Perhaps Donald Trump should be kept from using social media.
To his followers, the invigorated masses with MAGA hats, as well as more reluctant supporters, he “says it like it is.” This is a large part of his appeal. The everyday folk forgotten by the coasts see him as their mouthpiece. Yes, he often goes too far, but it was charisma and not cautiousness that propelled him to the top.
On Tuesday, Trump continued this trend by tweeting the following thought and causing another uproar:
It appears the President-elect is incapable of accepting the existence of free speech that does not align with his own beliefs. Furthermore, he suggests those who burn the flag be imprisoned or possibly lose their citizenship, as if those are equitable penalties.
The majority of Americans of all political persuasions consider burning the American flag to be extremely distasteful and even downright treasonous. It represents not only a complete disregard for the country that grants you an extensive list of rights, but also mocks those who make sure those rights endure. It is an affront to both the regular citizen and the military veteran. It should be discouraged.
But it is protected by the Constitution.
In 1989, the Supreme Court ruled in Texas v. Johnson that flag desecration was permitted under the First Amendment. The issue nevertheless often comes up in Congress. Even Hillary Clinton co-sponsored the Flag Protection Act of 2005, conveniently forgotten by liberals as they spew outrage. Clinton’s bill also proposed jail time for those who burn the flag, but hypocrites on the left won’t dare mention that.
It’s not entirely clear whether Donald Trump believes flag protection is an issue that should actually be addressed or if he only desires to fire up his base. In the era of Colin Kaepernick, typical forms of patriotism, like honoring the flag, singing the National Anthem, or saying the pledge, are attacked in the arena of ideas. Those of us who were brought up to cherish the flag are left appalled. In reality, though, the flag also represents the kneeling NFL player and even the protester who lights it on fire. Those demonstrations are uncomfortable and often shocking, but freedom for all has never meant only what Donald Trump or I agree with. Freedom also does not mean only that which is socially appropriate.
Instead of focusing on side issues that aren’t pressing, the president-elect should address matters of immediate concern, like Obamacare, the economy, job creation, and national security, to name a few. To do so, he must excuse himself from social media theatrics and seriously evaluate those issues in forms that require more than 140 characters.
There’s less than two months to go until Trump is inaugurated. Whether or not he truly believes what he tweets is a bit unclear. However, today’s discussion of flag burning shows that he is not as serious as he should be about the platform he has or the one he is about to gain.
And that is just as worrisome as his early morning musings.