A lot of people get really, really angry about burning the American flag.

In fact, over the last few weeks, I’ve read numerous social media comments by people suggesting they would gladly subject flag burners to severe physical injury. Many threats involve kicking a certain part of the offender’s anatomy. The more rational commenters advocate laws criminalizing American flag burning. In other words, they aren’t willing to physically harm a flag burner personally, but they are more than happy to have somebody else lock them in a cage.

I understand the rage these people experience, because I feel the same sense of anger toward them.

Not that I want to burn an American flag, mind you. But punishing somebody for a form or expression, no matter how offensive, figuratively burns one of the foundational principles the flag represents.

They become angry over symbolism.

I am angry over substance.

A flag is nothing more than a colorful rag. It derives its significance from all it represents. The American flag symbolizes a set of principles, and liberty serves as the cornerstone. When you deny somebody the right to burn a flag to make their point, you infringe on their liberty. You crack the very foundation of the country the flag represents.

Essentially, those who violently oppose the right to burn a flag argue that the fact it deeply offends them trumps the unalienable right to free expression. They limit freedom, and in so-doing, they render the flag they so revere meaningless.

Flag burners destroy a piece of cloth.

The flag burner punishment squad stomps out an idea.