Posted on June 21, 2019

President Trump’s Flag-Burning Ban

Gregory Hood, American Renaissance, June 18, 2019

Since Donald Trump’s election, technology companies have deplatformed many of his supporters. Mainstream reporters who hate Mr. Trump and who may want to eliminate competitors often supported or directed the censorship. President Trump won’t win re-election without the online activists who fought the “meme wars” of 2016. He has antagonized many of them, but if he did something serious to protect free speech he might win them back.

Instead, President Trump recently declared his support for Senator Steve Daines’s proposed constitutional amendment to ban flag desecration. This is in stark contrast to his total inaction on censorship, which he fatuously claimed can be circumvented by being “really good.” He’ll change the Constitution for the flag, but will do nothing more than “monitor” online censorship.

Flag Burning

(Credit Image: Noplur / Wikimedia)

The GOP should champion free speech. Instead, this amendment would only add to censorship.

It’s not just this amendment.  Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (among other politicians) punishes businesses that criticize Israel. At least banning flag-burning symbolically protects America.

A new amendment could theoretically inconvenience leftists. The Revolutionary Communist Party, Black Lives Matter, pro-immigration protestors and antifa have all burned the flag, but a ban probably wouldn’t be enforced. Police almost always ignore Antifa violence, so prosecutors might well look the other way.

The amendment would probably fuel what it’s supposed to prevent. Leftists love a symbolic fight against the Establishment—especially when there is no real danger to them. Burning an American flag, participating in blacks’ “flag stomp challenge,” or wiping the flag in excrement has no risks. It may even improve job prospects.

Banning flag desecration might make sense as part of a larger civic nationalist effort: making English the official language, abolishing birthright citizenship, “building the wall,” stopping illegal immigration, limiting legal immigration, imposing a remittance tax, and abolishing racial preferences. Several of these policies were part of Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign platform, but the webpage outlining them has been deleted.

Civic nationalism wouldn’t solve America’s problems, but it would help—and it is appealing to many Americans. I’ve written about the fatal contradictions that have made the American experiment a failure, but would not want to give up on the United States entirely. We may have no choice; if “civic nationalism” had a chance, President Donald Trump was it.

If the President had carried out his program, the flag would still have a connection to the nation that existed before the 1965 Immigration Act. It would have some connection to those who built a Republic “for ourselves and our posterity.” That won’t last much longer.

The president’s combination of bluster and inaction has accelerated the collapse of patriotism. Activists often insult the flag and the anthem. Journalists and corporations reward them.

This isn’t surprising. Many academics, journalists, and even politicians insist that American history is nothing but a litany of crimes. The depersoning of the Founders, reparations for slavery, and punishment migration necessarily follow.

One approach to preventing flag desecration would be to call it a hate crime against veterans. The most common argument I’ve heard is, “People died for that flag.” They did. Burning the flag insults them.

Thousands also died for the Confederate flag, and until recently, Americans honored their sacrifice, even if they disagreed with the cause. That compact is broken; some people even want to disturb Confederate burial grounds. If cultural mores shift far enough, the American flag and American soldiers could face similar dishonor.

A flag is a symbol, not an end. It theoretically represents something, but Americans can no longer say what that “something” is. Divorced from ethnicity, culture, and history, the United States is an abstraction, an artificial entity like the United Nations.

Candace Owens, one of the better people at Turning Point USA, tweeted that those who burn the flag should be stripped of citizenship—citizenship that would be transferred “in exchange” to a “hardworking LEGAL immigrant.”

It’s the logical conclusion of civic nationalism. If you don’t like the flag, why are you here? It’s also the logical conclusion of believing America is a “nation of ideas.” If you don’t agree with the ideas, you aren’t an American. The reductio ad absurdum of the “nation of ideas” theory is policing thought to make sure all citizens agree.

Many progressives understand very well that America is—or at least was—a nation with a core ethnic group and a real culture and history. They just hate that core ethnic group and want it extirpated. They accurately identify the flag with this history. America’s residual white nationalist identity lingers, whatever the current regime’s policies.

Even many white conservatives understand the flag represents the old white America, but they have no acceptable way to say so. The Tea Party demonstrators for “limited government” waved hundreds of federal flags. To them, the flag isn’t the government but the “real America” that is vanishing. When someone burns the flag they think he is attacking that America.

It’s all absurd. The racial group that benefits the least from the federal government—whites—defends its symbols. The groups most privileged by that government—non-whites—are least likely to be patriotic. America, or at least its ruling class, betrays its most stalwart defenders. We can debate whether to blame the rulers or the ruled for this.

President Trump and conservative supporters want a symbolic fight, but they ignore concrete realities—anti-white racial preferences, anti-conservative crackdowns by tech companies, and mass illegal immigration. With Democrat control of the House, there is no chance this constitutional amendment could pass. Even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel opposes it. The contest is pointless.

If he wants to be re-elected, President Trump should make a principled defense of free speech, not restrict it. Republicans should expose progressive anti-Americanism rather than try to ban it. They can best do that if they are not banned from the Internet.

The problem is not that the American flag is in danger; the country it represents is in danger. The problem is that the “American” government is hostile to the real American nation. And the political outsider desperate Americans sent to the White House isn’t helping.

This is bait-and-switch by an administration that didn’t deliver on its main campaign promises, and yet another sign the Trump administration isn’t a nationalist new beginning for the GOP. It’s one last gasp of Conservatism Inc. and one last grift of its supporters.