Friday, November 20, 2009

Of flags and religion

Apparently, a Council of Islamic nations at the U.N. has started lobbying for >a treaty banning certain types of religious blasphemy. They clearly have in mind the old Danish cartoon from a couple years back. This flies right in the face of freedom of speech, of course, and I am opposed to it.

However, it made me think back to the old flag burning Constitutional amendment that periodically crops up. The idea is identical. Many Americans believe that the flag is such an important symbol that to defame it is a moral outrage they will not stand for. And so they will put aside freedom of speech for it.

I also disagree strongly there.

But what's interesting to me is that the U.S. flag is the only symbol in the country that is being treated this way. It's true that you often can't burn a cross, but that isn't because it is an attack on Christians. It's because of the history of cross burning and racial violence in the nation. No Star of David amendments being batted around by Jews; no figurines of Christ amendment, no Buddha statue amendment. Just the flag.

And this makes me think that, for many, patriotism (chauvinism in the original sense is even better) is their religion. I'm fairly patriotic myself. I care how people think about my nation; I want it to do good things; I have affection for my home nation; I would defend it if attacked. But love of country is nothing like love of God.

Something seems askew....


blogless troll said...

But what's interesting to me is that the U.S. flag is the only symbol in the country that is being treated this way.

I disagree. I don't see how this is any different than any and all political correctness. The Criminalize Flag Burning crowd typically comes from the right and the Criminalize Hate Speech crowd typically comes from the left, but an attack on freedom of speech is an attack on freedom of speech, no matter what side it comes from.

I don't think there's anything askew. I think most people are tyrants, and given the opportunity would gladly tell others how to live their lives. But that's the way it's always been.

pjd said...

The Troll is again a wise sage dressed up as a fearsome monster. Complete with boogers and foul smell, but that's another discussion.

A different but related observation is that when religions go to war, it's never over theology or faith but over political power. The symbols of religion are commandeered as symbols of allegiance rather than symbols of faith.