The recent flap over a “Black Lives Matter” banner flying at UMass Dartmouth makes for talk radio of the most inflammatory kind, but it also gives rise to serious questions about the American flag and the various “sub flags” that so often fly beside Old Glory.
Any group representing any cause designs a flag and then requests or demands that their flag be flown alongside the American flag at local town halls, city halls and colleges.
Towns, cities and colleges often give in to the request/demand, if only to appear free from prejudice, and to not risk the ire of a particular voting block.
Pow/MIA. Gay pride. AIDS. Cancer. Overdoses. Domestic violence. Awareness of this and that. Well intentioned, every one.
Unfortunately, flag display may be one of those areas where less is more.
Counting the American flag, there are five flags visible in a recent newspaper photo of flags at the UMass Dartmouth campus. That’s perilously close to clutter, and clutter does not inspire reverence.
Certainly we can appreciate the idea that a college is a marketplace of ideas, a place for students to discuss American questions. But there is a broader issue of every splinter group demanding that their own special flag be displayed alongside the American flag.
For most of us, the sight of a lone American flag flying against a blue sky is moving precisely because the flag stands alone. In the famous photo, the Marines struggle to raise only one flag over the hell of Iwo Jima. They only needed one flag, the flag for which they fought, the flag that led them to that blood-slick summit.
Americans should believe that their flag contains within it the hopes and dreams, the equality of opportunity that belong to all Americans.
The American flag is the gay pride flag. It is the flag that says black lives matter. It is the flag of those captured, killed and wounded in wars. It is the flag of the veteran and of the man or woman who never served.
The American flag is the flag of police officers and firefighters. It is the flag of the homeless and the middle class. The American flag says all lives matter.
Once all of us require our own special flag, then the promise of the American flag is gone.
We live in a nation that grows ever more divided. We shout at each other over walls we built ourselves, and now we need flags on top of those walls.
That’s not a country. That’s a collection of warring states.
Imagine if every municipal building, state building, federal building and college in the United States flew ONLY the American flag.
No state flag. No confederate flag. No flag of any cause other than the cause of freedom that made this nation.
Just one flag. For everyone. The original, beautiful flag.
That alone wouldn’t make us a stronger nation. That alone wouldn’t heal our wounds, or sew us back together.
It would show what we believe we can be, what we were always meant to be, what the flag says we can be if we stand as one.
(c)2016 The Herald News, Fall River, Mass.
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