Ladies and gentlemen, the man who will soon be the President of the United States of America:
If you’re a regular follower of Paste’s politics section, then you might be scratching your head at my byline. That’s because I don’t typically write about much in the way of politics. But here’s the thing: You don’t need to be a politics writer to look at the above tweet from the PRESIDENT-ELECT and shudder in horror. Even as we try to keep a sense of perspective about the Hitler-ifying of the man, in a desperate attempt to find some kind of humanity in a nation where empathy and understanding have seemingly flown out the window, tweets like the one above undermine every potential effort. How does one even attempt to argue that this perspective isn’t fascism—defined as “radical authoritarian nationalism”—when the chief executive officer of a country is espousing for criticism of that country to be punished by jail time and removal of citizenship? It’s as fine a textbook definition of fascism as I’ve ever seen. Future generations, assuming that the U.S.A. still exists for the course of another generation, will surely be using it as a dictionary definition.
This is an attitude toward the First Amendment that I never would have thought a presidential candidate could possibly espouse, given that one of the prerequisites of becoming President is presumably that you hold some esteem for the basic rights of American citizens. This is apparently not the case for Trump, who ostensibly was running on the Republican rather than the “Jail All Dissidents” ticket.
The tweet, which has already been “liked” on Twitter some 100,000 times, has drawn exactly the reaction you would expect: Furious indignation, reminders that the President is sworn to actually advocate for the upholding of the country’s Constitution, and apologists fighting for the sanctity of the flag while simultaneously ignoring a citizen’s constitutional right to burn one, if they so please.
Although it probably shouldn’t be necessary to remind U.S. citizens of this, allow me to do so: It is indeed legal in the United States to burn a flag in protest, an action provided for us by the First Amendment. This right was defended in 1989, in Texas v. Johnson, and again in 1990, in U.S. v. Eichman, with the conclusion the same each time: “It is unconstitutional for a government (whether federal, state, or municipality) to prohibit the desecration of a flag, due to its status as “symbolic speech.””
Now consider what Trump just stated. In the space of a 140 character limit tweet, possibly one crapped out at a moment’s notice and without a second of thought as to what he was saying, the soon-to-be-president just advocated for demolishing the 225-year-old First Amendment right of a U.S. citizen to peacefully, nonviolently protest his country. And 100,000 people all digitally said “Yes, strip me of my rights, please. Throw anyone with a differing viewpoint in jail.”
Even for someone like myself, who has grown up in the digital age of celebrities and public figures being able to instantaneously broadcast their thoughts to the masses, it still seems hard to believe these events could actually be happening. We are heading into the presidency of a man with absolutely no filter, who occasionally just thinks—and then immediately broadcasts—profoundly un-American, dangerous, violent nuggets of fascism. That’s the 2016 you live in, where everything potentially rests at the whims of whatever pops into this man’s head when he rolls out of bed in the morning. It’s no leap of imagination whatsoever to assume that in a country where flag-burning is illegal, it will soon also be illegal to criticize the government in exactly the same manner as this post. Which is to say, I guess I’ll be writing to you from prison soon.
No one says it better, or more concisely, than this guy.
If only the President-Elect was in favor of his own country’s constitution, then he might actually agree.