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The Blue & Gray Press | August 19, 2019

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Americans exercise First Amendment right in protest

Americans exercise First Amendment right in protest


On Nov. 29, United States president-elect Donald Trump sent out a tweet that said, “Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag – if they do, there must be consequences – perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!”

I would like to preface my reaction to Trump’s tweet by saying that I do not condone the burning of the American flag. I feel that there are far more productive ways to protest impending and unwanted political change than to burn the symbol of our great nation.

However, the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects citizens’ rights to free speech, allowing them to assemble peacefully and to petition the government. The First Amendment also clearly prohibits Congress from infringing on those rights.

Proposing a loss of citizenship or a year in jail to citizens exercising their First Amendment rights by burning the flag to express discontent with the results of an election is simply unconstitutional and sets a terribly dangerous precedent.

My biggest problem with Trump’s reaction to people who have decided to burn the flag as a result of his election is that it is entirely self-serving. It is my opinion that he is making such a proposal for no reason other than the fact that the image of a handful of individuals burning the American flag in response to his being elected is personally upsetting to him.

Trump has made it clear throughout his presidential campaign that he is a proud, yet sensitive man. If any of us were in a situation where we witnessed somebody burning the symbol of our country because we were elected president, I am sure it would be deeply unsettling. We are all human, after all.

Even so, it doesn’t matter. Mr. Trump, as the president-elect of the United States, has the obligation to protect the freedoms of ALL U.S. citizens, not just the ones whose beliefs align with your vision for the country.

He does not have the ability to make the people who disagree with him magically disappear. If he thinks that he can bend rules that have existed for hundreds of years to better suit his needs, he is sadly mistaken. I fear that is in for a rude awakening come Jan. 20.

Presidents have been criticized and panned in newspapers and cartoons since the days of George Washington. If history is any indicator, he too will be criticized and in most instances, will have to turn the other cheek.

People who protest or burn flags are doing so for no other reason than to express their discontent with the person that Trump has shown himself to be throughout this year’s campaign.

Instead of focusing on the fact that people are burning the flag because he was elected, I think that Trump should think outside of himself and work towards bridging the divide in this country, illustrated by the recent election.

This cannot be done by threatening to restrict the freedoms of those who are upset by the results of the election.