"In dealing with the State, we ought to remember that its institutions are not aboriginal, though they existed before we were born; that they are not superior to the citizen; that every one of them was once the act of a single man; every law and usage was a man's expedient to meet a particular case; that they all are imitable, all alterable." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
A Flag for a Free Country
I have a confession to make. I like the American flag, though I do not consider it sacred. It took me a long time to regard it this way.
I'm an Eagle Scout, and very proud of that accomplishment. As a scout, I learned to fold the flag respectfully, and never let it touch the ground.
While I still have a general respect for the flag, I have lost all respect for the Pledge of Allegiance.
The Pledge of Allegiance has no place in a free country, and it only became tradition in America when the socialist Francis Bellamy wrote it and had it implemented in government schools as a way to instill government loyalty in young Americans ' the type of practice that would suit Nazi Germany more than America. If you think this is an exaggeration, check out Rex Curry's website, which shows photos of American schoolchildren saluting the flag the way it was done before Hitler made the now infamous seig heil! arm gesture unpopular and taboo.
It took me a while to become disenchanted with the Pledge. By the time I was in high school, I had come to see through the lies of the Drug War, gun control, the presidencies of Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt, the income tax, and the public school system. It wasn't until I was a high school graduate that I fully came to see the Pledge as just another building block of the empire America has sadly become.
I thought about the flag itself a lot after September 11. I actually had a flag displayed in my room at college ' unusual in Berkeley . I took it down after 9/11 when I saw it so often waved by hysterical people calling for the mass murder of innocent Arabs in shameless revenge. I did not want people to assume my patriotism to be any kind of approval for what the government was doing. I felt betrayed that the flag that I respected and proudly showcased for so long became a de facto seal of approval for war and madness. I especially resented how Americans, who suddenly became 'patriots' after 9/11, would post flags vertically in their windows not even knowing which direction the stars should face.
So I replaced my Stars and Stripes with a Don't Tread on Me flag. Old Glory still fails to offend me the way the state's actual policies do. Sometimes I even look at it with admiration and hope, thinking about how free the country could have been. When I'm in fantasy mode, I much prefer the first version of the flag, with the thirteen stars in a circle.
Now that I have convinced some readers that I am a hopelessly na've, reactionary nationalist, I will proceed to convince those still reading that I am a crazed, un-American radical, by suggesting the type of flag I think a free society should embrace.
I envision a flag with a picture on it of a flag being burned.
I think the best ideals that anyone could claim our flag to symbolize would come through clearly in my design. I want to live in a culture in which people regard individuals as ultimately responsible for their actions. The worst problem with the modern state is that it gives enormous amounts of power to people who can never be held liable for the damage they do.
If we are to have a flag, it should encapsulate the spirit of individualism and rebellion. It should not simply reflect imperialist conquest or forced regional consolidation, as our flag's stars signify.
Tyrants have waved flags throughout the history of the world as a symbol of their power over their subjects, and their subjects have often waved them back, to display their loyalty to, and to claim their inclusion with, the collective will.
I want a flag that glorifies the act of a person rising in active opposition to such dangerous symbolism.
Now I have no interest in actually burning the American flag. I still treat it with respect. The fact that even I, anti-statist idealist that I am, still have a soft spot for the flag, testifies to its power, and the long effort ahead of us in retiring it for good.
Of course, burning a flag is certainly the right of its owner. Outlawing the flag's burning weakens everything positive, while upholding everything negative, that the flag could possibly represent.
And since burning the flag is a victimless act that flies in the face of authority, it might even have some inherent value. It sure makes Congress busy every couple years with their failed attempts to pass Constitutional amendments against it. I would rather they spend their time failing to pass new laws than succeeding.
If America ever sees another revolution, and we decide to adopt a new flag design, I hope my idea gets some consideration.
If anyone does not like my idea, either because the mere existence of a flag seems overly collectivist, or because my flag design is overly cynical and self-degrading, that's fine with me. The great thing is, if my flag design ever does catch on and you dislike it, you can burn it in protest. If you approve of it, burn it in adulation.
However, America is probably not ready to change its flag to the design I suggest. And I certainly do not want people to be lumped together under a banner they find distasteful.
But if we ever face a time that calls for a new flag to symbolize freedom, I think I might be on to something.
If waving a flag with an image of a burning flag on it makes a lot of people take flags less seriously, so much the better. Flags have far too long served to shield and obfuscate the deadly destruction meted out by trampling masses, both in uniforms and in voting booths, laboring at all costs to uphold these pieces of cloth as well as the criminal gangs for which they stand.