It’s the Fourth of July. The most American of days. If you left your home today or scrolled your social media accounts, you undoubtedly saw disrespect towards the American flag. It isn’t a new expression of speech, but it is certainly more widespread today than in years past. So the question arises: how can you make people respect the flag?
First, let’s look at what the flag represents. Is it possible those showing disrespect to the flag just need to be educated about the symbolism? In a book about the flag published by the House of Representatives, it says in relevant part, “the star is a symbol of the heavens and the divine goal to which man has aspired from time immemorial; the stripe is symbolic of the rays of light emanating from the sun.” The flag’s colors had no specific symbolism or meaning when the flag was adopted in 1777, however, the Great Seal of the United States did have meanings for those same colors. “The colors of the pales (the vertical stripes) are those used in the flag of the United States of America; White signifies purity and innocence, Red, hardiness & valour, and Blue, the color of the Chief (the broad band above the stripes) signifies vigilance, perseverance & justice.”
So there we have it: purity, innocence, hardiness, valour, vigilance, perseverance, and justice.
Do the actions committed under the flag today match this symbolism? Does a pure country run torture camps or turn a blind eye when its allies do? Does an innocent nation intentionally foster a civil war in which millions of civilians are killed or displaced for political and economic gain? Does a hardy country turn away those seeking help because it is too difficult? Does a valorous nation conduct a drone strike program in which 90% of those killed are “collateral damage”? Do vigilant citizens let the government run amok, or should they monitor government overreach the way the Founding Fathers intended? Does the country display the perseverance to forge ahead through danger and terror, or does it let the fear generated by a tiny minority of extremists control its foreign policy? Is there true justice when the nation has the largest inmate population on the planet and law enforcement kills an unarmed person 10% of the time they kill someone?
It’s time to face the horrid truth. Vast quantities of Americans no longer respect the American flag because the ideas it is meant to symbolize are lost. If you started reading this in hopes of restoring respect for the flag, it’s probably your fault. Blind respect for the flag accompanied by apathy as the things it represents are destroyed has rendered the flag meaningless. It has become nothing more than a sports team bumper sticker. It’s something to show what side you’re on and help you root for the home team, while simultaneously betraying everything it was supposed to stand for. If you read the litany above and found a way to force it out of your mind, you are the problem. It’s not the punk burning the flag. It’s you, the person who claims to respect it while supporting the actions above. The college kid with the lighter may be destroying a physical flag, but you destroyed the idea of it. Which is worse? Who is really unamerican?
Certainly, in the comments section under wherever this article is posted, someone will mention those who fought, bled, and died for the flag. I know more combat veterans than most. None have ever told me they fought for the flag or apple pie. When the bullets started flying, they fought for their friends. Those who were really hardcore fought for the mission. It should also be noted that, on the off chance someone knows a person who truly did fight and die for a piece of cloth, recently a teenager died because he mistakenly believed he could beat a train to the crossing. The point is: just because someone died for something they believed in doesn’t make it true. Rather than address the injustice of this soldier dying due to a mistake, you will attempt to politicize his death and allow more soldiers to die in the next war we shouldn’t be involved in.
When the flag was first hoisted, the country didn’t live up to the symbolism. Genocide, slavery, and injustice followed it everywhere it went as the nation spread from sea to shining sea. Even with that start, the symbolism as outlined was a goal worth pursuing. It was worth the fight. Now, when people ask for justice, the flag-waving American responds with the hashtag of #BlueLivesMatter. When refugees flee US bombs falling on a country ripped apart by a civil war instigated by the US, the country shows no valor or hardiness. It shows fear and hatred. Your blind obedience to the state and the refusal to think about the symbolism of the flag disrespected it long before the first drop of gasoline touched it. You more than disrespected it, you killed it. The person who considers themselves a good American torched the meaning of the flag when they stopped questioning the government the way the Founding Fathers intended and when they stopped aspiring to the symbolism.
If you want to restore respect for the American flag, it’s very simple. Make it something worthy of respect and stop treating it like a pom-pom at a football game.