We’re coming up on American Independence Day and the stars and stripes are already in full force, decorating yards and businesses in preparation of the picnics and retail sales events to come.
I don’t really do flags.
Oh sure, I enjoy seeing them go up during the Olympics, accompanied by their associated national anthems. But in recent years, I’ve become less concerned with which flag was making that ritual ascent. The Games provide me an opportunity to learn about the symbolism of other nations, to hear the strains of music that fill them with national pride.
But I am not, myself, emotionally moved by these displays.
This started out as a punishment.
I was stuck in detention for a week, due to an offense I have long forgotten, and as a result, I found myself doing my work at a desk in the back corner of the Principals office. And it wasn’t a bad deal. Mr. Walker was a kindly old fellow, filled with good stories, and his secretary kept me well supplied with snacks throughout the week.
Without the distraction of my fellow students, the schoolwork went more quickly, and so my extra time was filled with various duties around the campus. One of which, was the raising and lowering of the flag, which I did with special attention to all the little customs that go along with the job.
I guess Mr. Walker noticed how careful I was to never let the flag touch the ground, and how I folded it the proper way before stowing upon the shelf in his office where it spent the night, because when my sentence was done, he asked me if I’d be willing to keep the job.
I was happy to do it.
But it was never about the flag. It was the ritual of it that appealed to me, even then.
I won’t pledge allegiance to it. Not until the words “Under God” are stricken from the oath. I find it reprehensible that small children, far too young to know the import of their words, are coaxed into daily submission to something they cannot understand.
In total honesty, I doubt I would speak the pledge, even if the wording officially reverted back to the more constitutionally sound, pre-1950’s version. The American Flag has been used as blanket to cover too many crimes and atrocities. I see the ideals for which it stands, yes, but not without the blemish. There are too many stains in the fabric for me to treat it with the holy reverence that so many others seem to show.
Now, before you question my patriotism, I’d ask you to just run a copy of the Bill of Rights up that flag pole. I’ll put my hand over my heart and demonstrate for you all the pride and reverence you could hope for.
A flag is a symbol, and symbols may be misused. The Constitution and the Bill of Rights are a promise worth far more than a few colored strips of cloth.
The Stars and Bars
I’ve heard the excuses all of my life.
It was never the flag of the Confederacy. It’s a symbol of pride in our southern heritage, not a symbol of hate or racism. The American Civil War was never about slavery, it was about states rights.
I’ve heard the excuses, and every one of them is true.
But here is another truth. The culture of the South, with all of its celebrated gentility and plain-spoken charm, was built on the backs of people who were traded and bred and worked in the fields like animals. Whatever the legal or political arguments may have been for the autonomy of individual states within the Union, the single issue important enough to drive those states to succession, was the right of one man to own another.
However you might want to spin the facts, the reality of the situation is that the armies who marched under this banner were fighting and dying to preserve a way of life founded at the expense of human dignity.
I do not curse the men. Throughout history, many good men have been swept into wars with which they may not have agreed, if only to protect their homes and family. These brave soldiers should be remembered and celebrated because they fought with courage, and because the blood of their sacrifice opened a door to freedom that had not existed before.
I’ll honor the men, but not the Cause.
The Confederate States of America were defeated, and they deserved to be defeated.
A symbol of southern heritage, to be remembered not with pride and pomp, but with sombre reflection.
That flag is dripping in blood, some of it very fresh, because there are still those among us who would turn back the clock. And to them I say, “Be careful what you wish for.”
Admittedly, as flags go, it’s a tad garish for my personal taste, but its bright colors certainly fit the joy attendant with the occasion. Indeed, I joined many of my friends – most of them heterosexual – in decorating my Facebook profile picture with a rainbow overlay – in support and solidarity with our homosexual friends and family members who have finally gained a legal recognition so long denied them.
In an amusing twist, I’ve seen a very small number of people complaining that the rainbow symbol has been subverted by the Gay Community, because according to the Bible, the rainbow marks the promise from their god that he will never destroy the world again by water.
A rainbow is created by the refraction of light through the natural prism of a rain shower. Symbolically, it is much better suited as a emblem of diversity, than as a reminder that the Hebrew god is said to have felt bad after drowning millions of innocent animals in a world-wide temper tantrum.
So no, you can’t have your symbol back.
The International Flag of the Planet Earth
Seems there was a bit of controversy surrounding the suggestion that when men land on the Planet Mars (sometime next decade, I’m not holding my breath) they will plant this flag, instead of the American flag.
I really don’t see the fuss.
I mean, given current funding levels, and a general distaste for science among a frightfully large segment of our legislature, it seems quite likely that any manned mission to Mars will be somewhat of an international effort anyway. This assuming it’s not an entirely corporate venture, complete with spacecraft riddled with more corporate logos than a NASCAR vehicle.
As flags go, it’s a pretty nice design.
The rings have an olympic quality to them, but the arrangement reminds me of a Celtic Knotwork pattern. It speaks of diversity and unity, of one place with multiple truths.
These are ideas I can get behind.
We’ve got to set aside this notion that we can claim a place just because we stuck a flag in the ground there. That kind of thinking has caused us a lot of misery in the past.