A Thank You to My Congressman

An Open Letter to my Congressman, Tim Bishop (D) Dear Congressman Bishop:

I'd like to thank you for your recent vote on the flag anti-desecration amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Thank you for affirming the federal government's right to tell me what symbols are sacred, in direct opposition to my First Amendment right to not have Congress make laws respecting an establishment of religion. I'd like to remind you that allowing Congress to make laws forbidding desecration of the flag elevates that symbol by affording it protections that other religious symbols currently do not and cannot enjoy.

Thank you for affirming the federal government's right to restrict the political speech that has enjoyed the First Amendment's broadest degree of protection.

Thank you for spending time on the issues that truly matter to this country. Social Security is a mess, the "War on Terror" is a mess, and our government's ethics are a mess. You should be commended for spending time to pass an anti-flag desecration amendment at a time when there was precisely one reported incident of flag desecration in the U.S. in the past year.

Thank you for putting the government in the business of determining the intent behind someone's burning of the flag. As you are a great patriot, I am sure you know that it is standard procedure to burn a flag when it has been deemed to be in such poor shape that it may no longer be displayed. When I decide to retire my tattered flag and properly dispose of it, will federal agents question me concerning my intent to desecrate the flag? Now that you've put the government in this position, allow me to test your resolve - I notice that you offer flags for purchase from your website. Should this amendment pass the Senate and be ratified by the requisite number of states, I will order a flag from your office, specifying that it eventually may or may not be burned. Then it will be up to you to determine my intent - whether I intend to desecrate it or treat it respectfully and dispose of it in the proper way. No doubt you will be able to use your special Vulcan Mind Meld powers to determine my intent ahead of time so that you may properly determine whether or not I should receive a flag from your office.

Thank you for paying attention to your fellow Democrat from New York, the Honorable Jerrold Nadler, who debated that "If the flag needs protection at all, it needs protection from members of Congress who value the symbol more than the freedoms that the flag represents." I believe Nadler truly understands the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the notion that decisions of this magnitude must not be motivated solely by jingoism, emotion and pandering to interest groups who would restrict our freedoms in the name of "feel good legislation."

You got my vote last time around. I fear that will not be the case when you are next up for election.

-Thomas F. Hespos, Jr. Wading River, New York