The American flag has come under fire recently. From a photographer getting in trouble for doing a military photo shoot with a baby being held in the American flag, to a sheriff in Virginia being told he could not hang the American flag in the lobby of the courthouse. In California, a college campus is the subject of a national debate, as a ban was placed on the American flag in one of the campus’ lobbies. That same ban was quickly overturned, and yet the debate rages on, as petitions are signed and demonstrators try and make their voices heard.
Each of these cases is different, and yet they all revolve around the same symbol of America, the American flag. As a relatively young country, the American flag is a symbol that has only been in existence for less than 300 years. The flag is a representation of not only the strength of the nation, but also of its unity. While the flag and the country itself are relatively young, there is also a rich history to both.
The first American flag was said to have been sewn in 1776 by Betsy Ross. Then in June of 1777, the Congressional Congress ended up passing the first ever Flag Act. The Act states, “Resolved, That the flag of the United States be made of thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation.”
Since the first Act in 1777, Congress has passed a number of acts that have allowed for the addition of more stripes and stars, as new states were added into the Union. The last update to the American flag came in 1960. This gives us the flag of today, which consists of 13 stripes, seven of which are red that alternate with six in white, these stripes represent the original colonies. Then there are the 50 stars which are representative of the states within the Union. Even the colors chosen to adorn the American flag are symbolic. The three colors of red, white and blue each stand for an idea of the people of the nation. The blue symbolizes justice, vigilance and perseverance, the red symbolizes valor and a sense of hardiness, while the white is a symbol of innocence and purity.
It is this history and symbolism that seems to be forgotten as the American flag comes under fire. In the case of the photographer, the backlash stemmed from the idea that she had somehow been unpatriotic in showcasing a military father holding his newborn in a flag. In fact, some argued that this violated the U.S. Flag Code, which happens to be a type of etiquette guide for the American flag. As a veteran of the Navy and married to an active sailor, one would think that the photographer would have a much better understanding of the U.S. Flag Code than those who would criticize the photo and see to tear it apart for some perceived slight.
In California, the flag debate is one that is no longer about whether or not the American flag should be hung, but is instead directed at those who wanted it removed. People are no longer listening to the reason behind their removal of the flag and are instead targeting them as individuals. While one may not agree with the idea or decision to remove the American flag, the harassment threats in the name of the flag are just as disturbing.
The case in Virginia revolves around a flag gifted by a local fire department. The sheriff asked to display the American flag within the lobby of the courthouse. The apparent response from one of the local judges was, that not only did they not want the flag displayed, they did not want it inside the courthouse at all. In fact, one of the judges spoke to the news anonymously to explain the reason behind not allowing the American flag in the courthouse. The reasoning is, that the judges did not want any type of display within the courts and that if one person does it then everyone will want to. The sheriff himself, expressed his frustration that the judges would expect his men to step in front of a bullet for them, but would not allow them to have the American flag as a type of salute to the safety of the public.
This is just three different instances of the American flag getting caught in the crossfires of politics and what is right and wrong. The ideas and history of the American flag, seemingly forgotten, as people use the flag itself as the central focus of arguments.
Opinion by Kimberley Spinney
Photo by arbyreed – Flickr License
Featured Photo by Mike Mozart – Flickr License