I noticed at our family’s Fourth of July picnic that not all of the 71 in attendance were wearing red, white and blue clothing this year. I’d say about half of us, including older ones like me, donned patriotic wear. I wore my flag-striped, tie-dyed T-shirt I reserve for the 4th. A number of our under-forty group, however, looked as if it were just another picnic, not America’s 246th birthday.
I believe the lack of American flag colors this year reflects the general malaise of our country’s many woes. Yes, there are a lot of challenges right now: a lingering pandemic, climate change, pro-life vs. pro-choice, and other political dilemmas.
I just feel sad that our beloved stars and stripes has fallen victim to the polarization, revered or reviled by two camps.
There are those who go overboard and wave it frenetically, clad in “Family, Faith, Firearms” T-shirts. They stick or tack Old Glory on plywood signs scrawled with a former president’s name, already campaigning for his re-election in ’24. The more flags the better, whatever the weather or condition, seems to be their m.o.
Then there are those who maybe because of this, and perhaps in general disappointment with the political climate appear repulsed (?) by the American flag. I’ve heard many say the American flag has been “commandeered” even “hijacked” by “them.” “Look how they’ve raped (this country),” one person told me.
I know a few folks who refuse to fly the flag in their yard. Yet, when one does, it may come with a kind of wariness. What will people think? A young businessman who sells plants in an area where half of his neighbors are prolific flag fliers, apologized to us for flying the American flag in his front yard.
“Don’t apologize,” I said. “It’s your flag, too.” Did we seem the type who needed soothing because we talked a little politics over our plant purchase? That bothers me. Has the flag, it self, become yet another taboo item we need to be mindful of in common conversation?
I know of an “open and affirming” church that took down their American flag where it once flew beside the rainbow flag over their front door, “because some thought it was offense.”
This makes me sad and mad. Why do we have to be so divided, even down to our American flag? The American flag belongs to all of us! Not one “side” or faction. No one gets to own the flag or make it a symbol for their “side.” No one should despise the flag because they are unhappy or even disillusioned with the way the things are going. Rally, mobilize, and go vote, but please don’t give up the flag! We shouldn’t need to apologize nor defend ourselves if we choose to display, wear, or salute the flag, either.
My fellow and female Americans, fly your flag as your right at as an American. Not as a Republican, Democrat, Independent, Believer or Atheist, Straight or LGBTQIA+ person but because you are an American! Display it at your home, on the road, at your campsite. Carry it in parades along with all other multi-colored, meaningful banners. Fly it at your church, synagogue, or mosque to show you are truly open to all. Protest with the flag by your side, or by kneeling in front of it to amplify your concerns for things that need changing in the country. Go ahead and do these things because people fought and died for you to be free under this American flag! Long may she wave, representing you and me.