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Alternative Culture Articles

October 21, 2001

Take Back the Flag
By Royce Carlson

As I drive around on the roads and highways of the U.S. lately, I see a lot of American flags attached to cars and trucks. What does this really mean? The feeling I get is that most people have flags on their cars because they support the President and his "War on Terrorism" including the bombing of Afghanistan. But I'm not sure. It is a pretty vague statement.

I might put a flag on my truck to show that I love my country and want it to be better. I could wave a flag to mean that I intend to exercise my right of dissent against what the government is doing in Afghanistan. The odd thing is that no one would know why I was showing the flag unless they asked me. And the reason I would be showing it would be very different than most of the other flag-waving Americans.

The American flag has been co-opted by the political right wing. The general perception is that, if you wave a flag, you are probably not an environmentalist, human rights activist, or anti-war protester. Why not? How did the right wing get control of this symbol? How can we take it back?

Our country was founded by radical activists. George Washington, Ben Franklin and the other founding fathers of the U.S.A. were not in support of the status quo. Those who protest against the actions of our government today are patriotic and brave supporters of the principles upon which this nation was founded. Those who seek to limit dissent, invade personal privacy, and control how adults can behave in private go against these principles. Yet they are the ones waving the flag.

Today, when the left uses this symbol, it is often altered. A peace sign replaces the stars in the blue field. Or, in another case, corporate logos replace the stars as a satire of America's condition of corporate control. Recently an activist group has taken the American Flag and attached shopping bag handles to it. This kind of behavior practically guarantees that the right will maintain its hold over the use of the flag as its symbol.

It might be far better for the left to use the flag whole and unaltered as a symbol of the principles upon which our country was founded - freedom, democracy, and equality - principles which are defended time and time again not by the military, but by activists. Let's take it back and give it new meaning. Maybe, sometime in the future, it will end up being the right wing that has to alter the flag to get attention!

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Royce Carlson