What the Fourth is really about

What the Fourth is really about

What the Fourth is really about

Bad Astronomy
The entire universe in blog form
July 4 2006 10:39 PM

What the Fourth is really about

I've talked with many folks who aren't Americans, and they are, in many cases, baffled about us. We're such an ironic country! So young, yet so powerful. So sure of ourselves, yet so wrong so often. So technically and scientifically advanced, yet so backwards and provincial, so willing to turn our backs on what makes us great.

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

Our Constitution is a thing of beauty. The First Amendment, all by itself, is so revolutionary that even now, 200 years later, people argue over its meaning. Yet I'll argue that the power it gives to the people is the greatest thing about the United States.

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An example: my family and I went to a picnic down the street from our house. Mrs. Bad Astronomer made an awesome cookie:

It generated many ooos and ahhhs, as it well should. She's an artist with baked goods.

But that's not what I'm getting at. Here is what the Constitution is very clear about:

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Sure, this is a silly example, but in a sense it's very serious. A flag is a thing. It may symbolize this country, our freedoms, our liberty, our rights. But it's a thing. It represents our country, but it isn't our country. A flag is a piece of colored cloth, no more, no less. Burning it, tearing it, trampling it... these are symbols too. They're speech. It may anger you to the point of rigid fury to see someone burning the flag, but it's their right to do so, as it's your right to protest against it.

The Constitution is far more what our country is than a flag ever could be. Yet you could burn a copy of that, too. That may be our greatest irony-- those who would prevent people from burning the Constitution, or a flag, don't really get what our country is about.

The real desecration would be to amend the Constitution to prevent these acts -- an idea so silly that it would be like making an Amendment to prevent people from eating a cookie.

Our flag is many things. But in this case, it was simply delicious.