At times lately it has seemed that we have begun living in an alternate universe. A third-rate shyster businessman most famous for reality television is going to be president, polling doesn’t work, and the Chicago Cubs won the World Series.
None of these things make sense in the universe we’re used to. So, perhaps, we’ve discovered the multiverse. We’re just here for a little while, and soon we’ll return to our home universe and things will go back to normal.
But imagine a slightly different universe in which Donald Trump tweets the following: “Nobody should be allowed to carry a handgun—if they do, there must be consequences—perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!”
Those loud booms you hear are the sounds of heads exploding. No, not as a result of a gun doing its job, but rather because of the fury gun fetishists would direct toward Trumpkin.
The criticism of Trump and the defense of carrying a handgun would go something like this:
“The Supreme Court already ruled that carrying a handgun is protected by the Second Amendment!”
“Throwing people in jail or stripping them of their citizenship for exercising their rights is tyranny!”
“Just because Trump doesn’t like guns doesn’t mean he can throw us in jail for owning a handgun!”
And perhaps the more astute critic would proclaim, “The Constitution prevents the government from stripping anyone’s citizenship from them!”
(My exclamation point key is tired.)
A more general criticism is bound to crop up, “If Trump doesn’t understand why that idea is so un-American then maybe he shouldn’t be president.”
That’s crazy, isn’t it? Can you imagine such a thing happening? How many universes would we have to travel through before we reached one in which such a thing could happen?
But since we’re in this universe, let’s switch it up a bit. Replace “carrying a handgun” with “burning the flag” and “Second Amendment” with “First Amendment” and you’ve got something that has actually happened in our universe.
Yes, my fellow Americans, in just fifty-two days Donald Trump will place his hand upon a bible (presumably), and swear to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, at which point he’ll become the chief executive of the United States. His signature will transform a bill into a law. He’ll be the most powerful man in the world.
But he won’t understand that what he’s proposing violates the Constitution.
The Supreme Court already decided—twenty-seven years ago—that burning the American flag is speech, and thus protected by the First Amendment. And before you start mouthing off about “activist judges” who are trying to impose their “liberal ideas” upon the nation, let me point out that Antonin Scalia, one of the most conservative Supreme Court justices this side of Dred Scott, sided with the majority.
But even if flag burning weren’t protected by the First Amendment, Trump couldn’t strip a flag burner of his or her citizenship. In fact, the government can’t strip anyone of his or her citizenship. In 1967, the Supreme Court (that damn court again!) ruled that citizens can only lose their citizenship if they voluntarily give it up. The government can’t take it from them, no matter what.
Just to repeat, the person who is going to be president of the United States doesn’t understand that expressing dissent is protected by the First Amendment, and that neither he, nor anyone else in the government, has the power to strip a person of U.S. citizenship.
This is basic stuff. I mean, the First Amendment! The first one. It’s not like it’s buried deep in the Constitution and he just didn’t get to read that far. It’s right up front, after the all the original stuff. It was so important that it’s the first thing the Founders wanted to add on.
And Donnie doesn’t know it.
Many of Trump’s supporters would revolt if he suggested arresting or stripping the citizenship of people who simply wanted to exercise their Second Amendment rights. I would love to hear from any of those supporters why the First Amendment doesn’t provide the same protection for flag burning as the Second Amendment does for guns.
Perhaps their new president can lead such a discussion. Right after he brushes up on his knowledge of the Constitution.
Luckily for him, a former constitutional law professor currently occupies the White House. Maybe Trump can ask him for help.
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