by Dave Mindeman
I was driving south bound on I-35 through Lakeville and I passed the new Gander Outdoors store (formerly Gander Mountain) and there in all its glory was the largest flag I had ever seen. It was very windy so Old Glory was completely unfurled and waving like those amber waves of grain.
I was surprised at the pride I felt in that moment. I love our flag and what it stands for….but being a liberal Democrat, “real” Americans seem to think I have forfeited any right to feel that pride, because after all I don’t have the proper respect. At least not the respect that “real” Americans have.
But let me just say this before I violate the conservative code on what is the definition of patriot.
To me, just my opinion, you cannot give the flag its due unless you are a proper observer or student of history. That flag has spent the last 250 years flying over a tumultuous democracy (or rather republic).
From its tattered beginnings, illuminated by the rockets red glare, in the War of 1812, the flag has stood. From the brother against brother assault in the Civil War, the flag emerged- weakened but still standing. In the war to end all wars, the flag rescued Europe and expanded its global reach. In the second war to end all wars, the flag emerged as a world power. During the Cold War, the flag was tested once again by a nuclear destructive threat of incredible proportions – but weathered the potential of nuclear landscape. In later years, the flag has been further tested by division – from Vietnam to Iraq to Trumpism….through all of it, the Stars and Stripes continues to protect the people it serves….whether we respect it or not. Whether we understand its meaning or not. And whether we truly believe in what it stands for…or not.
Despite the opinions of Trumpers, Tea Partiers, the NRA, or social conservatives – I love this country. I love the flag because of what it really means. Freedom and opportunity.
We are testing that meaning every day now. The inscription on the Statue of Liberty is being rewritten with restrictions never dreamed of by this country’s founders. The issues of race and gender and sexual orientation are having struggles that a nation conceived upon the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for every individual American, could not imagine given those principles and the changes over the course of time.
We are tested on competing claims for the flag’s authority on guns. Gun owners think that guns are guaranteed without restrictions based on the Second Amendment. Others feel the flag tells them that they have an equal right to feel safe and secure from those who would abuse those second amendment rights.
But our newest test and danger to the principles of our flag is immigration. Was America really meant to be a bastion ONLY for Americans? And what constitutes an American – after all we are ALL immigrants to some degree. Can we abandon those people looking for hope in war pillaged countries or besieged by famine in others?
Is an American only white? Is an American a race? a gender? a social class? Is an American any unique entity in any way, shape, or form?
We go through these “protectionist” periods in our history when we get concerned that the goodness of America is a finite substance. That we cannot possibly take care of everyone who wants to be here…to be us.
But at some point, we realize that protecting ourselves is counter to our very place in the world. When the world needs help, they look to us. Can we just turn away? Those who say we are founded on Christian principles (which I disagree with for many reasons) must at least hold to the concept of we are our brother’s keeper….or suffer the least of these to come and forbid them not…or do unto others as you would have them do unto you. How can a Christian nation or just a responsible good hearted nation ignore the pleas of those who need help and protection.
We are the hope to people living in authoritarian countries. We are supposed to be the example, the beacon, the safe haven for those that seemingly have no hope.
We cannot abandon that. The Flag will not abandon that. We can have momentary lapses about deciding who we are – but the flag brings us back. Back to a land of the free and the home of the brave. Not just for a privileged few – we overthrew privilege 250 years ago – No, we are a nation that welcomes those who are tired, poor, and yearn to be free.
We will come back to those principles. Our flag demands it.