Donald Trump hasn’t even been sworn into office yet, and he has already decided that he will go after First Amendment protections. In an early morning tweet, Trump mused about what he would do to people who burn the American flag. Despite the fact that the Supreme Court upheld the right to burn the flag under the First Amendment, Trump seems to think he can jail people for that act – or even strip them of their American citizenship. Here is a screenshot of the tweet, just in case someone in his circle decides to have him delete it:
It seems that Trump and other right-wing “patriots” are angry because Hampshire College has decided to temporarily remove the American flag from their campus. Apparently, in Donald Trump’s America, flying and honoring the flag should be law, rather than choice. Trump’s early morning tweet seems to reference a flag burning that occurred on that same campus.
This is deeply troubling. The First Amendment is there to protect ALL speech – and especially unpopular speech. This why the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which is largely seen as an extraordinarily liberal organization, actually defended the right of the Ku Klux Klan to do what they do, just since they don’t harm others. The Klan is perhaps the most repulsive organization to ever exist in American history – they are literally terrorists -, and yet the ACLU rightly defended their speech, even though their speech is hateful.
This sets a dangerous precedent. This his how dictatorships start. The would-be autocrat slowly but surely chips away at trusted institutions while everyone sits idly by and swears up and down that the checks and balances put in place will keep a dictatorship from happening. Trump has already done a very good job of this, by sowing distrust in the media – our fourth wall of accountability – in his rabid base of hateful supporters. He has also been hostile to his protective press pool, and infamously banned a long list of publications from having press credentials at his campaign rallies. I guarantee you, now that he has actually been elected, this trend will only intensify.
Remember, folks – almost all dictators in history were duly elected. Trump is no different. We must be vigilant, join The Resistance – or risk losing our cherished American democracy forever.
Featured image via Win McNamee/Getty Images