“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.”
We’ve all said these words our entire lives, but how often have we thought about what they truly mean? About how very inclusive they are?
They mean all of us! Not just the few that this last year aggressively co-opted our flag as though it was solely theirs and beat us about our heads, hearts, and souls with their version of “patriotism.”
Our flag was used as an instrument of abuse to the point that I removed the flag pin from my cowboy hat, and my husband, a Navy diver and Vietnam Vet, is still hesitant to replace the flagpole we’ve had in our yard for 30 years. Why? Because we don’t want others to see our flag and mistakenly assume that we are any part of that faction so willing to bully and abuse others in its name.
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We all saw it on the news, not just on the steps of the United States Capitol Building on January 6th, but also locally in our daily lives. Our flag has been paraded about incessantly by those attempting to bully our entire nation into embracing an attitude of hate, insurrection, and overt aggression.
A friend, while driving back from Victor to Stevensville, was trapped in the midst of a convoy of big pick-ups driving aggressively and all flying the American flag as though to assert their rights. They showed up at otherwise peaceful demonstrations, causing greatly increased tension levels, and took an antagonistic stance against the right to peacefully protest. Their need to dominate was evident in their behavior. It wasn’t patriotism, it was bullying.
They were flying our flag like a cheap banner -- the flag American soldiers have died for -- alongside the Confederate flag, which stands for rebellion against the United States of America, and alongside the Nazi flag, which stands for the deaths of millions of innocent people. Both of those flags represent racism, hate, and white supremacy, and yet they flew, with contempt and disrespect, alongside ours.
This wasn’t a remote occurrence somewhere back East, but right here in Western Montana! One such truck sported a Confederate flag and a huge American flag just behind the cab, snapping boldly in the wind as the truck pulled past me on Highway 93, but when we both stopped for a red light, there my flag, our flag, lay with nearly its entire length in limp and weary disgrace on the literal garbage heaped in the bed of this young “patriot’s” truck.
There are laws that direct the handling and acceptable treatment of our flag. None of them tolerate such degradation. It made me sick to see such utter disrespect for the same flag that tenderly embraces our deceased soldiers as they return home for the last time, the same flag crisply, precisely, respectfully handled, folded, and bestowed on family at funerals.
Patriotism is not just pledging but actually living your ALLEGIANCE to a flag that stands for and truly represents that we are ONE people, an INDIVISIBLE nation, UNITED in ideals that, among others, include the pursuit of LIBERTY and JUSTICE FOR ALL!
Valley Women's Voices is a Sunday feature in the Ravalli Republic. Send submissions to OnMyMindMFT@gmail.com