The Ultimate Symbol of “Power Over” at any Cost?
Yesterday on a barely five minute drive to the Post Office I counted 21 flags flying in my face and this number doesn’t include the small flags stuck into people’s lawns. Flags in this area of Maine have become a small town obsession that I find more disturbing each day. What are these people flying “Old Glory” trying to prove? That they are the “real” Americans? And if so, what does that mean for the rest of us?
Soliloquies around disrespect for the flag are rampant.
In the news last night I saw three white men standing on a roof overlooking a nearby playing field with their hands on their hearts saluting the flag during the national anthem. Seriously?
This image of male solidarity – white supremacy? – revolted me, while it no doubt inspired others to become even more “patriotic”(seeking the high that this kind of power embodies).
I think patriotism, using the flag as its symbol, has become a pathological way to express attitudes that embrace unbridled power over, the unrestricted use of guns, sexual violence, and war, – all of which are related.
Patriotism appears to thrive and revolve primarily around “the fallen,” our heroes of war* who are presently being worshiped like deities while ordinary people are gunned down in streets, schools, churches and music festivals. I see nothing heroic about either form of dying.
Not as obvious, the dynamic of “power over” always includes having power over women and the earth; revealing misogyny and hatred for both. Rape is on the rise. One out of two or three women (depending on the source) will be sexually assaulted during this coming year. What we are doing to our planet is inexcusable and will eventually lead to our own demise.
Most chilling of all is that this attitude of “power over” was and apparently continues to be held by most of the 53 percent of American women who voted for a man who is mentally unfit to be president, one who brags about his own sexual exploitation of women while his trophy wife stands behind him, a bully who threatens to push the button, a man full of hubris who guts the earth without a backward glance. Talk about collusion.
As a not quite white woman with Indigenous roots who is an eco –feminist, (that is, a person who believes that what is happening to women is also happening to the earth), I think that the flag has become a phallic symbol for the kind of patriotism that supports the inevitability of war, inequality, sexual assault against women and the earth all woven into one red white and blue fabric.
No doubt I will rattle some cages with these ideas.
However, the fact remains that inequality reigns. Women, many men, people of different races, sexual preferences, and non Christian religious beliefs are more at risk for all forms of abuse and death – and these people are Americans too.
Globally we are presently courting a third World War. Death is in the air.
Meanwhile the Earth is crumbling under a human assault the likes of which She has never experienced before.
Think about these realities the next time you salute the flag, take the pledge of allegiance, or sing the national anthem.
It might bring you pause.
* I mean no disrespect for Veterans as a group. I lost three family members in two different wars. Some of my revulsion for the flag developed out of the way we utilize it to acknowledge/celebrate the deaths of our young people and to indoctrinate others to take their place without ever having learned the basics, that when it comes to war no one wins.
2 thoughts on “The American Flag”
After the US invaded Iraq, I read many revealing columns by a writer, combat veteran, and anti-war organizer whose name I can’t remember at the moment. I do remember, however, that his group of veterans against war called the US flag “Old Gory.” I thought it was the perfect name because it compressed everything there is to say about US foreign policy into three syllables.
Interestingly, this same veteran eventually began studying radical feminist writings in his quest to understand what was going on with the USA and why no one seemed able to stop it. I think he’s still out there somewhere, reading and writing and publishing.
“Old Gory” – well that says it all. Thanks Harriet! It was a relief to finally write something about what’s going on with this obsessive need to protect the “sanctity” of the flag and what it stands for – ugh
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