The legal profession is a depth of recondite detail the Supreme Court has the expertise firmly to deliberate.
Freedom of speech has been quoted to justify burning the American flag.
United States versus Eichman, United States versus Haggerty, Texas versus Johnson: all cases argued freedom of speech under the First Amendment.
- Wikipedia, United States versus Eichman
- Leagle, Unites States versus Haggerty
- Wikipedia, Texas versus Johnson
Haggerty’s case would have implied you necessarily make the Flag your piece of cloth before burning. It is when the Flag belongs to an institution as Seattle Capitol Hill Post Office that you get fined.
Let us analyze the First Amendment.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
To exercise comprehension, we can paraphrase. We can say the First Amendment
forbids the Congress to regulate the matters of religion, to inhibit legal linguistic behavior by individuals as well as groups or in the media, to delimitate people’s right to convene, or to prevent people’s formally requesting the authorities for reparation of damages.
The Supreme Court holding on Eichman says:
The government’s interest in preserving the flag as a symbol did not outweigh the individual right to disparage that symbol through expressive conduct.
The First Amendment says, the freedom of speech.
Linguistics does recognize symbols or icons. For example, we work with a computer. We click an icon and it takes us to a website. The icon symbolizes the website. If we associate the content, it is only when we know the website.
Most icons or symbols are arbitrary and there happens to be some mix-up. It is difficult to agree with Wikipedia to say,
Symbols take the form of words, sounds, gestures, ideas or visual images and are used to convey other ideas and beliefs.
Dogs are most often companions to humans and households, the other idea to be cats. Still nobody says “dog” to mean “cat”.
Wikipedia implies that a red octagon means “stop”, even without language.
There could be hotel, club, or company premises on which the red octagon means “Maintenance staff only”. The reference depends on consensus.
The meaning we could express in words is not inherent to the symbol.
For a symbol to have language in it, there has to be a written message.
Symbols are not language.
More, burning cannot be a speech act.
Is there a speech sound produced, if the human just sits silently by a campfire, warming his or her hands? Is there any written or printed language to emerge from the flame? Could the wood or coal crackling and hissing make stanzas, quatrains, epodes? Could we hear an anacrusis?
No, there is no language to come from fire.
What is the meaning of a national flag?
It symbolizes the country, the people, and the language.
The Flag does not correlate with the authorities only.
Even if you do not like anybody around, would rather live in a tent, make own clothes, and hunt for food
― all that to liberate yourself of American capitalism ―
the nonsense of burning the Flag remains appalling, if to think about cause and effect.
There never would be the Constitution, without the people fighting for American freedom, also in Fort McHenry, about which The Star Spangled Banner tells. The First Amendment would never have been passed, without the Constitution.
The First Amendment says that people have the right to the freedom of speech. The Amendment does not say,
Congress shall make no law abridging expressive conduct in association with speech and language …
Fortunately: human expressive behaviors are a very wide spectrum part of which belongs under parental guidance and is not language at all.
At the same time, I would not uphold the term of “Flag desecration”. The word desecration suggests abuse on sanctity.
I think flags are for people, as books and knowledge on language.
I have put images of the American flag on my American English grammar books, which are absolutely my human work.
I do not support the Supreme Court verdict. I hope time will bring the change necessary for legislation to discern physically abusive behaviors from speech and language.