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Opening Arguments

Burning issues

I don't know about some of these clueless kids today. We haven't had a really good flag-burning incident in years. And here these three college students take all the trouble to burn an American flag and don't even bother to make it a good First Amendment controversy:

According to court records, Hyder Akbar '07, Nikolaos Angelopoulos '10 and Farhad Anklesaria '10 were charged with multiple counts of second-degree arson, first-degree reckless endangerment, third-degree criminal mischief and second-degree breach of peace. Angelopoulos was released on $25,000 bail Tuesday, according to officials at the Connecticut Correctional Center. The motive for the alleged arson remains unknown, as students speculated that the three, returning home late at night, may have been intoxicated rather than motivated by politics.

So, apparently, they just got drunk and thought it would be a hoot to burn somebody's porch flag -- then ask a cop for directions back to the campus. But look at how much coverage this has gotten in newspapers and on TV stations all across the country. If they had burned anything but an American flag, it would barely have made the local news. Kids get drunk and pull prank, endangering a home. Big deal. That's an indication of the flag's enormous symbolic value, which is why: 1. Some people want to burn it as a protest, 2) a lot of people are incensed at such protests and, 3) courts say such protests can't be made illegal.

Kind of like book-burning, in a way. People who burn books aren't just interested in the specific contents of the books they burn. They are protesting a certain kind of book, indeed the whole idea that certain kinds of things can be published. So flag-burning and book-burning are both symbolic protests. But they are written about in very different ways. Those who write about flag-burning might say that, well, yes, of course, burning a flag is deplorable, but then continue on for a thousand words about how important it is to allow flag-burning. Those who deplore book-burning go on for a thousand words about how awful the book-burners are, then, maybe, at the end tack on something about, well, perhaps they do have the right to do it.

Posted in: Current Affairs


Thu, 04/05/2007 - 9:42am

flag burning is often a protest against control (the rebellion against a government that is perceived as unjust), while book burning is itself an attempt at control (censorship).

true, they both involve the immolation of symbolic objects... but the general intent behind them is usually idealistically opposite.

there is reasonable grounds to support the burning of the flag and resist the burning of books.

Larry Morris
Thu, 04/05/2007 - 10:28am

These flag burning idiots probably don't even realize that burning an American flag is the proper and accepted way of retiring a damaged one - wonder if anyone should tell them, ... ?

Mon, 04/09/2007 - 12:45pm

I was once at a local "head-shop" where they had american flag papers for rolling "smoking materials" in.
I asked do you sell a lot of those? yes, the clerk replied.
hmmm. ok. just asking.
So I wonder what statement those stoners were trying to make?