Welcome to Perspectives, a blog of thoughts, commentary and observations ranging from autistic adolescents to intimate portraits of urban communities.

 

In Praise of Scalia

Amid all my copious research on Associate Justice of the United States Antonin Scalia, his remarkable decision in Texas v. Johnson (1989) stands out. For here, he was part of a 5-4 majority who upheld the right of every American to burn the American flag. This decision split the Supreme Court in unprecedented ways, with conservatives, liberals and moderates on both sides. When Congress hurriedly passed a law making it a federal crime to desecrate the flag, the same slim majority declared that unconstitutional as well. This was not a popular decision. It takes courage both to burn the flag in Texas and to declare it a fundamental right in Washington. Moreover, Scalia was upholding an activity he found repugnant: “Yes, if I were king, I would not allow people to go about burning the American flag. However, we have a First Amendment, which says that the right of free speech shall not be abridged. And it is addressed, in particular, to speech critical of the government. I mean, that was the main kind of speech that tyrants would seek to suppress. Burning the flag is a form of expression. . . . And burning [it] is a symbol that expresses an idea – I hate the government, the government is unjust, whatever.”

This is how the law should work. In Mosul the self-declared government crucified a man for eating before sunset during Ramadan and published videos of massacring “infidels.” Here the Supreme Court upholds our right to burn the flag. Glad I'm here.

Dangerously Awesome and Frighteningly Inane

The Scalia Rule