Trump’s Done A Really Good Job Of Co-Opting The American Flag, And Telling People What It Should Mean To Them. Let’s Stop Letting Him Get Away With That.
We originally ran a version of this column exactly a year ago today. It remains one of our most popular, so we thought we’d revisit it.
From his frequent rallies, to NFL stadiums, Trump and his supporters are somewhat successfully claiming sole ownership of the American flag and what it stands for.
So how about let’s show up with stars and stripes on both sides?
Trump does not own the American flag. Neither does Fox News. We fully believe many Trump supporters view themselves as patriots, and that’s fine. Protestors are patriots too. Wouldn’t it be great if the flag stopped being simply a symbol of obeisance to Trump, and also sent a message of solidarity to those who question and oppose him?
As we’ve discussed a lot in the past few months, some people are starting to question whether Trump might not be tough after all but just plain cruel. They are tuning into protests and responding to stories of children separated from their parents at the border like never before. And if they see in the protestors an American they recognize, an experience they can share, they may be stirred.
Why does a piece of fabric matter so much? We are well aware that there are philosophical reasons to be “anti-flag”: on the grounds that at various times in history it stood for war, and fascism and racism. And if you hold that belief deeply, that’s fine too.
At the same time, for most people living everyday lives, continually shocked and horrified by what this President is doing, it’s not hypocritical to reclaim the American flag for yourselves too, because you have as much of a right to it as the President or any other American, and it really does stand for a lot more of what you believe in than what you’re against: bringing people together and taking care of the people. It often too has stood for freedom, compassion, and mercy.
So wave a flag at a 4th of July parade and let people know what it means to you. Progressives: you don’t need to throw away that entire black wardrobe, just acquire a few brightly colored items of clothing in reds or whites or blues or a combination, so you can wear the colors of the flag when you’re patriotically protesting, if you feel like it. (Don’t actually wear a flag.)
- Because you can be a proud American without being a nationalist.
- Because you can be a patriot without condemning asylum-seekers.
Waving an American flag doesn’t make you complicit, doesn’t make you a bigot, doesn’t make you xenophobic. Because the stars and stripes represent the history and struggle of all kinds of people who worked and suffered to lift up their neighbors and help people they didn’t know well. To make this country beautiful and amazing. Flawed, but–referring back to Trump’s inauguration speech–hardly a nation of “carnage.”
The American flag commemorates our strength, and those who have sacrificed to make this country better. At very least, it communicates that we’re better than this. Much better than this.
Barring something huge happening, we will be taking the rest of the week off. We’ll be back with you in time for the new Supreme Court nominee. Enjoy your weekend!