Letter to the Editor: Considering Personal Liberties

By Seth Swank, Sophomore, Political Science


The esteemed Mr. Jared Clay, in his April 18 letter to the editor, “Flag Burning Promotes Negativity,” invited the students who hope to see a United States flag burned in a class to “parasitize a different country.” Further, Clay makes the assertion that were there to be more patriotism similar to that of David Reichner, a student who barred another from burning a flag, a sense of “responsible citizenship” would emerge.

Best of all, “victims of abuse would no longer have their screams answered by deaf ears and turned heads.” Clay’s libertarian/humanist approach is popular in the United States.

We indeed do need to cultivate better citizens, and we need to be more adherent to others’ woes. However, it seems that we are now brought to a paradigm that diseases us.

The United States prides itself on being liberal, in the sense that individual freedoms trump most else. After all, we are the land of the free. However, we have fallen into a hypocritical state. No longer is a person allowed to explore the realms of another with a critical disposition.

This way of thinking is valuable in that we utilize lessons learned. Yet, somehow hypocrisy seems to leak in when the majority is challenged. Somehow we digress into prizing the majority’s good and disregard individual liberties.

Indeed, actually exercising liberties (like going to the voting booth) distinguishes citizens from mere inhabitants. It also legitimizes the regime.

An individual is, however, not at liberty to use his liberty, as expressed by the Bill of Rights, in generalizing popular culture’s (the majority’s) religion.

Perhaps Mr. Niang should have pointed out that the LDS Church denied all blacks the priesthood until the 1970s. And maybe he should have added that women are not allowed the priesthood even today. That way, sex discrimination and race discrimination would have made it an even two.

Was Niang’s intention to persecute a group? Come on. If it was the Baptists, do you think there would have been such a ruckus? Maybe in Louisiana.

A person should be able to act in a way consistent with the Bill of Rights. It would be ludicrous to think otherwise. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that peaceful flag desecration is a form of political speech.

To some, a flag is a symbol of greatness, perseverance and defense of liberty. To others, it is a piece of cloth that brings dread of dominating world-paternalism. And we should respect that. After all, we like to claim that everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion.

We have to recognize we are dealing with a double-standard. There is a cry for better citizens and for individual liberties, yet a tendency to stifle citizenry and liberties (even those expressly stated in the Bill of Rights, our country’s most esteemed document).

No wonder intellects criticize the United States being at odds with itself and for having a democracy that fails in itself. We need to hold some consistency.

I find burning a flag of a country (in a peaceful way, naturally) whose inner-turmoil conveys it as politically ridiculous justifiable. Perhaps it would be valuable to examine exactly what a good citizen is and how to go about being moderately consistent. After all, if I expect someone to not misconstrue what I say and do while exercising my liberties, that exact standard should be expected of me.

I agree, Mr. Clay, scourging is wanton, but perhaps the parasites in our own society should be considered first.

Seth Swank, Sophomore, Political Science