Memorial Day is just behind us and the Fourth of July is ahead. But, sandwiched in between both of those patriotic holidays is another oft-forgotten – Flag Day on June 14.
I’m not here to discuss what the holiday means or anything else, but rather the American flag itself. I suspect I may have some opinions that could be unpopular or controversial, but I ask you hear me out.
The American flag is an icon for our country. Now, whatever “America” as an idea may mean to you or should mean is another topic entirely. Iconography, however, is something I really enjoy talking about. Icons are a shorthand representation of something larger. We encounter them all the time now in our digital user interfaces, but for the longest time icons were relegated just to things like letters, numbers, signs and (you guessed it) flags.
The American flag is an icon for America. What bothers me is seeing the American flag co-opted by other groups. America is all of us, whether we agree or disagree. No one group is more American than another. When groups co-opt the American flag, in a way they are saying they are America, and anyone not them is not America. I don’t agree with that notion.
As part of the St. Cloud Municipal Band, I played at the VA for their program to honor our soldiers on Memorial Day. There were many flags and such. Our servicemen and servicewomen are fighting and dying for all of America, whether they agree with you or not. America is a singular entity in that respect.
I don’t like seeing the American flag displayed in a similar fashion by civic groups. Specifically, I don’t like the mutated version of the American flag that oftentimes people who want to support their local law enforcement will use. This version looks like an American flag, except it has changed its colors to be black and white with one blue stripe.
I don’t like this version of the flag for a multitude of reasons. First, the American flag is red, white and blue. By changing the colors, you’ve changed the icon. The geek in me says it’s not official, that it’s fan art. I also don’t like it equates civic police officers, who do have a level of danger in their chosen careers, with servicemen and servicewomen who are sent out of their communities into openly hostile territory. Police officers do a great service to their community, but they are not soldiers.
Imagine if every civic or local group altered the American flag. Do you support the librarians? Better fly an American flag that has red and black stripes with yellow stars. Doctors save lives, so show your support for them with your red and blue-striped flag with blue stars on a white field. Seems silly now, doesn’t it? Even worse, it really is diluting what the actual American flag can and should be.
It’s OK to support police, and you should because without them we’d all be massively screwed. You can even think of them as heroes if you want. But, don’t wrap them in the flag. It cheapens both the men and women who serve our communities and the American flag.