Sorry for the length, but I didn't have time to write a short blog.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Sound Bytes

 The above are the four freedoms listed in a speech to congress by Franklin D. Roosevelt.  He believed all nations should share these American rights.  They would be adopted by the United Nations in 1948 as "a universal declaration of human rights."

Now consider this meme and what it says.  I do not approve the burning of any country's flag in protest, but it seems to me to also be a part of our First Amendment freedom of expression.   American protestors have burned the flag.  I'm pretty sure that countries we have been at war with have also burned flags.  Burning the flag is also the proper way to dispose of a worn or frayed one.  There is also the problem that in a free society, the government cannot control the acts of expression by its citizens.  There has also been the burning of not just the American flag but also the flags of other countries.  Many countries have had their flags burned in protest in other countries as well as their own.  This includes the US. In other words, while it might be a nice sound byte, it is something of a ludicrous and arrogant position, and yes, Paul did actually say this.

But then there is that pesky old Bill of Rights getting in the way.  As much as some may like, you cannot pick and choose which freedom our greatest document of Democracy defends.  We see this sort of thing all the time.  The freedom extends to my beliefs only as long as it agrees with my beliefs.  If it ceases to agree, then there must be conditions and limits.  While many a leader speaks about spreading freedom and democracy to other countries, it strikes me as odd that they put their own limits on it. 

Either all people, your own or not, have the right to freedom of expression (speech) or they do not. Yes there may be consequences to actions of invoking these freedoms but to have the leaders of the US to actually attach conditions to that freedom and demand that another country's citizenry love our flag as much as we do is little more than blackmail.  As Evelyn Beatrice Hall put it in her biography of Voltaire, "I do not agree with what you have to say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."