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HORIST: Independence Day: Fireworks and flag burning

HORIST: Independence Day: Fireworks and flag burning

Want to have a little fun … and make a point?  Put together one of those word association lists in which you say a word or term and the other person is to respond quickly.  Put the term “independence day” in the list and try it out on people – especially young people.  The most common response is likely to be “movie.”

Actually, Independence Day is our nation’s most important civic holiday – although we commonly refer to it as the Fourth of July these days.  That was not always the case.  For generations, it was referred to by its proper name, Independence Day – and should be again.

Since 1777 — the first anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 – fireworks have been the traditional expression of celebration across the land.  It was a time for Americans throughout the country to raise up their voices with the National Anthem, God Bless America and any number of other patriotic songs.

It was a time to rally around the flag – but obviously not for everyone.  One of the iconic expressions of disagreement, disappointment  and downright anger at our leaders or the policies we do not like is to burn the flag.

This has become very controversial with periodic efforts to pass a constitutional amendment to make it a federal crime to burn the flag in protest – as opposed to burning it as the proper disposal of an old worn or tattered flag.

This Independence Day, Gregory “Joey” Johnson (pictured above) will be at it again.  He has promised to come to Washington for the purpose of burning the flag during the high point of our annual national celebration of independence.   If you are not familiar with Johnson, he is a member of the Revolutionary Communist Party and the guy who won a court case in 1989, winning him, and others, the right to burn flags for a living.  Since that time, Johnson has had a theatrical obsession with burning what he calls “that rag of empire and oppression” as his claim to fame.  God knows how many flags Johnson has burned in the past 30 years, but he will be adding another in the coming week.

Flag burning is an issue that divides patriots.  I do not respect burning the flag and especially do not respect those who see it as a legitimate means of protest – including that reprobate Johnson-the-flag-burner.  I happen to be one of those patriots who think we can protest without disrespecting the symbols of our overarching unity – the flag and the National Anthem.  To me, disrespecting them is to disrespect the very foundations of our American culture of freedom.

However, burning the flag is a form of speech.  It is a statement.  As much as I find the practice offensive, I must – out of respect for the First Amendment oppose making the burning of the American Flag illegal – as long as the flag that is burned is the property of the burner and has not been stolen — and it does not pose a significant safety risk at the time.  In mixing, metaphorically, the iconic symbols of America, I would not allow the burning of a flag in a fireworks factory.

We do not need to lose sight of the irony of burning the symbol of free speech in ritualistically exercising that very right as a form of public protests.  Nor do we have to harbor anything but contempt for those who would do so.  But that is freedom, baby.  And we damn well should project it at every turn.

So there ‘tis.

About The Author

Larry Horist

So,there‘tis… The opinions, perspectives and analyses of Larry Horist Larry Horist is a businessman, conservative writer and political strategist with an extensive background in economics and public policy. Clients of his consulting firm have included such conservative icons as Steve Forbes and Milton Friedman. He has served as a consultant to the Nixon White House and travelled the country as a spokesman for President Reagan’s economic reforms. He has testified as an expert witness before numerous legislative bodies, including the U. S. Congress. Horist has lectured and taught courses at numerous colleges and universities, including Harvard, Northwestern, DePaul universities, Hope College and his alma mater, Knox College. He has been a guest on hundreds of public affairs talk shows, and hosted his own program, “Chicago In Sight,” on WIND radio. Horist was a one-time candidate for mayor of Chicago and served as Executive Director of the City Club of Chicago, where he led a successful two-year campaign to save the historic Chicago Theatre from the wrecking ball. An award-winning debater, his insightful and sometimes controversial commentaries appear frequently on the editorial pages of newspapers across the nation. He is praised by readers for his style, substance and sense of humor. According to one reader, Horist is the “new Charles Krauthammer.” He is actively semi-retired in Boca Raton, Florida where he devotes his time to writing. So, there ‘tis is Horist’s signature sign off.


  1. will meredith

    BURN that commie

  2. Kurt Deisting

    Burn Johnson instead of the flag

  3. Don Nixon

    The last sentence should read:
    And we damn well should protect it at every turn.

    Great fan of your column.

  4. Ellen

    The Flag represents the country and the people of the people of this country. It also stands for our FREEDOM Nd the men and women who fought and still fighting to make sure that freedom we enjoy is uphold. I DONT CONSIDER BURNING FLAG A FORM OF FREE SPEECH…….IT IS A DISRESPECT AND A FORM OF ANTAGONISM TO THIS GREAT COUNTRY. I would like for the lawmakers to write a law outlawing this so-called expression of free speech… I WOULD LIKE CONGRESS TO PASS A BILL OUTLAWING THIS PRACTICE A D MAKE IT A CRIME TO BURN THE FLAG … MAKE IT A CRIME PUNISHABLE WITH TEN YEARS(10+) or more of jail time and no parole…

  5. Ellen


  6. Ellen

    How can burning of the flag that represents our country be a form of expression of free speech? ? ? ? BURNING OF THE FLAG MEANS DISRESPECT, AVERSION TO THIS COUNTRY ! ! ! ! If a person(s) CANNOT RESPECT THIS COUNTRY AND THE MEN AND WOMEN WHO FOUGHT FOR OUR FREEDOM AND STIL FIGHTING TO MAKE SURE THAT FREEDOM IS UPHOLD, that person(s) has no right living in this country and be stripped of his American citizenship and BE REMOVED from this great USA. This country DO NOT NEED THESE ANTI-AMERICA SCOUNDRELS.