I know I’m no longer alone on this. Lots of Americans are alienated via the arrogance they see in the flag — jingoism, nationalism, the whole best-u . S . A .-on-earth stance at its maximum belligerent and least self-conscious. As a Black American, my alienation is longstanding. For me, it’s additionally private: I’ve constantly wanted to like the flag, however I ought to in no way get near it. As a toddler, announcing the Pledge of Allegiance in school, I knew I changed into mouthing words to , annoying authority that didn’t have a fantastic belief of me, if it had any perception of me in any respect. When I got older, I conspicuously averted announcing the pledge at public events or placing a surrender my coronary heart. The love became absolutely no longer there.
Yet a want for intimacy with the flag continued. I came closest to it for the duration of the Olympics, when I rooted for Black athletes who were obliged to do the hand-over-coronary heart thing and stare upon the flag when they’d won a medal on America’s behalf. Many of them seemed clearly moved, perhaps to their very own surprise, and that moved me; In those moments I glimpsed the possibility of the flag sincerely representing human beings in all their complicated uncertainty. Still, I completely understand and support Black athletes’ refusal to oblige, from John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s Black Power salute in 1968 to Gwen Berry’s turning her lower back at the music and subject trials for the Tokyo video games ultimate week.
I waved the flag precisely once — the day after 11th of September, standing on the reduce in front of my apartment constructing in Los Angeles together with my Black neighbor. Even though we had been both swept up inside the sorrow of that horrible event and have been mourning the various lives misplaced, the gesture nevertheless felt bizarre to me. I was performing a patriotism I didn’t completely feel. I held the flag aloft that day, but I still felt threatened through what it had continually represented to me. It wasn’t an extension of me, but some thing to preserve as far far from me as feasible, like a match burning all the way down to my hands, or a writhing snake.
A couple of weeks ago, but, my dating to the flag modified. It wasn’t a dramatic moment or a in particular political one. But it made me see anew the manner we assign which means to political symbols — and the way that which means, but ingrained it would seem, is fluid.
The alternate changed into abrupt, an epiphany that passed off unexpectedly in the course of a routine canine walk (an pastime that has yielded multiple epiphany). That day, I became taking walks via a often white community in L.A. Where loads of American flags were on display in anticipation of July Fourth. Normally, the sight makes me cringe inwardly or sigh aloud. Only this time, for some cause, I didn’t see authority. I noticed merely flags — fabric fluttering from a pole. The conceited triumphalism of the celebs and stripes had completely vanished, leaving behind husks.
I blinked — became this a mistake? But as I walked on and encountered extra flags putting from eaves, dug into lawns, printed on pleated bunting, the vision endured. The flags conveyed nothing. It felt like I had pulled back a curtain on the fearsome Wizard of Oz and found a small, regular guy seeking to run a hustle he knew he couldn’t sustain, that he had no enterprise putting in within the first location. Right earlier than my eyes, the fearsome American flag had given up the ghost.
Although the alternate changed into surprising at the floor, I realized it have been building for years. The MAGA hellfire of the Donald Trump presidency took what I’ve always seen as the white-supremacist symbolism of the flag to absurd new heights. The flag became the emoji of preference for Trumpsters, and it become carried alongside the Confederate flag whilst insurrectionists stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 in a frenzied try to overturn a valid election. This proved too much for Old Glory. Under the load of ongoing right-wing delusions about stolen elections, no longer to say crucial race idea and the purpose of democracy itself, the flag sincerely collapsed in my eyes. It should not maintain the hysteria of the white nationalist right, nor the enmity of dissenters like me. It now not had the coronary heart for both task. It appeared to have cease.
The inanimate object without delay stirred emotions and, oddly, an empathy in me that the symbol had usually prohibited. For the first time, I liked it. I recognized with it. The object is, like so lots of us, worn-out. It has been claimed and exploited over masses of years, freighted with oppressive racial meaning it didn’t ask for and could in no way genuinely bear. It has been a slave to the whims of the self-styled patriots who have long conflated whiteness with nationality, dominance with democratic ideals. This become in no way the object’s proper meaning, simplest its process, which it has accomplished due to the fact America has not actually given it some other. But that doesn’t mean it wanted the task, or accredited of it.
I realize that many those who stay alienated from their own flag — in particular Black people — trust that, even in an inanimate state, it is incapable of neutrality. The stars and stripes representing the 50 states also constitute the stricken history of the states — the authentic colonies steeped in Black slave exertions that built up the wealth of the entire united states, the devastation of Native Americans wrought through statehood anywhere, from Mississippi to Hawaii. That history is why it’s usually been so difficult for conscientious Americans of all shades to include the flag and make it their very own: From the beginning, it became someone else’s.
I by no means predicted to include it either. I become not in the habit of attempting. But that was the electricity of the moment on that canine stroll: Because I wasn’t attempting, and because the flag’s symbolism had been co-opted so blatantly — stolen, honestly — some thing strained and broke. In shrinking all the way down to an item, the flag became admitting failure, and in that failure, I ultimately found the intimacy that I by no means concept turned into possible. I felt for the flag. As a Black girl, I know what it's far to battle with representation and symbolism foisted upon me by using other people without my permission. I recognize how tough it's miles to get away that symbolism, even whilst you’re failing at it, to put the load down.
As welcome as the epiphany has been, it’s not the stop of something, however a starting. Maybe the flag has end its profession task, however it nevertheless has to do some thing exceptional now —fulfill its proper ability. Now we’re at least on the identical footing, on a not unusual look for a that means of America that we will agree on and stay with. The flag I see now on my walks around city is a fellow visitor, if now not exactly a pal, or an intimate. But that’s a lot better than seeing it as the enemy.