Let’s welcome our new commander in chief by demonstrating how little he knows about the Constitution of the United States. Each incoming president is required on inauguration day to take the oath of office, affirming to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution.” But Donald Trump proved his ignorance of this document when he recently wrote, “Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag—if they do, there must be consequences—perhaps loss of citizenship or a year in jail!” The Supreme Court, however, thinks otherwise. It has twice ruled that burning the national flag is not a crime but a form of free speech protected by the First Amendment, a legal way to protest government policies.
Let’s give Big T a lesson in the Constitution on January 20. We the people should exercise our rights by burning the flag during his swearing-in ceremony. We can counter his jingoistic nationalism with a display of true patriotism, affirming our love of a country which was founded on the principles of egalitarianism rather than elitism, of government by the people rather than by just the rich.
Trump’s autocratic proclamations make it clear we’re going to have to fight to maintain our rights. His appointments to key offices display the pro-rich, anti-worker character of his administration. Our already low wages and benefits are scheduled for further slashing, our already suffering environment for further abuse. The future of our country and planet depends on our willingness to defend both against this attack by right-wing demagogues.
A battle lies ahead. We need to recognize that and prepare for it, showing defiance and courage from the start. Beginnings set the tone and direction of the future. If we passively accept his assault, fear will rule us and our resolve will weaken, and he will respond with more aggression. But if we fight back, we’ll discover our strength. Rebelling is invigorating, an authentic life rather than a lackey life. And we can win! In the final analysis we’re stronger than they are and we love our country more. Now we have to show it. The first step towards making America great again is to dump Trump and the whole rapacious mentality he represents.
Hillary Clinton would not have been significantly better. As senator she co-sponsored a law to criminalize flag burning with a penalty of a year in prison, but it never came to a vote. Her differences with Trump, like those of Obama with Bush, are superficial rather than substantial. The advantage of Trump and Bush is that their crudeness makes it easier to mobilize resistance.
And resist we must. In the present situation burning the flag is not an act of destruction but of purification, burning out the greed and domination that have corrupted our country. Setting that lovely cloth in flames is symbolic of what the rich cabal that controls both political parties and the mainstream media have done to the values that inspired the first American revolution. A new revolution lies before us, one that will take as much struggle and sacrifice as the first. But it will also bring as much benefit to humanity.
Let’s start it by burning the flag on inauguration day! Do it in groups or individually, in front of city hall or in your own backyard. Post the photos all over the internet.
Sometimes a paradox is needed to express the truth: Show your love of our country by burning its flag.
William T. Hathaway is a Special Forces combat veteran now working to overthrow the empire he previously served. He is the author of “Radical Peace: People Refusing War,” which presents the true stories of activists who have moved beyond demonstrations and petitions into direct action: helping soldiers to desert, destroying computer systems, trashing recruiting offices, burning military equipment, and sabotaging defense contractors. Noam Chomsky called it, “A book that captures such complexities and depths of human existence, even apart from the immediate message.” Chapters are posted at media.trineday.com/radicalpeace.