We must question ourselves what is represented by the symbols we so proudly hail.
In the rural Midwest where I dwell, the sight of an American flag flapping carefully in the breeze on Memorial Day can look sublime, supplying increase to transcendent and, I daresay, even quasi-religious inner thoughts. Although I do not just share these feelings, I assume I can just about inhabit the mental house of people who do, in particular older Americans of my acquaintance, which includes a person who referred to as me just after the holiday getaway to complain about a defacement of what he referred to with complete sincerity as “this beautiful symbol of our place.”
What my buddy objected to precisely was a neighbor who was traveling a flag (if that is the suitable phrase for the emblem, just about surely of Chinese manufacture, which I had discovered just before myself) with a hoist facet emblazoned with the common canton of blue with white stars and area of alternating red and white stripes, but with the fly presented around to the Stars and Bars.
I go away sure issues occasioned by the appearance of this chimera (how does a person go about folding it, for case in point?) to vexillologists, but useless to say the unit is in negative taste. (It is also, in deepest blue Union Region, the place each individual park has its monument to the community Civil War dead—those brave new gentlemen of the frontier who gave their life not in protection of the unthreatened soil but in guidance of the ideals that would be embodied in the Gettysburg Address—and each happy very little city has its Grant and Lincoln and Sherman and Douglas Streets, incomprehensible as a image of everything apart from racial hatred or some even a lot more deep-seated antinomianism.) It must come as no shock to any individual who has used time with culturally conservative Midwesterners of a selected age to find out that the perceived offense was so grave that the distressed gentleman who telephoned me wished to require the sheriff’s section, citing some mid-century statute which he thought prohibited the screen. I encouraged him to leave it on your own and contemplate acquiring a conversation with the neighbor, which, oddly enough, is the information he might have specified me if I experienced appear to him about practically any other dispute.
I share this anecdote simply because it assists to illustrate a problem I have located myself inquiring for years now: What, exactly, does the American flag stand for, and what (or who) is on the acquiring conclusion of homage when we regard it with the solemn awe enjoined by my hundreds of thousands of my fellow citizens, my pal amid them, and evidently certified by my friend’s neighbor with the addendum of one more symbol?
Nearly 20 several years in the past, as a teenager who refused to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance when its recitation in community universities grew to become commonplace yet again in the course of the Bush administration, I regarded deference to the flag a de facto endorsement of the follies of our leaders. (Does anyone else keep in mind when Barack Obama of all men and women produced this level with good cogency in 2007?) Because then, my causes for remaining seated have multiplied, and I have also taken to kneeling on the unusual instances when I locate the National Anthem becoming performed, which include in my own residing room throughout broadcasts of athletic gatherings. While it would be absurd to advise that a willful contrarian streak in my individual identity does not lead to this choice (my individual father felt the exact same way about yellow ribbon stickers circa 2004), I like to assume that even audience inclined to disagree will have an understanding of why I refuse to pledge unqualified allegiance to any nation that on a yearly basis permits the slaughter of some 600,000 infants.
Some may recommend that I am improper to determine the abortion genocide with the flag, which (they will argue) transcends the enormities of the previous 50 % century each and every little bit as substantially as it does the legacy of chattel slavery and the slaughter of American Indians and our war crimes in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and that, if absolutely nothing else, I should surely be willing to realize in it a monument to our esteemed war dead and to all those serving us in uniform now. On this dilemma I am inclined to defer to the armed forces on their own, which as I publish this are debating irrespective of whether to reverse an get created by the past administration barring the exhibit of any flags conserve Old Glory at American armed service bases. It looks quite probably that in the months to come the so-identified as “pride” flag (with its curious appropriation of what was as soon as a symbol of God’s omnibenevolence even in the face of man’s abject wickedness) will fly less than the similar emblem in advance of which I refuse to stand.
If the Pentagon by itself decrees that the Paphian values of the rainbow flag are synonymous with all those of the one underneath which they provide, who am I to disagree? If practically nothing else, it is a very good reminder that beneath all the alternating pomp and cloying sentimentality attendant upon any mention of “our courageous gentlemen and women in uniform” is the sordid truth of a different federal agency run by feckless Ivy League bureaucrats, whose literacy past the confines of Microsoft PowerPoint is pretty much an open problem. Their worldviews are particularly the similar as these of their colleagues at any NGO, corporation, or college. Fifty percent a century in the past we bombed Cambodia in hope of that contains Soviet tyranny now we enable Yemeni youngsters to be murdered in the identify of combatting cissexism. As Tammy Duckworth, herself an honored veteran, has assured the American people, LGBTQ satisfaction has “made us a much more efficient combating force.”
The acquiescence of the armed forces industrial elaborate with all of this is unsurprising. But it should really give us pause. When we make sweeping statements about the flag and the “American values” it signifies, we no more time imply the outdated latitudinarian civic Protestantism of the 19th and 20th hundreds of years, nor even what the late Justice Kennedy termed “the correct to outline one’s possess strategy of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the secret of human life,” but the quasi-disclosed dogma of woke faith. Its adherents have rederived the old Aristotelian conception of independence as the absence of impediments to one’s pursuit of the superior.
Their definition of the superior is the flexibility the flag stands for.
Matthew Walther is editor of The Lamp magazine and a contributing editor at The American Conservative.