As the Fourth of July approaches, Americans are faced with a troubling question: Which flag will you be flying this holiday? The day should serve as an occasion for the nation to unite around its national symbol. Americans have always celebrated with patriotic displays of the stars and stripes of all sizes.
This year is different, however. The issues now dividing the nation go beyond mere political or policy clashes like those in the past. The national debate is no longer about differences of opinion. It goes beyond the great polarization of the last decades, which still presupposed some common ground.
Changing the Terms of the Debate
Today, the nation is afflicted with demands for changes that threaten its identity. The left contests the common narrative that in the past provided the very parameters for debate. They now call for “systemic” change, by which they mean the American system cannot be fixed but must be brought down. This is not debate but revolution!
A major cause of the left’s seismic shift is people putting themselves before the common good. They become so self-absorbed by their personal lives that any misfortune or perceived injustice becomes a cause for rebellion. A demand for more entitlements replaces every call of duty. This perspective blinds people with so much hatred that they refused to see any good in the nation. This new national loathing quickly turns protest into a violent imperative to destroy the system.
The Need to Look Beyond
That is why flying the American flag is so important this July 4th. A flag is a symbol that calls everyone to look beyond individual concerns and needs, even the nation’s defects and shortcomings, and look instead at the sublime reality of the invisible bonds that weave all together into one people.
The flag is a constant reminder of a moral duty to be concerned with the common good and not only seek after pleasure or self-interest. Belonging to this great nation means realizing that, like a family, members of a society must unite to forge a common history of trials, sacrifices and joys.
The flag visibly expresses that national unity that is invisible because it is spiritual. It is a symbol that transcends time and place, ignoring all banal differences. It unites the nation with its past and future and belongs to no particular political party or social group, flapping gracefully above the petty politics of the day.
Honoring the flag does not mean to say the nation is without its faults. It does not mean that injustices are to be ignored or tolerated. However, this honoring serves as a platform of mutual respect and affection that provides the framework for working out solutions together. On the contrary, disrespect for the flag is a sure sign of disregard for the nation’s unity. It signals a refusal to meet on common ground. This attitude negates the very mechanism needed to solve problems through normal and legitimate channels.
The Revolutionary Use of Flags
Those who want to change the American narrative also understand the nature of symbols. That is why so many are disrespecting the flag. Athletes are turning away from it. Protesters burn and trample on it. Others are suggesting that it be changed to reflect a more inclusive mentality.
Finally, revolutionary groups introduce their own flags to symbolize their causes and project their defiance. They understand that flags can be powerful tools to unite their militants as they toil to bring down the system. Such symbols find support in academia, media and corporate boardrooms—the very targets that militants want to tear down.
The revolutionary use of flags can always be recognized by their use in Marxist class struggle narratives where everything is simplistically divided between oppressed and oppressors. They divide the nation into identity groups. They do not want to fix the problems but topple the system.
Using flags can also be used to normalize and mainstream immoral behaviors and practices. They demand tolerance but tolerate no opposition. Agitators use them to put their feelings, behaviors and identities above the common good of the nation. This divides the country by insisting that the nation subordinate itself to their whims while trampling on the common good.
Thus, many will be flying other flags this Fourth of July. However, the flag for the occasion will ever be the Stars and Stripes, despite the nation’s shortcomings. America is still worth fighting for. The holiday should be an occasion for renewing the commitment of those invisible bonds that unite Americans as one nation under God.
Which flag will you be flying on July 4th?
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