Sometimes you hear about a story and can perfectly visualize the virulent backlash before it even happens. This is one of those times. In a music video for his new song "God Bless Amerika," Lil' Wayne can be seen stepping on a large American flag multiple times. Though what he did was legal — flag desecration has been covered by the First Amendment since the Supreme Court said as much in the 1989 case Texas v. Johnson — the issue evidently is still a controversial one for some. Public outcry has already exploded on web sites such as the Daily Caller (check the disgustingly hateful comments) and Twitter. Lil' Wayne has a new album out, and you can be sure that someone is going to start a somewhat effective boycott in the next couple of days.
So is the reaction proportional to the crime? Does Lil' Wayne, by no means a political figure, making a completely fair political statement — that urban poor in the United States are far too exposed to violence and incarceration — merit him being called an "ebonic speaking, nappy headed, face tattoed freak" (sic.)? In other words, has our usually acceptable reverence for our flag gone too far in this case?
I completely understand the argument against any sort of desecration of our flag. It, perhaps more than any symbol, is a tangible embodiment of all the United States and its people represent: values like freedom, equality, and opportunity. To desecrate the flag, then, whether by stepping on it, burning it, or ripping it up, is to declare your opposition to those core values. In theory, there is nothing wrong with this argument. But forgetting to separate the red, white, and blue piece of fabric Lil' Wayne stepped on from the ideals it stands for allows for hateful, dogmatic attacks on people who are protesting the status quo.
In addition, there is an inherent schizophrenia in these attacks on alleged desecrators of the flag. If you want to be serious about preserving the sanctity of the Stars and Stripes, then outlaw American flag-themed bikinis and those "patriotic" Budweiser cans. Does implying it's the American way to drink a certain brand of beer really make less of a mockery of our flag than Lil' Wayne does? It seems we are only reverential of the flag when we don't like what we're hearing or seeing.