President-elect Donald Trump has become synonymous with exuberant claims and shocking honesty. His trademark style of unapologetically speaking his mind made yet another appearance on Tuesday when he tweeted his stance on burning of American flags.
According to the tweet, “Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag – if they do, there must be consequences – perhaps loss of citizenship or a year in jail!” The claim, if enforced, would not only violate two amendments, the First and the Eighth, it would provide an outlet to punish citizens for expressing their beliefs.
The First Amendment ensures that citizens are guaranteed freedoms concerning religion, speech, the press and the right to petition. All of these rights come together to allow the freedom of expression. It is the right of American citizens to express their beliefs through nonviolent actions, such as flag-burning, but Trump obviously did not consider this right when he made his stance known to his 16.4 million Twitter followers.
He also deems a year in jail a proper consequence for exercising this freedom of expression. In doing so, he equates it to offenses like assault in the second degree with a firearm, burglary in the third degree with a firearm, and the possession of child pornography, all of which have a mandatory minimum sentence of one year in prison.
Another one of Trump’s suggested consequences is to revoke the offender’s citizenship. In the current American justice system, illegal immigration, deliberate deceit on naturalization documents, and affiliation with organizations like Communist groups and terrorist groups are among the few offenses that call for loss of citizenship. To liken the harmless act of expressing an opinion to these crimes is a form of cruel and unusual punishment, something Americans are protected from by the Eighth Amendment.
Though it is arguable that Trump would not be able to establish this position when he becomes President of the United States, it is our responsibility as American citizens to take our future seriously, and, regardless of how you feel about it, our future is in President-elect Donald Trump. To have a President-elect that has normalized outrageous claims, like this recent one, is concerning and should call Americans to action.
It is unfair to the American people to have their rights tossed around like toys by the very person who is in line to be the ultimate representative of these rights. Instead of brushing off Trump’s claims on the basis that they won’t be executed or agreeing with them because they are unprecedented in politics, consider the ideology of Trump’s positions and express your own beliefs about them.
America was founded on the basis that everybody can have a say in the future of their country. Don’t sit back and allow these ideals to be squandered simply because someone has made it normal, do your duty to this country. For the sake of your future, exercise the freedoms America was founded on and make your voice heard.