Friday, June 30, 2006

"Desecration" as "respecting establishment"?

I posted earlier about America's "military idolatry" - the notion that the soldier is a sacrosanct element of our national culture, and that the military, because it is seen as the means for our collective mission to save the world, is literally above democratic criticism.

If militarism is the national cult, then the flag is its standard.

Karl makes an astute observation about the use of the word "desecration" in the ridiculuous amendment that all but passed the Senate:
The Congress shall have the power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States.
Already in the Constitution is this familiar phrase:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion...
If "desecration" still means "the act of depriving something of its sacred character" (which it does), wouldn't the insertion of a clause prohibiting any type of "desecration" contradict the First Amendment?

This issue obviously runs deeper than constitutional semantics... Americans REALLY see the flag as sacred - our national relic. This implies many other sentiments as well - if our national symbol is sacred, than surely our nationhood is sacred. If our nationhood is sacred (chosen), then surely our mission and purposes are also ordained by the divine.

I suppose I wouldn't burn the flag, either - but frankly, it has much less to do with my devotion to the flag than it does with the unwillingness to flagrant insult the religion of other people. Likewise, I don't think Karl would ever spitefully rip up a Bible in front of me - and it has nothing to do with Karl's reverence for the Holy Scriptures (and trust me - there's no love lost between Karl and the Bible).

Somehow, though, we need to move on from this self-aggrandizing, arrogant view of our own nationality. Is the flag of the United States more sacred than the flag of Mexico, or of France? The amendment would seem to establish that it is. What sort of democracy exists under a sacred banner? Where the nation's motives and actions are protected under a godly cloth? It's a democracy where some but not all questions are askable, and some but not all answers are necessary. It's really not a democracy at all.

1 comment:

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