Help for a Flagging Industry

a radio commentary for broadcast on Jefferson Public Radio, May 20, 1997
(C)1997 by Fred Flaxman

HOST: Congress is once again considering approving an amendment to the Constitution which would make it illegal to burn an American flag as a form of protest. But have they considered what such an amendment would do to the American flag industry? In this second installment of a two-part commentary on the subject, Fred Flaxman does just that, and he is worried that the American flag industry could go up in smoke.

FLAXMAN: I thought Republicans were more interested in fostering free markets than in suppressing free speech. Well, they've disappointed me once again. Nothing could be more devastating to the flag manufacturing industry than a Constitutional amendment which was actually effective in preventing flag burning.

Though many American flags are imported from abroad - judging from the English used on their cleaning labels-some are still made in the good old USA. But, unlike American cars and light bulbs, U.S. flags are not made with built-in obsolescence. They are manufactured of sturdy cloth, are used only a couple of holidays a year by most people, and could conceivably last forever.

Therefore, to protect and encourage the making and sale of home-grown American American flags, we have but two options:

First, we could keep making the existing flags obsolete by adding other states to the union from time to time, requiring an additional star and a new flag design on each occasion. This solution poses a slight problem, however. Admitting other states risks disturbing a few Canadians if-as is only logical-we expropriate their adjacent provinces.

Second, we could encourage flag burning as an expression of free speech. This is what the Supreme Court, in its wisdom, was trying to do when they declared flag-burning laws unconstitutional in 1989. After all, if everyone who has something against the U.S. government were to burn an American flag, we'd need to make a lot more American flags.

Since the business of America is business, and what's good for free enterprise is good for the country, all true patriots should wave - and burn - their stars and stripes, and then go out and buy some more.

If people who hate the United States burn American flags to protest whatever it is they object to, and people who love our country burn Old Glory to help stimulate our flagging flag industry, pennant makers will have their best year since 1959, when Hawaii and Alaska both joined the union.

On the other hand, the only thing worse for the flag makers than an effective constitutional amendment against flag-burning would be a provision stating that all new U.S. flags had to be made out of nonflammable material. Could G.E. survive a new constitutional provision stating that all light bulbs had to burn forever? Would G.M. prosper if there were an amendment forbidding car makers from changing their models every year? Why single out pennant pushers?

Flag burning is good for the American flag business. And what's good for the American flag business is good for the American flag.

This is Fred Flaxman.

HOST: Fred Flaxman is a writer and television producer, based in southern Oregon. His comments are a regular Tuesday feature of the Jefferson Daily.