debate is on flag burning. A randomly amusing side note: my Government class held a similar debate and I and my friend were the only two who argued for being allowed to burn flags.
Okay. First quote: "woa woa woa.... the 'right to protest' isnt a right... its a spinoff if freedom of speech, assembly, and press... so burning a flag is not a political or social 'right', it is an inflammatory expression that can do no good for a cause.. only lead to violence".
Number one, this poster isn't too well educated, or is just plain too lazy to capitalize and spell correctly. Either situation would normally cause me to ignore the argument, but this one bothered me so I went to look it up. It's true, there is no specific wording in the Constitution that allows flag burning, but neither is there something denying it. The rights of free speech, peaceful assembly, and petitioning the Government for redress of grievances are mentioned and as far as I know, protesting falls among those categories. So as long as I'm not protesting with a gun in one hand and a dartboard of Bush in the other, my right to protest is still protected indirectly. It's a political right because the foundational laws of my country allow it, and it's a social right because everyone has the same rights I do and we're all entitled to protection of those rights. Also, as far as I knew, you're the one who controls what you see and how you see it, and it's up to you to decide how to react. If you really want to pick a fight with someone who's burning a flag, feel free... I'm sure it'll be Civil War Version 2 in no time. However, you have the right and the ability (I hope) to peacefully and sensibly protest the burning of a flag in your neighborhood, in a public park where your children play, or during any sensitive times like national holidays and September 11. It's a lot better to walk up to someone and ask them why they're burning a flag and whether they can move the protest elsewhere than to run screaming and swearing down the street and cause more trouble than the protester(s) would have in the first place.
Number two: "[Quote: Nowt wrong with flag burning. If a democratic country that endorses free speech arrests a person for burning a flag, are they democratic? No.]
That is complete bullshit. A democratic country can easily pass a law banning flag burning. People vote to pass the law, therefore it is democratic.
Besides, calling "setting something on fire" the same as "speech" is inane."
You are completely full of bs, sir. Where do you actually draw the line between "speech" and an unprotected action? How does writing sound to you? What about sign language? Not everyone uses their voice or their keyboard to communicate, and if you'd like I'll pull out half a dozen articles on body language for you just to prove that point. I'm sure everyone has heard the cliche saying "Actions speak louder than words." Well, it's true. The way you walk down the street and what you wear tell people more about you than a simple description in words. If I choose to set something on fire as a way of communicating, it can be called speech. If my motive in setting a fire is simply to cook food or for heat, there's no communication involved and you're right, it's outside the label. Still, be careful of generalizing. There are situations in which someone will speak without saying a word, and if you're ignoring actions as a form of communication you're going to be in trouble.
Three: "if it was my personal belief that i want everyone with black hair murdered by next sunday, would you protect and respect my personal beliefs...
you see, personal beliefs dont make an action right or wrong, moral or immoral, its the national and state laws and doctrines that decide whats right or not."
...oooh... You're in over your head. Can you present me with a logical, well thought out and well supported argument that states that personal beliefs have no effect on legality? Can you tell me that what I think about murder, rape and incest does not affect my set of morals and values, or what I teach my students and my children? Can you explain how this absolute right and wrong works, and how the "national and state laws and doctrines" were put into place if they were never written down by people whose morality informed their judgements? There are few moral absolutes, and among them are: "Murder is wrong" and "Rape is wrong". I have never in my discussions of philosophy heard anyone say that "Flag burning as a form of protest is wrong" is a moral absolute. If it was your belief that everyone with black hair should be murdered, most people with a well developed sense of morality would turn you in to the nearest mental hospital or police station. I advise not using obviously morally wrong beliefs when arguing against something that has less to do with morality than with political and social ideals and the use of symbolism.
The American flag is a symbol of our nation. It does not stand for each individual seperately, but as a whole. It stands for our government and our foreign and domestic policy and our way of life; it does not stand alone as a freedom or a right or even as a protector of those freedoms or rights. Yes, we should respect the symbol of our nation and our ideals, but if we disagree with the ideas or policies that the flag is being used to represent, I see nothing wrong with protesting by burning the representation - the flag. Our flag has always represented the founding principles of this country and I realize that it is upsetting to many people to see a material representation of their intangible freedoms being destroyed by a seemingly hostile protester. What we need to remember is that the flag is not only there to stand for our constitutional rights, and a protester is usually taking action against some other representation such as the "War on Terror"; these representations are changeable and protesting them is not taking shots at the constitution. It's simply another way of saying "Hey, guys, someone in the Capitol is doing something I don't like, and I'm telling you/them about it loud and clear."
Besides, if the flag and its symbolism are really that dear to us, why do we allow it to be plastered all over bandannas, clothing, cheap toys and other things, most of which aren't even made in the USA?
I'd have said more, and used better arguements, but it's late and I'm tired. Thanks for reading this far, please feel free to continue the discussion via comments or email.