March 25, 2024

Wave That Flag

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What does the American flag mean to me?

It’s a complicated subject, because although I grew up several blocks away from where the Declaration of Independence was signed, and I loved the ideal of freedom I was told the flag represented—especially being a latch-key kid with the whole city of Philadelphia as my playground—I was also forced to stand and verbally state my pledge of allegiance to the flag during grade school.

I remember being confused about that as a kid, like why, if this flag stands for freedom, was I required to do something that felt to me like raising my right hand in a Heil Hitler salute? If I’d had more balls back then I would have remained in my seat and explained that by doing so I was honoring the flag for the ideal which it purported to represent. But instead I went along with everyone else, just as I’m sure the citizens of Germany did back in the 1930s and 1940s. Citizens who were mostly nice people, the way most people always have been around the world and still are today.

Until, that is, they fall victim to a mob mentality, such as what occured in the aftermath of 9/11. At that time I was in my early 30s and very comfortable in my understanding of what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. so eloquently said “what makes America great is the right to protest for rights”, and so, during a college football game I attended a few weeks after 9/11, I decided to remain in my seat during the national anthem, just to see what would happen. The pressure I felt to stand up with everyone else, to join their communal sense of pride in flag and country, was undeniable, yet I remained in my seat. People looked at me as if I were Osama Bin Laden himself, and more than one threatened me with physical violence. I was once again reminded of my confusion in grade school of what the flag was supposed to represent and what it actually represented.

So what makes my view on the flag complicated you ask? Seems pretty straightforward that I’m not a big fan of it right? Wrong, because I am a fan of what it purports to represent, which is the freedom of speech that allows me to write this.

There was a time—most of my life really—when I saw an American flag on a car or truck I would internally scoff at the person who put it there, thinking to myself they must be a gun-loving Republican redneck who was proudly validating all the bloodshed and tyranny the American flag represented, starting with the genocide of the natives of this continent and continuing to such atrocities as the support of the Saudis to massacre the women and children of Yemen, along with the millions of other innocent people murdered around the world in the name of the American flag.

But then another event came along in 2020, as carefully orchestrated and crafted as 9/11. Suddenly I was told I couldn’t go certain places, be within six feet of other people, had to wear a useless and ugly claustrophobia-inducing mask on my face, not to mention the pressure to put a dangerous experimental cocktail of potentially fatal untested ingredients into my arm on a regular basis for the foreseeable future. And the people who stood up to this experiment in global tyranny were the very people I used to scoff at, the truckers, the rednecks, the people waving the American flag.

I remember attending a Super Bowl party in early February of 2020 and deciding with some guys I met there to form a regular poker game on a bi-weekly basis, and as the year went on and eight to ten of us continued to meet regularly and sit elbow to elbow, sharing chips and drinks and bongs and pipes, none of us wearing masks and none of us coming down with the hyped-up end of the world super disease, my understanding of what the American flag could potentially represent became clear, although it was becoming harder and harder to come by, and that was freedom.

So now when I see an American flag on a car or truck I think twice about writing the driver off as a Republican, instead understanding that—no matter what political affiliation they have—what they’re publicly stating could just be nothing more than their love of freedom, and after experiencing these last four years a little bit of what it must have been like to be alive during the Massachussetts witch-hunts in which suddenly your neighbors, friends and even your family turned on you because of pressure to do so from those unlawfully placed in power, my view on the American flag is that, flawed as it may be with its sordid history and association with tyranny and bloodshed, it still represents something people like Klaus Schwab and Bill Gates and their World Economic Forum don’t want us to have, which is the freedom to publicly gather and discuss ideas and share information.

Now it’s time to put on the Grateful Dead’s Wave That Flag and crank it up good and loud.