To protest or not protest? An idol or not an idol? It seems the flag of our country is a debated item these days. The freedom of speech means we can protest. That phrase is often repeated. As is the often repeated statements of lament on issues of oppression. What then is the flag? I’ve debated this question in my mind for quite some time as a person who is frustrated with the situation in our country. The conclusion I’ve come to is the flag is us, you and me.
Oppressor or freedom fighter?
Those protesting the flag point to the oppression that has and is happening in our country. But they are not the only people under the flag. Our country almost wasn’t a country because of slavery. It was a bitter debate. State boundaries, underground rail road, a war, etc. demonstrate those who fought for America’s truest ideal: freedom. At a moment in history, other than the bible, people stated that people are free. Sadly, but not abnormally, it takes time for such a dramatic change to infiltrate all of society. Our country is incredibly young.
Idol or living gravestone?
The pushback on those defending the flag is the flag is an idol. For sure that is true for some, but I doubt it is the majority. Relatively few things should be consider so sacred we protect them. I consider the flag one of those things. For many the flag is a gravestone. For all our nations ills, and we have plenty, many have died for us. In over a decade of war, this aspect of the flag is all to real. Bashing the flag is akin to smashing gravestones.
Rights or civility?
The protesting of the flag is heralded as utilizing one’s rights. I questions whether it is the civil course of action to take. As one has a right to do something, it does not mean one should. Radical cultural transformation occurs when we lay down our rights. It happens when we radically serve and act civil. It happens when we find ways to communicate respectfully. Why? Because it is a lot easier to win friends or beneficiaries over to your cause than your enemies. Polarizing actions do just that. In regards to the flag, it’s hard to gain an audience you’re trying to influence by insulting them first.
Absent or present?
Our country already has forums to address grievances, and to work for better communities. The more I ask around the more I hear a consistent answer: no, they do not. My question is simply, do people show up and get involved in township meetings or city council meetings. I am asked why I don’t participate in protests. The issue is being present where it matters. More and more I’m becoming convinced that protesting is stupid if you really want change. Get involved and be present if you truly want change. History is made by those who show up. I’ve been to many meetings, and the chairs are often empty.
All have sinned…
Our country is new. As a student of history I’ve found one consistent pattern: Oppression, bigotry, and slavery is the norm throughout history. There is not an ancestral group that hasn’t been tyrannical to someone. And if a culture is found that has not, chances are they just never had the opportunity to. All cultures on all our inhabited continents have waged war, fought, and oppressed. It is the story of the human race. The grand exception is a moment in history men under oppression came to the conclusion that people are born free. As with you and me, seldom when we realize a truth do our whole lives and thinking match up to our ideals.
The bottom line:
The flag is us. We are not a perfect country nor did we start out perfect. We did start with a profound truth: People are to be free. This foundational principle created a massive struggle on what a free society looks like. It created the struggle on what it means that all are born free. As a young nation we have yet to live out fully our ideal of freedom. It does not mean that ideal is void or that freedom was only a buzz word. When we disrespect the flag we really disrespect ourselves. We may have the right to protest it, but our noblest sensibilities should dictate we shouldn’t. Our ideal is to be one nation where all are born free. Such an ideal stands against the tides of human history and propensity. For as one stands in protest of the flag because of oppression, remember that given the opportunity you and your ancestors would oppress as well, and have done so. The flag is us, our struggle and our highest ideal.