Our flag

I was having a conversation with a friend about how the image of the U.S. flag has, in recent times, become more associated with the political right than the political left. People who “proudly display the flag” are more likely to be Republican, to have hawkish views on war, to be against stricter gun control, and in general to align with conservative positions. This is not to say that liberals never display the flag — but there is a tendency at work here.

I suspect the history of this is intimately tied to our nation’s recent wars in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq. The flag became the symbol of “we are right to be here, doing this”. Liberals started to feel wary of the flag as indicating an attitude of “my country right or wrong”, while conservatives (who were more likely to support military interventions) took the opposite view.

Of course this rift started even earlier. During the McCarthy era, a decade before the U.S. presence in Vietnam began to escalate, the words “under God” were inserted into the pledge of allegiance, as a hostile message to godless communists (that is, to the spectral vision of the liberal run amok).

Wouldn’t it be nice if the U.S. flag could be reclaimed by liberal ideals? Perhaps then liberals could proudly display it to symbolize a nation that believes:

in the right to a good education, no matter what family a child comes from (and a nation that understands this is also good business sense);

that people with different metaphysics, ethnicity, gender or gender preference from ours are entitled to equal respect and legal protection;

that we are diminished as a nation whenever we do not actively seek to end poverty, illiteracy and disease around the world;

that war should be the very last resort of a nation state, not the first.

Wouldn’t it be cool to be able to wave the flag proudly for those American ideals?

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