Flags don’t represent anything, unless you want them to.
I have never been in the military and I have also never been in the NFL. One is a personal choice and the other might have something to do with my 5’4″ 125 lb frame.
Regardless, the American flag itself has always been some sort of mystery to me. As a child I attended Catholic Schools where we faced both the Crucifix and the American flag every morning where we prayed and recited the Pledge of Allegiance. I never felt invested or liked either of them.
As James, an individual human, I felt distinctly bothered by the attempted appropriation of belief into my psyche. Most days I just mouthed the words of prayers, church songs, pledges and otherwise. As a kid, the flag was just some sort of weird ritual, just like consuming the “body of christ” or confessing my sins to an oddly obsessive man in a robe.
My point here is that none of this meant anything to me. It was fun, interesting, and sometimes it was best to just follow the motions so that my freedom would not be infringed upon even further. If I were not ‘reverent’ I would be scolded. If I asked questions I would be punished and sent to the principals office, sat in my own pew of the church, or what happened three times, expelled from a school.
Hey, I’m not bitter, just a bit confused. To add, I am also not African American, I don’t exactly know what it is like to see the continuing violence and systemic oppression that other unique human beings have seen. I don’t know why we say a pledge? I don’t know WHY we sing an anthem? As far as Catholicism and their rituals, at least there is some story about redeeming the soul or cleansing you of your inherent dirtiness.
Do you believe that your country is better? Or that your life has more value than that of a unique individual in another nation?
Why does the flag matter? Why is our country showing nationalism? Is it possible to both praise a flag and not put down all other countries and all other flags? Is it possible to have a country that is supposedly based on freedom and allow others to actually be free?
The first individuals that died in order to build this country were the Native Americans. Many other individuals died decades and centuries later in Revolutionary, Civil, and World Wars. But the first people of this nation were demolished and destroyed. Entire existing Nations who I am sure had a seal, a crest, or a flag, were poisoned, murdered, raped, pillaged, and sent from their homes westward until the new settlers came West and also took that away.
To me, the flag doesn’t actually represent any of this. It is a piece of cloth with some colors on it, and I acknowledge and respect that many people love and cherish that image. To some people in our nation, a certain color of bandana can mean a fellow gang member, while a different color can mean an enemy to be loathed and even murdered. I don’t subscribe to any of this, but if I were in a certain area where one gang dominated, i would respect that fact that I should watch my reds and blues.
Many people in this country, and also within my family, have served and continue to serve in the US military. I cannot speak for what they have done, what they have seen, what they have experienced. Perhaps their experience with the flag gives them a deep sense of peace and self respect that otherwise would lack from their lives, who am I to say? When the ground forces see an American pilot fly overhead, they feel supported. When the inhabitants (unique human beings) from opposing forces see that same jet, they know that they may soon be murdered.
Our eyes deceive us, this physical world is a great big ball of illusion. We make of the world what we will and we are all unique individuals with hearts, emotions, childhood traumas, financial pressures, families to provide for. Regardless of the ego and protective measures that many (including myself) take, I still need shelter, food, water, and to feel good, just like any other person. Maintaining and surviving is a victory in my book, and whatever it takes for someone to get there is none of my damn business.
Want to raise and wave a flag, go for it. Want to kneel and bow your head, go for it. Want to make your own flag and sell it on Ebay, have at it my creative friend, I choose to offer love and respect to your unique personal wishes.
In the end, you cannot choose how others will receive your expressions. Much like myself as an inquisitive 8 year old, I never knew that asking questions about religion would have me ostracized from my school, my friends, my community, put extra financial pressures on an already difficult time for my parents, and make me question my self worth, value, and placement in the world. I just wish there would have been a few people with a larger perspective to say “Wow, this kid must be going through something.”
My family members weren’t abused by the authorities, and I didn’t have to fear for my freedom, my case was light and mostly emotionally (hey I was a sensitive kid and am now a sensitive man).
I can’t change the past, but I will be damned if I submit to someone else’s belief systems because they will be offended. I am not telling you that you cannot be offended, but keep your emotional sensitivities on your turf, not that of others.
The moment you tell another that they are wrong, you are giving the universe permission to smack you in the face with the same judgement.
As we move forward, try to not be such a bully. If you are insecure, learn to love and nourish yourself on a deeper level. You aren’t any smarter than anyone, and I am not pleading for you to change your deep rooted feelings, that is your personal space, not mine or anyone else’s.
Find love in your hearts for other human beings, because isn’t that what you would want for yourself and your children?