Reclaiming the Flag
I’ve always loved the American flag. As kids, we pledged allegiance to it every day in school.
“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
The “with liberty and justice for all” part always stuck with me. To me, America stood for freedom against oppression. My grandparents came here to escape anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe. Hitler and all the bad guys were out there, wherever out there was. Not in America.
I grew up clinging to expressions that touted freedom and equality. My favorite was in our national anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner, “… o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.”
As I got older, I opened my eyes a little wider and started asking questions.
Does someone who does not believe in god, still have to say the Pledge of Allegiance?
“With liberty and justice for all” should mean no discrimination against women, right? What about Black people? What about gay people? What about trans people?
As a gay woman, I endured interminable bouts of sexual harassment with no liberty or justice in sight and a constant assault on my rights or the lack thereof. But still, I loved the flag. I loved what it was supposed to stand for.
My favorite shirt is an old Waylon Jennings concert T-shirt with an American flag on the front. As a chef, my favorite bandana to wear on my head when I am cooking has an American flag.
There were moments when I really thought we were getting there. The flag was finally waving over something I could be proud of. Like when Barack Obama was elected. When brave and wondrous Edie Windsor led the way to make gay marriage legal.
For 8 years, a man was in the White House who seemed to really care about ALL of us. He made me proud of our flag.
Then a loud, clearly racist, sexist, rich playboy, failed businessman started running for president of the United States.
One of the worst days in my life was the day after the 2016 presidential election when I woke up knowing that America, I’m assuming the same America that opposed the civil rights movement and made gay sex a crime, had elected this man to be president of the United States.
One day after the inauguration, I watched a storekeeper in my neighborhood take down the American flag from her window. I asked her why she was doing that.
“Because everyone thinks the flag means I support that monster,” she answered with tears in her eyes.
It wasn’t enough that this man attacked gay and trans rights from the moment he took office, stirred and inspired a nation of haters, racists, homophobes and white supremacists, but he took our flag, too?!
We cannot lose our flag to hatred.
This Fourth of July and every day after, I say let’s reclaim the American flag! Not the flag that proudly waved over racism and homophobia, but the flag that stands for what this country is supposed to be. The flag of the American dream: democracy, liberty, opportunity, equality for all.
I’m making my own Pledge of Allegiance.
I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, one nation under whatever you believe in, with liberty and justice for all. Not just white cisgender men. All means all!
Look for me on the Fourth. I’ll be wearing my Waylon Jennings T-shirt and an American flag bandana.
Happy birthday, America.