Flag burning, or any other physical desecration of the American flag: no matter what side of the issue people fall upon, the very concept sparks strong emotions. On the one hand are those who regard burning the American flag as a form of blasphemy - a sin against "civil religion" in America tantamount a sin against an established church.
That the flag is regarded as a mystical, almost religious symbol is made manifest by the use of the quasi-religious term of "desecration" in legislative attempts to protect the flag. You cannot realistically desecrate a purely secular and neutral object.
On the other hand are those who, although perhaps appalled by the burning of an American flag, nevertheless regard such acts as forms of expression and speech - thus, protected by the First Amendment. For this reason they seek to prevent legislative attempts to ban flag burning just they like might seek to prevent attempts to ban neo-nazis from marching or other personally distasteful things.
And while the debates swirl around issues of protecting symbols of national unity versus protecting actual guarantees of free speech, what is lost from sight is the fact that neither of them are ultimately the real issue. As the 1960s counter-culture slogan went, "The issue is not the issue.".
This is most especially true for those who fight so hard to pass laws preventing the "physical desecration" of the American flag. What is often most perplexing to their opponents is why they invest so much time and energy on a "problem" which, ultimately, is not much of a problem at all.
As we shall discover, the real problem is that dominant cultural groups are trying to maintain a sense of identity and even social power. Preservation of a traditional social order, with certain groups controlling common symbols of authority and other groups remaining as outsiders and/or in positions of subordination, are the actual underlying issues.