A crime has been committed, a hijacking, right under our noses. The American Flag has been hijacked. I used to feel a certain kind of pride when the flag waved, my mind calling up memories of playing the national anthem under Friday night lights at dusk; singing the anthem for a European league basketball game; watching my son play it in orchestra. But lately, that pride has been replaced with trepidation. Seeing the US symbol of liberty and unity flying from the backs of trucks along side Confederate and political flags; seeing it used as a symbol of extremism branded as ‘true patriotism’; and the horror of the January 6th insurrection in which the world watched our flag being used to beat the Blue instead of back them; all of these displays make me cautious, hesitant, afraid. These are people who are not for me, who are sometimes even actively against me. These are people who defaced a creek underpass near my home, tagging it with “Go away nigger, we don’t want you here”. They also spray painted swastikas, Confederate signs and the American flag. While everyone flying a flag isn’t an enemy, many who have declared enmity with diverse populations fly the flag. They’ve hijacked it and that makes me sad.
E pluribus unum.
Out of the many, one. The US flag symbolises a nation founded on principles of liberty and justice for all its citizens. That means all stories matter. That means discovering wrongs, talking about them and righting them, painful although it may be, will take us further down the road of realizing the ideals this country was founded on. The founding fathers owe a debt to every civil rights activist, every anti-racist educator, every ally. Those ideals can be realized, but only if we fly our flag for what it was designed for.
E pluribus unum.
Out of the many, one. The colors of our flag; white for innocence, red for valor and blue for perseverance and justice, need to be called to remembrance. While our past deeds may not qualify us for innocence (whose do?), we can celebrate greatness by being courageous enough to fight forces that want to deny the rights, stories and history of the many. We can be vigilant and persevere in the fight for justice for all; in our classrooms in our communities. When we go back to school in fall, we can be forthright in our conversations with our students and our parents, letting them know that the only way to teach the whole child is to teach the whole truth. As we learn more, we teach more, embrace more show empathy for more. What parent can argue with E pluribus unum? What parent can argue with educators respecting the flag by teaching students about the glorious past and also the not so glorious ways we have looked over the accomplishments of many?
In the next 12 months, I plan on intentionally seeing my flag for what it really is. It is my symbol of unity and hope, a symbol that reminds me that the enemies of truth and e pluribus unum cannot stop this nation from becoming what the framers of the constitution designed it to be, not as long as I , as we, keep learning, keep teaching truth–one small bite at a time.