Reclaiming the American flag

More personal context

I’m working on a project, and that project is me. I’m working on reclaiming the American flag.

It isn’t easy, though. My family, to my recollection, never hung the flag outside the house. And there was never one outside of my grandmother’s house either.

Though I don’t recall ever discussing it with my parents when  I grew up, I got the clear message from my father that the overt signs of patriotism were not his thing. I’m convinced that it was a function of bigotry he experienced in the military in 1945 and 1946 and dealing with racism subsequently.

By the time I was in high school, there was an “America, love it or leave it” mentality, which I associated with literal flag waving.

The BCHS incident

When I was in eleventh grade, there was about a week when we didn’t have the Pledge of Allegiance over the loudspeaker. So one day, my homeroom teacher, Harvey, decided our class should do so. I refused to stand. That “liberty and justice for all” stuff, I felt, was a lie. The face of the homeroom teacher grew increasingly red as he repeated the request, and I remained seated.

During the first period, trigonometry, this burly adult sat a couple of seats behind me. I figured he was evaluating the newish math teacher. In fact, it was the new principal, Dr. K.

I met with him and my father, who he had called, either during lunch or after school. Dr. K asked if I were an adherent of the Jehovah’s Witnesses since the Supreme Court ruled in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette that “expelling a student who doesn’t recite the Pledge of Allegiance … violates the Constitution’s guarantee of freedom of speech and religion.” That ruling, coincidentally, was eighty years ago on this very date. (It reversed a SCOTUS ruling in Minersville School District v. Gobitis only three years earlier.)

No, I said. We worked out a compromise that I would stand for the Pledge but didn’t have to say it. Oddly, in twelfth grade, as president of the student, I recited it over the loudspeaker. By then, I had decided the words were aspirational rather than factual.

I like red, white, and blue.

I should be clear that I’ve always liked the actual flag. They were going to add a star and stripe for every state that joined the union. The fact that they pivoted back to thirteen stripes, I thought, was very clever.

I’ve been to Arlington National Cemetery and the military cemetery in North Carolina where my parents are buried, and I find the rows of flags quite moving.

SCOTUS has recognized flag burning as protected speech. While I agree with the concept philosophically, it bothers me when I see it, and  I would not do so myself.

Indeed, I’m more aware of 4 U.S. Code § 8 – Respect for flag than most people who claim to revere it, for instance:

d) The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery. (i) The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever. I came across this pin of a flag with a cross on it; this Christo-Americanism I found highly unsettling.

And the literal embrace of the flag by djt I find utterly grotesque. (Does the fact that his birthday is June 14 somehow create a rationale in his mind?)

And yet

When the US was preparing to go to war in Iraq, and I actively opposed it in the six months before I began, the peaceniks were dubbed not “real” lovers of their country.

Still, if I Google “liberals reclaiming the flag” I find articles like this from USA Today (2018) and this from Politico (2020) and this from the New York Times (2022). I agree with most of the sentiments contained therein.

Maybe this would work for me. From NPR: “Many have chosen to fly the flag next to other symbols to give it more personal context. For some, that means raising the Stars and Stripes along with a ‘Make American Great Again’ banner. For others, the American flag is flying alongside a gay pride banner or Black Lives Matter sign.” OK, not the MAGA sign, but…

Imgur as a source of information

Martha’s Vineyard immigrants

imgurIn late September, I was perusing a friend’s Facebook page who had posted, “I stand with the Iranian protests.” One of their friends indicated that they had gotten their information about it from TikTok and Imgur because they didn’t trust news outlets.

Oh, I’ll own it. I had no freaking idea what Imgur was. It “is an image hosting and sharing site, favoured by users of social media and social news sites including Reddit, Twitter, and Digg because of its ease of use and flexibility.” At first glance, it looks so… random. Pets, ads, dance videos, and various tweets.

I searched Iran and #Iran, but found nothing pertinent. But Iranian gave me 118 hits, only some of which were relevant.

Still, this fascinated me. I had seen several pieces in the New York Times, such as this one. Women Take Center Stage in Antigovernment Protests Shaking Iran. “Women have been casting off their legally required head scarves, forming the primary image of the protests. But grievances against a repressive regime go far beyond the hijab.”

This is not to say that one can’t find important stories almost anywhere. I just don’t see myself using Imgur as my go-to for the latest news.


On the other hand, Imgur is the answer to the question, “How did an image of a fake Massachusetts flag end up in a brochure for Martha’s Vineyard migrants?”

From the Boston Globe. Two summers ago, Will Bodine of Pittsfield, MA whipped up a flag redesign in “‘upwards of 10 minutes’ on his computer. The concept was simple: a blue shield emblazoned with the official state flower — the mayflower — encircled by six blue stars, all splashed against a white backdrop.

“Bodine… shared it on Facebook. He also uploaded it to Imgur, an image-hosting website, where, until recently, it had only been viewed a few times.

“Before nearly 50 migrants arrived from Texas on planes chartered by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, lawyers said they were handed brochures containing erroneous information about cash assistance and other benefits they would receive in Massachusetts.

“While it remains unclear who created the pamphlets, they included a rudimentary map of the state, a picture of a lighthouse, a photo of a sign reading ‘Massachusetts Welcomes You’ — and Bodine’s obscure reimagining of the state flag, rather than the real one.”

Last Week Tonight With John Oliver noted this event in the first five minutes of his 9/25/22 program.

I suppose this gets to my point about checking reliable sources of information. As Bodine noted, “’No one had seen this flag until some idiot staffer for DeSantis or whoever’ stumbled across it… ‘I cannot fathom why they would use the wrong one.'”

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