Having earned a legal badge with the EzineArticles should not make one overconfident, I realize. The legal profession is a depth of recondite detail the Supreme Court has the right to firmly deliberate. The linguist I am, I yet can venture a few observations on speech – and this has been quoting freedom of speech to have invalidated prohibitions on desecrating the American flag.
United States versus Eichman, United States versus Haggerty, Texas versus Johnson: all case disputes argued violation of free speech under the First Amendment. Haggerty’s case would have the implication to make the Flag necessarily your piece of cloth before burning. If the Flag belongs to an institution like Seattle’s Capitol Hill Post Office, you can be fined.
Let me think. I do not need to burn the Flag to think. I imagine a human being burns something. Is there a speech sound produced, should the human just silently sit by, let us say, a campfire, warming his or her hands? Is there any written or printed stretch of language to emerge from the flame? Should one try to interpret the wood or coal crackling and hissing as stanzas, quatrains, epodes? Can you hear the anacrusis?
I could not, and there is nothing wrong with my hearing. Non-verbal acts such as burning do not produce language. The facts are exactly the same with tools such as hammers, saws, wrenches, screwdrivers, and whatever a handyman’s bag might contain: there is no speech produced with the use, unless the guy happens to be eloquent, interesting, and whatsoever handsome (I have to admit I’m not really talkative).
Non-verbal acts are not proper means or tools to convey speech and language. The Flag itself – the many the people, the many the answers; ask someone what the Flag looks like and what it symbolizes: the many answers you get, none will be identical, each with specific and individual language.
The First Amendment does not allow abridgment of free speech. Should burning the Flag be a speech act, what do you do if the Flag would be burning on a barrel saying ‘TNT’ – would putting it out be against the law? The First Amendment forbids reducing free speech.
Some psychologists would have the tendency to ascribe language to non-verbal phenomena. They would call it a ‘body language’. Let us think about the Anders Behring Breivik trial. The shrinks in the courtroom spent some time interpreting his ‘body language’. One of the shrinks said in an interview that a single, particular gesture of whisking the shoulder could have meant Breivik’s want to ‘put things in order or to shake off guilt’.
The fact is that the shrink ascribed her linguistic structuring to a gesture of no syntax. More, the structuring could produce non-specific results real-life. For example, ask the recycling guys what message they get if you whisk your shoulder and not say a word. Would they take it for a clear message that you want your trash removed (shaking off guilt has collocations with purification and therefore cleanliness), or you want something fancy heaped (order has collocations with arrangement and that could be random, without any notion of removal from a place). Anyway, it’s your backyard.
A flag of a country obviously is worth more concern than trash you might take the care to express verbally about.
Language requires syntax, lexemes, and grammar. Seeing the American flag displayed against a wall over a poster of an overt female offering erotic dances – which is not a figment of my imagination – I do not get a thing. There is no language logic. And I do not believe the regard would require any improving my brains. Someone has got an expressive disorder.
Propagating expressive disorders is not of my interest. I enclose photographs of the improper display of the flag under separate links. They might be considered parental advisory.
The Flag Code may be found here,
http://www.senate.gov/reference/resources/pdf/RL30243.pdf, and many other places.
I have put the American flag on my grammar book cover. My grammar project is not a napkin and it is not a sarong, regarding the US Code.