Columns share an author’s personal perspective.
Every day in America appears to be Flag Day.
You can’t throw a football without hitting a flag.
It calls to mind a Dutch journalist I met who was covering the 2008 election from Stark County, and who was gobsmacked at how many people display the American flag.
Flying a flag is a statement. Of pride, of faith, of belonging.
A flag is a testament of history, which isn’t always comfortable to recall.
Our nation’s short history has always been rife with contradictions. For instance, the men who demanded freedom from the British were themselves owners of human beings.
The American flag is the world’s most recognizable symbol of freedom, yet the “Star-Spangled Banner” was written by an unrepentant slave owner who, ironically, was being held captive by the British Navy at the time.
But the American flag also is an expression of aspiration. When civil rights advocates marched, they carried flags, which triggered the ire of people who thought they had no right to it and what it represents.
Their petition was simple: Full and unfettered citizenship to which they were born and entitled, a level playing field and equal justice under the law.
In bearing those flags, they were telling the world that they still believed in America’s promise and its declaration that “all men are created equal.”
Those flags were a visual vow that they intended to hold the country they helped to build and defend, to that promise.
History is messy.
The same flag that conveys the best of America often is brandished by those who are diametrically opposed to the idea of equality, without which there cannot be liberty and justice for all.
It was never meant to be used as a tool of provocation - except perhaps in the case of King George III. Certainly not as a point of political contention among Americans.
It’s unfortunate that in some cases, the flag has been reduced to bikini tops, muscle shirts and love-it-or-leave-it jingoism.
It deserves better. It is the symbol of those ideals which the freedom-seeking people of the world seek to emulate. It is America which sparked the current worldwide protests, the likes of which have not been seen for a generation, if ever.
In times of great distress, American flags are flown upside down as a call for help.
Some people think we’re at that precipice.
Not yet. Better to view the flag as a reminder that freedom is never a done deal. It must be fought for, protected, strengthened and made accessible to everyone.
If we fail in this, the flag will become little more than a means of demagoguery and decoration, used to distract us from the hard work required to preserve, protect and defend what it means to be American.
Reach Charita at 330-580-8313 or email@example.com. On Twitter: @cgoshayREP