Flag desecration is a term used to denote any insult or damage to the official flag of a nation. Acts of desecration may include flag burning, or using the flag for inappropriate commercial purposes. …
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The above lines perfectly capture the symbolic significance of the national flag. The flag is the most visible emblem of the country and is a reminder of the people who sacrificed their lives for the country. If one were to fully understand what the flag essentially stands for, it would become pretty evident that any act of insult to the flag is but blasphemous. Opposition to the banning of flag burning have been grounded on the premises of freedom of expression and speech. It has been argued that defacing the national flag is justified as a means of protected speech, a claim that is vindicated by the First Amendment to the Constitution of the USA. But one needs to understand the gravity of the situation. It is this very flag which stands as a tall symbol of the freedom guaranteed to every citizen of USA. People's protests are meant against the government, not the country. A clear distinction needs to be made between the government, which merely runs the country, and the nation itself. A nation, in all its essence, is greater than the political party in power. And thus, grave offence to a highly esteemed symbolic entity in the name of protest, does not do justice to the nation. More often than not, these protests are aimed at a political leader and his policies, and there are several alternative methods to exhibit public disapproval in such cases. Burning effigies of the leader in question is still justified, but burning the national flag is not only inappropriate, it also fails to serve the purpose.
Flag burning is often defended on the grounds of civil liberties granted by the democratic governmental setup. The First Amendment protects the right to free speech, not vandalism....
As there are no absolute laws which deem flag burning illegal, the courts have often found it difficult to prosecute acts of flag desecration. The two most popular cases of flag burning have been Texas v. Johnson, and United States v. Eichman both in the year 1990. And in both the aforementioned cases, the Supreme court declared that flag burning was protected under the First Amendment to the Constitution. But there have been other acts of flag desecration that have ended in conviction. It is rather interesting to note that the cases which did in fact end in conviction involved milder forms of flag desecration like using the flag for commercial purposes. In one such case Halter v. Nebraska, the owner of a bottling company was charged with selling bottles with the American flag imprinted on them in 1905. In 1903, Nebraska made it a crime to “sell, expose for sale, or have in possession for sale, any article of merchandise upon which shall have been printed or placed, for purposes of advertisement, a representation of the flag of the United States”. Under this law, the Supreme court ruled 8-1 to uphold Halter’s conviction. This case was significant for a variety of reasons- it was one of the first Supreme court cases pertaining to protection of the national flag, and also because it was seen as a moral victory for people who sought greater government regulation in the matter.
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