Friday, March 09, 2007

Treason, or Just Stupid?

Although this happened a year ago it's only recently been brought to my attention via a forwarded e-mail. The header of the e-mail was: "If This Isn't Treason, What Is It?"

Well, it's certainly in poor taste, possibly unlawful under rarely-if-never-enforced federal flag etiquette laws, but I'm not sure how it could - - or should - - be treasonous.

Background: Whittier area students from Pioneer, California and Whittier high schools walked out of classes to protest the proposed federal immigration bill March 27, 2006. The protestors put up the Mexican flag over the American flag flying upside down at Montebello High. (Leo Jarzomb/Staff photo) Michelle Malkin posted on it here.

Now, on to the law:

18 USC 2381: "Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason."

It's a bit of a stretch to say that flying a flag upside is levying war or adhering to an "enemy." I'm not even sure it would constitute "flag desecration," which is also defined in statute.

18 USC 700: "Whoever knowingly mutilates, defaces, physically defiles, burns, maintains on the floor or ground, or tramples upon any flag of the United States shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for not more than one year, or both."

It is absolutely disrespectful, as set out in the flag etiquette code:

4 USC 8: "No disrespect should be shown to the flag of the United States of America; the flag should not be dipped to any person or thing. . . . (a) The flag should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property."

But 4 USC 8 is widely observed in the breach. Take, for example, this provision:

4 USC 8(i): "The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever."

Whoa. We would have to shut down half the businesses in the country on that one, including most gas stations and just about every car dealership I've ever driven by.

Stating (as Malkin does) that this stunt - - which is all that it really is - - will put the nail in the coffin of the immigration bill is ad hominem. It would be a shame, really, if that happened. One would hope that our federal legislators don't permit the sophomoric antics of high school students to definitively determine our national policies. Because THAT would be treasonous.

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