Trump’s continuing to do a really good job of co-opting patriotism; of co-opting the American flag. So much so that if someone wears red, white and blue, they’re immediately taken for being on “his side”, and credited with promoting his vision of America. Let’s stop letting him get away with that.
We have run a version of this column every Independence Day since we started. We were going to stop this year. But that was before Trump decided to transform the 4th of July into an his own personal military extravaganza and political rally dedicated to him and to his benefit, with tickets for the best seats handed out to his faithful, and a ridiculously wasteful fly-over by Air Force One. And we have a feeling we’ll be right back in this place next year. So here it goes:
The U.S. is the most powerful country ever. It has no need to show that off. As Louisiana Republican Senator John Kennedy (normally a Trump supporter) put it last year:
“Confidence is silent and insecurity is loud”.
Couldn’t have said it better…
Yet from his frequent rallies, to NFL and now women’s soccer stadiums, Trump and his supporters are somewhat successfully claiming sole ownership of the American flag and American pride.
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. But protestors are patriots too. Wouldn’t it be great if more of those protestors stopped viewing the flag and the colors red, white, and blue as simply a symbol of obeisance to Trump, and instead also as a message of questioning, opposition and resistance?
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 a lot more for bringing people together and taking care of the people than anything else. 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 (even Antifa): 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.
- Because you don’t have to hew to Trump’s vision of America and only that.
- Because the flag is a symbol of allegiance to America, not to Trump.
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 American’s greatest strengths as a society, and those who have sacrificed to make this country better. It very cleverly brings every single person in this country together on one single tapestry. At very least, it communicates that we’re better than this. Much better than this.