Old Glory

The original “Pledge of Allegiance” written in August 1892 by the socialist minister Francis Bellamy was published in The Youth’s Companion on September 8, 1892. Simple, universal, and enduring: “I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all” (U.S. History).

I don’t why one political party feels more empowered to use this flag than another, but I would ask all the citizens of the United States to let our flag be for unity and not a division of power. There is no reason to claim this allegiance more than your neighbor, even if they are clear down the corridor in your opinion. Seriously, can’t we share the implicit patriotism? There are several pickups driving up and down my busy road with flags rigged in their pick-ups announcing what I’m not exactly sure, but I think it is meant to shout out some defiance to the earnest protests happening from small towns to big cities over police violence, climate devastation, and yeah, much needed gun control. I will save my rant on the 2nd Amendment for another post, but seriously this is our country, not yours, not mine, but ours. And, as it belongs to all of us, then we all get to protest the inequity of race and gender and age and fill it in with people who didn’t attend Phillips Exeter, we get to scream out about the salacious rape of the meek innocents by those with power and whiteness from marble altars to refugee camps, neither speakable under any flag but certainly not under one that has been a symbol around the world for freedom and justice like ours.

This red, white and blue flag that flies freely, even in front of a fast-food restaurant that has done nothing but bring ill health to one’s community and devastation to our planet, must mean something, must regain value, right? “The colors of the flag are symbolic as well; red symbolizes hardiness and valor, white symbolizes purity and innocence, and blue represents vigilance, perseverance and justice” (PBS). Sounds like a very cool nation, don’t you think? One that requirers all of us, willing to hear differences, willing to walk into the dark spots, willing to compromise, one that represents a true Republic? Can we all agree that this vast country deserves a vast approach to defining our ideals?

This is the second time I have used Patrick Campbell’s haunting and troubling version of our flag in a post, and I can’t be sure it will be the last. Seeing it terrifies me, yet, how is it not a vision of our America?

“The hanging bodies drip into the white stripes, and that is part of what makes Patrick’s work so poignant. The flag’s white stripes can’t be so white because they’re soiled by the blood of black lives taken.

When Patrick finished this piece, he stepped back from it. “I stood back and said ‘What have I done?’ and I cried. I was blown away and was in awe. This is the a piece of mine that I will say is powerful and I rarely say that with any of my pieces. It made me cry.”

It’s made many of us cry, and it’s been 3 days since I first saw it and every time I look at it, it hits me anew. In speaking with Patrick, a man so humble and honest in his work, and who really hasn’t even processed the power of his own piece fully, I was driven to make sure that people know who he is.

Strange fruit dripping on the stars and stripes, and some think it’s disrespectful. Patrick says “I agree that my flag is disrespectful but it’s grounded on hard truths.” If anyone finds his piece to be profane, then they should be endlessly offended about the state of affairs that makes this so astonishingly accurate” (The Grio).

I really don’t know what the state of our flag is these days, watching it waved around in pick-up trucks and by crowds of mask-less people who want to lock up people who haven’t been found guilty by Congress yet want to lend support to a man who has transgressed every moral they profess leaves me speechless, momentarily, and then outraged, again. Who are you America? What would our grandfathers say of this present situation? Poverty, unemployment, a plague sweeping us into fear and death, and that smirk when asked what will you do Mr. President. What will you do #45? What will his party do to oppose his obvious failure? How can you wave the stars and stripes and sing the glory during this train wreck?

I want my flag back. I want my country back. I want civility and decency and the educated sorting out the challenges facing our planet, our world, and our lives. I will vote soon via mail with those priorities in mind. For our divided country, I hope we focus on the ideals of the original flag. “Across the country, schoolchildren still cut out five-pointed stars using the pattern that Ross, a Philadelphia flag maker, supposedly invented. The legend endures because publishers, souvenir sellers and patriotic boosters find it useful and because it fills a void in the American epic. Nations need heroines” (The New York Times). We still do. Let’s vote her, and him, in.

4 thoughts on “Old Glory

  1. I saw the Watts Riots on television when I was a child, and told my mom that I didn’t feel comfortable saying the pledge because there wasn’t “liberty and justice for all.” To her credit, she supported that decision and I haven’t said it in over 50 years. Re-thinking that now. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

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