Donald Trump tweeted today that he thinks there ought to be punishment for burning an American flag, prompting shrieks and wails of outrage from the usual suspects who might want to burn a flag but don’t you dare tell someone they might get deported ’cause that’s a hate crime. Apparently the “cool” response to this has been to point to a Supreme Court opinion authored by none other than Justice Antonin Scalia, God rest his mighty soul, in which Scalia came down on the side of allowing flag burning as protected speech under the First Amendment.
Which is correct. If the President-elect were proposing legislation, that’d be a problem. He isn’t. He’s expressing his opinion. Which is as protected as burning a flag is.
However, this ignores a lesser-known fact. Justice Scalia later said that if he had his way, he would lock up every last sandal-wearing scraggy-bearded hippie weirdo who lit an American flag on fire. But, he said, he can’t. Nobody can. We don’t have a king, we have a First Amendment. You’re allowed to think, and say, and even suggest that we ought to penalize people who burn an American flag. God knows you’d get charged with a “hate crime” if you set fire to a Mexican flag or a rainbow flag or a Che Guevara flag.
When The Don proposes his “Kick You Out If You Light Old Glory On Fire” bill call me, and we’ll have a rational discussion and then probably nothing will happen because that’d take a Constitutional amendment. Until then, President-elect Trump has as much right to his opinion as the great Justice Scalia did and as every useless hippie weirdo with a Bic lighter does.