Flags are the symbol of a nation, and a banner often used by the citizens to express their patriotism and earn cultural capital with their fellow citizens. Those citizens have labeled it with endearing names throughout history. The labeling is part of the mythos. The myths imbue the flag with power.
Mythology of an object leads people to wield that object and/or its likeness to gain power. Within groups, the image of the flag is something under which they can band together. The object takes on as much significance as a living thing, heralded and worshiped. The flag becomes an idol.
We hold parades to honor it, annually. We have marked a special holiday on the calendar to celebrate it. This is all well and good, like high schools having pep-rallies, except when the acts are done to evangelize a people.
How problematic is this in a nation that considers itself Christian? Very. But, that hasn’t stopped the right wing of the United States before. Much of the mythology built up around the US Flag was created by the right wing. The purpose is to bring the people together, which sounds great, except that it’s really the purpose of that bringing together that is the problem. The historical bend of conservatism is to subjugate and control the masses to enrich the wealthy and powerful. If you can’t see that, then you’re well-indoctrinated or blind.
Outrage over burning the flag is stoked by convincing the most vulnerable (to propaganda) that the flag is a sacred object. Respect is one thing. Understanding a flag’s purpose, its history, and the nation for which it stands does not make it an untouchable thing—especially for adherents of Abrahamic traditions. They’re not supposed to have idols before their god. Yet, those who are the most vocal against flag burning are also the most Christian.
The irony of treating the flag as a sacred object is that the flag can simultaneously be used for whatever purpose these same people wish: bikinis, car decals, clothing, shoes, garden decoration, toys, dog accouterments, glasses, dinnerware, and so on. It can be hung out of the back of trucks or left up in a storm. They wrap their sweaty heads with it’s likeness, and pocket it in the back of their jeans next to their grimy ass cracks. It’s as if the flag code doesn’t exist for them.
The flag code is only upheld in the military, and far more loosely with federal and state agencies (and their employees). Other than that, it’s meted out to control or shame citizens. Whether leveraging the mythology of the flag is being used by the powerful or by their tools is irrelevant. The hypocrisy of flag politics on the right is what is important. It speaks to the slim veil of moral superiority, which is pretended to. Cyclically that reflects back character as well. Sometimes, I wonder if those who have created this role and play it up actually think anyone is buying it. Then, I see the flock winging on together, and I know that belief is very little in the face of belonging, or gaining (having) power.
Unpacking the myths, getting to know the history of it and the nation over which it stands, removes it as a leverage piece of power. It returns the flag to its position as visual representation of a nation, just a banner. It takes us from medieval structures to modern sensibility. Under the auspices of the current administration, the flag takes on greater expediency. In a society founded on the importance of citizen vigilance, such things should be viewed as suspect. The canary in the coal mine, if you will.
Learn more about the myths of the US Flag.
Learn more about The Imperialist Past of the United States (including colonialism).