Donald Trump took to Twitter this morning to fire off a deeply disturbing and entirely unprompted attack on the First Amendment rights of Americans to protest as they see fit, casually threatening to strip protesters of their citizenship or send them to jail for flag-burning.
Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag – if they do, there must be consequences – perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 29, 2016
Of course, flag-burning is a protected constitutional right that has been upheld by the Supreme Court not once but twice with broad bipartisan support. “I mean that was the main kind of speech that tyrants would seek to suppress. Burning the flag is a form of expression — speech doesn’t just mean written words or oral words — burning a flag is a symbol that expresses an idea. ‘I hate the government, the government is unjust,’ or whatever.” Those words are not from the American Civil Liberties Union or a liberal pundit – they were said by the now-deceased Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, one of the most conservative men to ever sit the bench.
What makes this little authoritarian outburst even more worrying is that it doesn’t even seem to be in response to anything.
Legendary actor and LGBT activist George Takei had a fiery response for our potential president-elect.
I pledged allegiance to the flag every morning inside an internment camp. I would never burn one, but I'd die to protect the right to do so. https://t.co/O5ecSQkyC2
— George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) November 29, 2016
Takei and his parents were interned at the Rohwer Relocation Center in Arkansas during the Second World War simply because they were of Japanese descent. He knows firsthand what it feels like to have your rights stripped away from you, to be loaded onto a train car by armed men, to be forced to pledge allegiance to a flag that waves behind a wall of barbed wire. Our rights and our freedoms are one of the fundamental pieces of our identity as Americans, a source of our national pride and the defining image that we present to the world. It is horrifying to see this minuscule-mitted tyrant threaten the values our nation was founded on with a thoughtless hundred and forty characters.