Sunday, July 02, 2006


Children often don't think too clearly. They don't understand subtlety, and they have a hard time holding two competing ideas in their head at the same time.

Yesterday, though, my oldest daughter proved to me that she has a powerful mind able to make fine distinctions. It was a proud moment for me.

The family was driving home, and Grace mentioned that Congress had recently tried to pass a flag-burning amendment and that it had failed by only one vote.

My wife wisely asked, "What do you think about that?"

I fully expected her to give me the reactionary answer. Considering how close it is to July 4, I expected her to tell me that flag burners should be put in jail forever. However, her answer was given with much more maturity than I expected from a nine year old. She said, "Burning the flag is rude and disrespectful, but you shouldn't be put in jail for it. It's wrong, but it shouldn't be illegal."

To say, in essence, "I don't like it, but I shouldn't be able to stop you from doing it" is a mature thought, and it is the basis of much of our Constitutional protections.

The cynic in me knows that this push for an amendment is simply a way to grandstand and appear patriotic so close to Independence Day, in much the same way that politicians pushed for a gay marriage ban, knowing it was doomed but gaining political points for supporting it. Heaven forbid Congress deal with any of the pressing issues, such as:

North Korea, led by a genuine lunatic, is about to test fire an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile. This will complement nicely its slowly expanding arsenal of nuclear weapons. Afghanistan is facing an increased threat from the Taliban. The Israelis are sending their troops into Gaza. Over 2500 American soldiers have been killed in Iraq and it is impossible to see any sort of positive outcome there. Iran blatantly flaunts its intent to develop its own Islamic bomb. The price of oil is rising and the shortage of fossil fuels is a growing reality.

Meanwhile, as American consular officers all over the world deny tourist visas to tens of thousands of bright, educated young people because they might decide to stay in the United States, any Mexican who can walk can sneak into the United States and stay forever. Each week seems to bring to light a new way that President Bush has found to gather information on American citizens without benefit of any judicial or legal oversight - from phone records to financial records and telephone calls themselves. Now one would think that given all of the above, the United States Congress would be focused on at least some of those issues. But you would be wrong. They tried to handle immigration policy and had a fruitless debate on Iraq and essentially gave up on both. Instead, with the solid support of Hillary Clinton, they spent last week debating and voting on the advisability of a Constitutional Amendment to ban the burning or desecration of the American flag. The Roman Emperor, Nero, is said to have played the violin as Rome burned. At least, he had some music for his efforts. We have nothing from the current Congress.

Read this entire article here.

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