Would you allow a flag burning in your vicinity? Does it offend you to see one burnt?
These seem like reasonable questions to ask. In reality, almost everything in life comes down to personal choices, preferences, and a few logic problems. Logic and ethics really go hand in hand. In the majority of cases, the solutions easily present themselves.
The simplest solution is often the correct solution but sometimes this is easier described than applied. This is especially true when emotions come into play. Quite often you have to take a moment out of your day and think deeper into why you feel the things that you feel. It is perfectly acceptable to have feelings and to express them. To infringe upon another person’s freedom to do the same however, will never be acceptable in a well functioning and free society.
To break this down into the simplest terms: Do you believe in having personal property? That is to say, if you own an item that you purchased, do you believe that you have the right use that item as you see fit? If I purchase a ring, as an example, am I free to melt that ring down to forge into a different item?
If your answer to the above is that you don’t believe in owning property, then we are on different pages to begin with and I would refer you to explore the concepts of ethics and autonomous ownership of self. If you labor in exchange for currency, and then in turn use that currency to purchase an item, does it make any sense logically or ethically that another entity or person can take that from you?
Let us come back to the concept of a flag. The long and the short of it is, that a flag is an item. A bible, a flag, a ring, a phone-book, a table, or shirt. These are items that can be obtained by an individual in fair ways. These items are then owned by that person. If I wish to break my table into firewood, burn my flag in protest, or wear my shirt inside out… I can do so.
You are more than welcome to be offended at the act of a symbol you love, being destroyed. If a protest upsets you, I imagine that might be the intent of the person performing such actions. The act of a protest is to wake others up to a truth that said person believes in. Shocking imagery and actions are used as attention-getting tactics. These could be viewed as wrong or disrespectful in your eyes, but that doesn’t give you any more right to stop them.
Further simplification. Are You Being Hurt? Unless someone physically holds you down and lights a flag on fire that is draped across your body, you aren’t being hurt. There is no physical harm. You could argue for emotional damage or psychological trauma, but once we get to that point, where do we draw the line? I could get offended that McDonald’s arches are yellow and my religions sacred color is yellow. I could sue anyone for anything or claim that I am justified in inciting violence simply because I am offended.
ARE YOU HURT?
You could literally print a picture of my mother, draw dicks all over the front, and burn it at a protest if you like. Is it disrespectful? Surely. It won’t win me over as a friend and I damn sure will not be attending any functions you host. You still have the freedom to do that. If you actively make threats against my family promising violence or actually do pose an immediate threat that could be seen by any sensible person? Then we do have a real world issue that needs to be handled and solved.
No one is attacking you via the act of burning a flag, or a bible. There is just no reason to react with violence. You also have the freedom to express yourself. If it makes you feel better, burn something symbolizing their beliefs. However, don’t make the common mistake of thinking that you are justified in threatening them or their families in the name of… whatever, just because an effigy or representation of your belief is harmed. Now if someone walks onto your property, steals your flag, and THEN burns it? Now we have something to talk about.
– Matthew Pizgatti