gressional Medal of Honor Society, nornless).rnAll of us were tr}’ing to convince twothirdsrnof the House to approve an additionrnto the Constitution stating thatrn”Congress shall have the power to prohibitrnthe physical desecration of the Flagrnof the United States.” The amendmentrnhas the support of 80 percent of thernAmerican people, it has been requestedrnby 49 of the state legislatures, and itrnwould pass in a heartbeat, if it ever gotrnout of Congress. The requisite threequartersrnof the state legislatures wouldrnapprove it, and it would become the 28thrnAmendment. The House of Representativesrnhas already passed the amendmentrntwice by the necessary two-thirds vote,rnbut it failed by three votes in the Senaterntwo years ago, and the Democratic leadershiprnprevented it from reaching thernSenate floor for a vote last year.rnIt’s a small amendment, but, to paraphrasernDaniel Webster, there are thosernwho love it. There are also those whornhate it. It has been virulently damned byrnvirtually the entire media and the entirernprofessoriat, who see it as a threat to thernFirst Amendment. Opponents take thernsame position as did the Supreme Courtrnin the dubious Texas v. Johnson case ofrn1989, when, by a bare five-to-four majorit}’,rnit ruled for the first time in our historyrnthat burning the flag was speech protectedrnby the First Amendment, andrnstruck down all laws banning flag desecration.rnCongress tried to draft a statuternto meet the objections of the Court, butrnthe federal law was struck down a yearrnlater. The Court then made clear thatrnno statute could prohibit flag desecrationrnsince, in its view, the flag stood for thernright to burn it.rnTexas v. Johnson represents the jurisprudencernof self-actualization runrnamuck, and it is of some significance thatrneven Earl Warren and Hugo Black—rnperhaps the greatest liberal and the greatestrnFirst Amendment absolutist ever to sitrnon the Court—both believed that therernwas an easy distinction to be made betweenrnflag desecration and speech. Allrnthe Flag Protection Amendment seeks torndo is to overrule Texas v. Johnson and returnrnto the jurisprudence of Warren,rnBlack, and 100 years of constitutionalrnprecedent, but its opponents see thernamendment as a dagger striking at thernheart of free speech.rnIt’s widely believed in the media thatrnthe amendment is an invention of unscrupulousrnpoliticians who think theyrncan score cheap points by wrappingrnthemselves in Old Clory. Curiously, therntruth is exacfly the opposite. It takes arnconsiderable amount of courage for arnpolitician to support the amendment becausernthe media happily crucifies anyonernwho seeks to protect the flag, immediatelyrntarring him or her as an enemy ofrnfree speech. Since politicians live andrndie by favorable press, it takes all the persuasivernpowers that a panel such as thernone I was on can muster to keep congressionalrnsupport for the amendment alive.rnEven more important is the persistencernof the grassroots movement, particularlyrnof roughly 150 veterans’ groupsrnand service organizations who havernjoined in the Citizens Flag Alliance, whornhave tirelessly advocated the amendmentrnfor ten years, and who assembledrnthe panel.rnThe amendment is an important frontrnin the nation’s ongoing culture war. Thernforces of tradition, virtue, and moralit’,rnwhich have enlisted on its side, suffered arncrushing defeat in the Senate trial of thernClinton impeachment charges, and theyrnare hoping to regain some lost ground.rnThose who back the amendment seek tornremind us that responsibilities are as importantrnas rights, and they believe thatrnthe people have a right to express fliisrnprinciple by protecting their flag. Thosernwho oppose the amendment fight for thernnotion that individual free expression isrnwhat America is all about, that nothingrnshould be officially sacred, and that wernshould glory in the fact that we allow ourrnmost precious symbol to be trashed withrnimpunit}’.rnThere have been about 50 acts of flagrndesecration since the Johnson decision;rnthe most dramatic—an act of defecatingrnon the flag—was recently ruled by thernWisconsin Supreme Court (followingrnTexas v. Johnson) to be speech protectedrnbv the First Amendment. When the flagrnhas oflJicially been declared a permissiblernrumpswab, it would seem something hasrngone ‘ery wrong.rnMy own view (and, I would think, thernview of Burkean traditionalists) is that thernFlag Protection Amendment ought to bernsupported because of its implicit acknowledgmentrnthat duty and deferencernare the foundation of any societ)’, andrnthat liberty unchecked too quickly becomesrnlicense. There are those who supportrnthe amendment, however, simplyrnon the basis that, if that’s what the peoplernwant, then that’s what they should have,rnand there’s surely something to that.rnThough one lesson of the Clinton presidencyrnis that we must guard against demagoguer)’rnand poll-driven policy, the factrnremains that popular sovereignty is thernbasis of our society. The Constitutionrnbegins with the words, “We the People,”rnbut too many of the people now feel as ifrnthey have lost the Constitution to arnSupreme Court bent on rewriting it.rnThe Flag Protection Amendment, inrnsending a shot across the bow of thernSupreme Court (as one brave law professorrnat the University of Texas put it),rnmight remind the Court who really isrnsupposed to be governing in this Republic.rnIf that’s what Miss America, the general,rnthe bishop, the sur’ivor, I, and 80rnpercent of the American people want,rnshouldn’t we have it?rn— Stephen B. PresserrnO B I T E R DICTA: in the Februaryrn1999 installment of Signs of the Times, arnquotation is attributed to a 60 Minutesrninterview with Janet Reno. Since publication,rnwe have learned that the attorneyrngeneral did not appear on 60 Minutes onrnthe date in question and have been unablernto determine whether she, in fact, isrnthe source of the quotation, A number ofrnexplanations for the quotation have beenrnadvanced; since we are unable to verifyrnany of them, we will not speculate anyrnfurther about its accuracy. We regret anyrnerror and any inconvenience to ourrnreaders, and we thank all of those whornhave assisted us in attempting to determinernthe source of this quotation.rnGregory L. Newbold, our artist thisrnmonth, hails from Salt Lake City, Utah.rnMr. Newbold’s clients have includedrnSony/Tri Star Pictures, Hewlett Packard,rnCadillac, and the Houston Crand Opera.rnHe has illustrated two children’srnbooks, and his paintings appear on everyrnjar of Mountain Sun Natural Juices. Hisrnwork has been recognized by the Societyrnof Illustrators and the American Instituternof Craphic Arts, among others.rnTwo poets grace our pages thisrnmonth. Richard Moore, from Belmont,rnMassachusetts, is the author of ninernbooks of poetry, as well as translations ofrnPlautus and Euripides, a book of literaryrnessays, and a novel. The Investigator. Mr.rnMoore gives frequent readings in thernBoston area. Our second poet thisrnmonth is Constance Rowell Mastores ofrnOakland, California. Her poetry has appearedrnin the Lyric, Press, Blue Unicom,rnBoulevard, and Artweek, among others.rnJUNE 1999/9rnrnrn