By Nick Knudsen
For too long, the left has allowed the right to own and define our patriotic symbols. With Trumpism taking hold, it’s time for the real patriots to fly – and fight for – our flag.
We’re at a pivot point in American history. The country could either succumb numbly to the expanding darkness, or emerge emboldened into the light. So, let’s have a moment of candor:
The modern GOP is an abomination. A permanent blight on the American story. The GOP (in its current incarnation) is not acting in the best interests of the American people.
Miriam-Webster Dictionary defines “un-American” as:
not American: not characteristic of or consistent with American customs, principles, or traditions
That’s the old definition. The modern GOP has worked to convincingly redefine the term:
Abuse of power. Insurgent & overt white supremacy. Conspiracy with a foreign adversary to sabotage our democratic process. Rampant pay-to-play profiteering off of government service. Lavish vacations on the taxpayer’s dime. Demeaning and undermining the free press. Gaslighting and spreading disinformation. Voter suppression. Trampling foreign alliances while courting the favor of autocrats and dictators. Purposeful redistribution of wealth to the most powerful, at the expense of the least. Craven attacks on the credibility of Federal law enforcement.
And yet, Republicans regularly lay claim to “Americanism” while actively seeking to cast the opposition as “un-American”. They drape themselves in the flag and proclaim themselves the only true patriots. For the good of the nation and the world, this cannot stand.
Those in the current GOP Congress who aren’t attacking America outright are turning a blind eye, which is equally irresponsible. They have lost their privilege to give input on what defines Americanism. They have forfeited their right to carry the mantle of “patriot”. You lose that right when you wave an American flag in one hand while discreetly cradling the Confederate and Russian flags in the other. Republicans can no longer lay claim to Old Glory.
Not any more. For too long, the left has allowed the right to “own” our patriotic symbols. The flag. The eagle. Uncle Sam. The time has come to take them back. We are the ones who want a fairer America. We are the ones fighting for the American principles of truth, justice and equality. We are the ones celebrating the diversity of a nation of immigrants. We are the ones standing behind rule of law. We are the patriots.
Symbols matter. It’s time for the left (and all those who disdain Trump’s desecration of America) to don the Stars and Stripes; to unfurl Old Glory, display her on our homes and to carry her in our peaceful protests; to wear that flag pin, and wear it proudly.
The left has understandable squeamishness here: from Vietnam to Iraq, our flag has flown over a number of unjust and ill-conceived military campaigns. For people of color, the flag has represented an oppressive and institutionally racist state since the country’s founding. Many are rightfully wary of jingoism; and let’s face it – if we walk down the street and see a couple with American flag shirts and eagle hats, we think, “Trumpers”. The idea of donning the stars and stripes seems unthinkable to some, if for no other reason than “guilt by association”.
Time to get over that. Because it precisely illustrates the problem.
We need to reorient – away from the idea that our shared symbols represent America’s fraught history or its current government – and toward the more hopeful notion that the “America” they represent is an ever-unrealized but fervently pursued idea: a set of noble principles that drive us collectively toward a more perfect union.
America is Susan B. Anthony, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Harvey Milk. America is Franklin Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln and the ACLU. America is the free press, a cast ballot, and the freedom to protest our government. These people, institutions & rights exemplify the best of America because they clearly represent the values that serve as our North Star: Equality. Truth. Justice. Democracy. Many of us have a visceral feeling of contempt for Trump and his party precisely because they so clearly diverge from – and even carry disdain for – these principles that are truly the core of America.
Those of us who see the danger in the permanent hijacking of Americanism by the modern GOP have to step forward and fight for it. This battle is definitional. The resulting victory (or defeat) will have an enduring impact on the course and the viability of liberal democracy worldwide.
It is critical for history to show that, with constitutional values as the guide and our institutions as the foundation, Americans fought off an authoritarian power grab and emerged stronger and more resolute than ever before in our embrace of democracy. We must etch upon the pages of history that America – and its symbols – stand for something good.
So we are taking our symbols back, in honor of the best of America, and in defiance of the worst. America needs us right now. Not in the shadows, but out in the open.
Reclaim the American flag from the false patriotism of Trumpism. Our flag stands for Equality, Truth, Justice, Diversity and the Rule of Law. So, wear it. Display it prominently in your social media profiles. Buy a flag pin. Carry Old Glory to peaceful protests. Fly it at your home.
It’s time to be proud of the position we’re taking in the fight for our democracy.
We are the Patriots.
Nick Knudsen is a writer and activist based in Portland, Oregon. Find him on Twitter @DemWrite.