Trump's Flag-Burning Threat Is Wrong And Here's Why...

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By: Dalton Brewster / 12.19.16 - 1:00PM EST

"Nobody should be allowed to burn the American Flag- if they do- there must be consequences such as loss of citizenship or perhaps a year in jail"- Donald Trump

Donald Trump has shown to be one of the most controversial people to ever run for presidency. From errant tweets, racists comments, to lawsuits over Trump University, he has made his mark on America. 

When he declared that there should be penalties for those that burn the American Flag, he forgot about one of the main freedoms that make this country great: the freedom of speech. 

While it is important to honor your country's flag and the sacrifices people have made to protect it; free speech should not be compromised. Mr. Trump should brush up on his history and learn the importance of free expression.

First, in 1984, Gregory Lee Johnson, burned the flag near the location of the 1984 Republican National Convention in Dallas, Texas to protest Ronald Reagan. 

He was promptly arrested for breaking a Texas statute that forbade desecration of a venerable object. In the court case Johnson V. Texas, he was found not guilty after arguing that his actions were a form of symbolic speech that is protected by the First Amendment. The court ultimately found that society's outrage can't suppress free speech. You can read more about this here.

Also, it is important to remember the United States’ history as a trail blazer of individual freedoms. The Bill of Rights was a revolutionary declaration and we must remember not every nation has the freedoms we take for granted.

For example, in Afghanistan, you can be killed for burning the Koran, the Muslim holy book. Last year, a woman was lynched for burning a Koran, you can see the story here.

This proves that it is crucial to enable freedom of expression or chaos can occur. Mr. Trump needs to realize that having overly harsh punishments for acts of civil disobedience can lead to negative impacts. 

As seen in the incident in Afghanistan, extreme punishments can lead to violence, chaos and a mob mentality. For example, in worst case scenarios, violence could be imposed against people that want to nonviolently and freely express themselves.

Mr. Trump could potentially use common mob mentality emotions such as fear and anger to control people. It has been shown throughout history that dictators use the emotions of the people to control them. During World War II, Hitler told the people lies about how the Jews were taking over the country. 

He played on their fears and eventually used this power to gradually take away the Jews' rights. Mr. Trump has some good qualities and isn't nearly as extreme as Hitler (although some people might disagree). 

However, he must realize that he has inadvertently caused acts of violence due to some of his controversial sayings. Shortly after his election, there was an increase in hate crimes being committed by Trump supporters (see here for an example). 

Fortunately, Trump demanded that his supporters stop committing hate crimes on national TV. Despite this, Mr. Trump needs to realize that he must think before he says or tweets anything that could incite poor behavior.

While it is important to honor the flag, Mr. Trump must learn from history about the importance of freedom of expression. So, what do you think? Should burning the flag be made illegal? Comment with your thoughts below.

Jon enjoys long walks on the beach and a nice pair of slacks. In his free time you may find him at a concert in Brooklyn or a craft beer bar.
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© GONG, Inc. All rights reserved