“If I were king,” the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia once said in an interview, “I would not allow people to go about burning the American flag. However, we have a First Amendment, which says that the right of free speech shall not be abridged. … Speech doesn’t just mean written words or oral words. … Burning a flag is a symbol that expresses an idea.”
So is kneeling while the National Anthem is performed.
Justice Scalia was not in way shape or form a liberal, a progressive or even what we would consider a moderate. He repeatedly stressed his opinion that the Constitution should be viewed in the light in which it was originally written. He was what we know as an “originalist.” It was written that, “Justice Scalia was devoted to the First Amendment, as any great judge must be. He loved the flag, but he loved free speech, one of the principles for which the flag stands, more.”
Many people realize that President Donald Trump does not understand a lot of things. One of the things he seems not to understand is the U.S. Constitution.
To make a point here it is: “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 peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” That has something to do with what president Trump has been saying about professional football players protesting against the Star Spangled Banner prior to games.
Do I approve of their protest? No. There are many things wrong with American society, but those shortcomings have been around for a long time, and, in fact, people have been raising their voices in protest for a long time. People started protesting slavery as long as 50 years before it was ended. Women started protesting their lack of participation in voting for a couple of generations before they won the right to vote. As a matter of fact, colonists started protesting their treatment by England long before they signed a declaration of their independence from that country.
We have been and continue to be a nation of protesters. As a matter of fact, President Trump was elected in a large part by people who were protesting the current status of politics in America. Maybe they should have been fired by employers who did not agree with their political views.
The idea of free speech is nothing new. Voltaire may have written it or it may have originated with an English author named Evelyn Beatrice Hall, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” It is as deeply ingrained a principal in America as the right to keep and bear arms or the right to peaceably assemble.
As a matter of fact the rallies that put President Trump in the White House were essentially protest rallies. He was elected by people who were determined to protest the status quo of American politics. So what we see here is yet another statement of hypocrisy: it is my right to protest for things I want or believe in, but not for you to protest things you want or believe. If freedom of speech only applies to things in which the majority believes, it is not freedom of speech at all.
The misconception about these protests (with which I don’t agree although I understand why they are protesting) is that they are an insult to the men and women in the military. These protests have nothing to do with the military per se, just as the Anthem is so much more than a symbol of the military. The Star Bangled Banner actually did not become the National Anthem until 1931 so it has had that status for less than 100 years. And just as the flag stands as a symbol for so much more than one aspect of America, so does the song. Both stand for the Constitution, which is what every soldier, sailor, Marine, airman and elected official swears allegiance to. The president himself takes this oath when he is sworn in, as prescribed the Constitution, “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
That Constitution is indivisible. We cannot pick and choose which Articles or Amendments we want to enforce. We may agree or disagree with parts of it, or with decisions that have been made about what they mean, but we cannot “protect and defend” the Second Amendment while at the same time disregarding the First or the Fourth, the Fifth, the Thirteenth or any other Amendment. So while we may disagree with what athletes, entertainers, or anyone else says or does, so long as those actions do not encourage treason or violence, no one should stop those words or actions (or the peaceful replies) from being made. The words or actions we want to silence today could be the ones we want to make ourselves tomorrow. Much as we disagree, as long as we live in America, we must defend, most of all, those words and actions with which we disagree.