Trump raises more controversy with ironic tweet


Skyler Froese

President-elect Donald Trump, in his usual fashion, issued yet another controversial tweet a couple of weeks back. The tweet demanded that the burning of the American flag be criminalized and that the punishment ought to be the loss of American citizenship or jail time. Ironically, Trump stomps on the first amendment, the very legislation that allows him to freely express his own provocative ideas and opinions.
The burning of American flags is the right of every citizen. It is protected as symbolic expression by the first amendment, even though it has created a fair amount of controversy. Conservative critics have called flag burning into question before, but it was upheld in the cases Texas v. Johnson and U.S. v. Eichman. It is a symbol of protest and resistance throughout American history.
Trump’s desire for censorship is bizarre. He prided himself on his candidness through the election and his refusal to be politically correct. If there is any expert on controversial speech and behavior in the U.S. government, it is Trump. His intended punishment for this act is even stranger. A year of jail time is no small punishment, but the loss of citizenship is an astronomical price to pay. This punishment is unheard of for crimes except for treason.
What makes this proposal worse is that the criminal system would equate flag burning to treason. There are murders, rapists and thieves that are allowed to live in the U.S., albeit as prisoners, and see their families. This law implies that free speech is a higher offense than most felonies and that the dignity of an object is more important than personal safety and liberty.
America stands for the rights of individuals. Citizens have protected rights to protest and express themselves, even when it may seem unpatriotic, such as Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington or protests against the Vietnam War. These expressions are part of living in a free society. As much as Trump says he supports the real American public, he seems to have little interest in protecting their liberties. Between this demand and his many complaints of libel from major news publications, he is picky about who can criticize what.
Censoring is dangerous. To have a country made out of yes men will make America less democratic. Having diverse opinions allows for growth and justice for all people, as shown by the women’s suffrage or civil rights movements, not just those who agree with the government. Actions like flag burning are almost always a part of bigger conversations on national issues. Such a powerful statement  opens the door to talk about things such as international policy, race relations and economic equality.
What Trump wants is to mute these protests and turn public attention away from real issues to instead focus on the burning of an inanimate object. If Trump is going to lead the country, he has to be a part of these conversations, even when they are controversial. By listening to every voice, government can aptly serve every citizen.
Sadly, history has proven that Trump is not easy to sway. Even though he is president, not every person has to agree with this radical view. Though it’s not every person’s duty to burn flags all of the time, it is every person’s right and responsibility to use their right to free speech. Citizens should not become intimidated by Trump’s hypocrisy, and instead be encouraged to express their opinions and exercise the first amendment. It is, simply put, part of being an American.