While conversing with me about his Democratic party canvassing work this past summer, my friend uttered something that struck me as highly interesting: "When I walked up to a house that had American flags prominently displayed, I assumed that it was a conservative house. More often than not, it was." This statement seems to reflect a broader association with the flag pervading the country; that the American flag, which should stand for both parties and the nation where they exist, has become a conservative Republican image.
True, Republicans do not "own" the flag, but they certainly seem to be using it to symbolize their agenda more and more. With the nation at war with Iraq, and seemingly at war with itself politically, the flag has come to stand for a new, dare I say neo-conservative, brand of nationalism. In this nationalism, it is impossible for one to be against the Iraq war, or any war in which the United States engages in for that matter, but still support their fellow countrymen and women fighting abroad. In this nationalism, it is forbidden to speak up and speak out against the PATRIOT Act which somehow helps individuals have more freedom by taking many of their cherished ones away.
Lastly, in this nationalism, it is seen as downright unpatriotic to be critical of a government that seeks to condone the torturing of prisoners in barbed-wire enclosures where stars and stripes fly high.
What this has resulted in, sadly, is the mass unpopularity of the flag abroad while many feel estranged from it at home.
Perhaps part of this unpopularity results from the flag carrying a more narrow meaning than it should or could. Though the denotation of the symbol is set, the connotation is a bit more fluid. This is a symbol that has the power to represent a right to free speech, a desire to make peace instead of war, and a spirit that every person, even the worst prisoner, should be treated as a person. And yet many of those who ally themselves with the party that wishes to see these goals achieved forget that our flag has the power to encapsulate these concepts.
This, my fellow liberals and Democrats, is a serious problem. By running away from the flag, we are allowing Bush & Co. to further claim it as their own and further appropriate it as a symbol of their agenda. What can be done to combat this? The solution is pretty simple. Stop associating the flag with conservative Republicans and the Bush agenda and start being proud of the symbol that represents you as well. Maybe then, liberals and Democrats will gain some sorely needed ground in this never-ending social game of capture the flag.