The Flag Belongs to All of Us

I will be hosting my first post-pandemic party in my new home this Independence Day. The weather may be iffy in my neck of the woods, but the mood will be sunny. And my American flag will be up on display.

My friends and family know where I stand politically (left of center), even if some of them don’t agree with me. Some of my neighbors who don’t know me beyond a hello, however, may think a Trumper has moved into the hood. Some would like that, others . . . not so much.

That’s sad. It is sad that we have let the extreme right co-opt our national symbol as their own, flying it to prove their patriotism. I could go on and on about how that patriotism is merely skin-deep, but I don’t have time to untwist the psychological pretzels they’ve spun themselves into.

By normal standards, President Biden has done a good job in his first five months in office. The vaccine rollout has been a resounding success, allowing the country to reopen faster than it would have. 850,000 jobs were added in June alone. And, as a bonus, a recent report indicated that in this recovery, unlike others, more Americans are feeling a lift, not just the top rung, largely due to the passing of the American Rescue Plan — passed, by the way, with zero Republicans in favor, although their constituents are reaping the benefits.

In addition, diplomatic ties have been re-established with our allies, a bipartisan infrastructure deal is close to being signed, and nary an insult has passed his lips.

Are there still problems to conquer? Of course.

Am I flying the flag because I like Joe Biden? No. I’d have been flying the flag even if Trump were still president. I won’t let any one person dictate my use of important symbols.

I am well aware that the United States of America has a lot of age-old problems to face head-on and work on solving. Trump capitalized on those hatreds and fears and ripped us apart in a way we probably haven’t seen since the Vietnam War. In my view, that behavior was un-American; he desecrated the flag. Peaceful protest has been a hallmark of our history, and after January 6th, I realized we should have been paying more attention to Colin Kaepernick after all.

I stand for the promise of the flag, “liberty and justice for all.” That doesn’t mean I think we’ve reached that promise. Who is truly free in our society? The largely white working class that supported Trump feel they are not free, and that a mere cloth mask for the public good is holding them back. A black man driving a car or jogging in a suburban neighborhood certainly doesn’t feel completely unfettered. A woman passed over as partner in a law firm or making 75 cents on the dollar for the same work as her male counterpart is not free. If a gay or lesbian couple cannot share a quick kiss at a ballgame without getting a nasty look or comment, then they are not free.

None of us is free until all of us are free.

That fact that this week alone Bill Cosby was freed from prison and the Trump organization is finally getting some legal scrutiny — fraudulent practices that have been going on for decades and may never have seen the light of day had he not put himself in the limelight by running for President — says a lot about the enhanced freedoms that the rich and powerful get. You and I would never get the same treatment for similar crimes.

In the end, though, for me country is like family. There may be family members who upset you, but if you truly care about family, you invite all to the Thanksgiving dinner or 4th of July barbecue, in hopes that a healing — sometimes slow in coming — will take place.

Others, on both left and right, may not agree with me on this. They want to burn it all down, family and country. Who am I to say?

Love is not simple. It is complex, and it involves good, constructive criticism. But the love remains. The flag will fly today.

I am an author, freelance writer, and singer/songwriter. I split my time between Brooklyn, NY and my native Massachusetts. I teach at City College of New York.