These days, it seems to me that when most people think about “free speech,” they think about it as a protection from our increasingly politically correct culture. This is, of course, true — and it is important. It’s not, however, the most important reason for this freedom. No . . . the most important role that the First Amendment plays in this country is that it gives us the freedom to speak out against our government, thereby providing a check on its power.
Now, I normally hate the “slippery slope” argument, but in this instance, I have to admit that the slope is exactly what makes me so terrified. Think about it: If we outlaw flag burning because it is “unpatriotic,” what could “because unpatriotic” be used as an excuse to outlaw next? Protesting government decisions? Speaking out against the president? If we start using “lack of patriotism” as a barometer for what speech should and should not be allowed, we could see the tragic loss of the very freedoms that our flag is meant to extoll.