At some point during the day, I walked by a television screen that had MSNBC on. A host was talking with 2 filmmakers. I didn't catch his name, their names or the film's name but I did catch one response to a question, I surmised, was something about what the 4th of July meant to the filmmaker. He answered that it was to commemorate a day where white colonials got their freedom from oppressors that gave them the freedom to oppress others. (He was more eloquent than that.) The answer reminded me of a quote by one of America's greatest contemporary authors, James Baldwin: "I love America more than any other country in the world and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually."
"What was once a unifying symbol-- there is a star on it for each state, after all-- is now alienating to some, its stripes now fault lines between people who kneel while 'The Star-Spangled Banner' plays and those for whom not pledging allegiance is an affront," wrote Sarah Maslin Nir for the NY Times yesterday. "And it has made the celebration of the Fourth of July, of patriotic bunting and cakes with blueberries and strawberries arranged into Old Glory, into another cleft in a country that seems no longer quite so indivisible, under a flag threatening to fray."
About 70 percent of Americans say the flag makes them feel proud, according to a recent survey by YouGov, a global public opinion and data research firm, and NBCLX, a mobile information platform. The sentiment was shared by about 80 percent of white Americans, just under 70 percent of Hispanic Americans and slightly less than 60 percent of Black Americans.
The divisions were deeper when it came to politics. While 66 percent of Republicans surveyed said they associated the flag with their own party, only 34 percent of Democrats said the same.
At its 1777 inception, the flag’s very design signified unity, the joining of the 13 colonies, said John R. Vile, a professor of political science and a dean at Middle Tennessee State University.
Politicizing the American flag is thus a perversion of its original intent, according to Professor Vile, who is also the author of The American Flag: An Encyclopedia of the Stars and Stripes In U.S. History, Culture and Law. He added, “We can’t allow that to happen.”
“It’s E Pluribus Unum-- from many, one,” he said, citing the Latin motto on the Great Seal of the United States. “If the pluribus overwhelms the unum, then what do we have left?”
In a post about the Declaration of Independence this morning at Informed Consent, History Professor Woody Holton noted that "Like the U.S. Constitution, the final version of the Declaration never uses the word 'slave.' But African Americans loomed large in the first draft, written by Thomas Jefferson. In that early draft, Jefferson’s single biggest grievance was that the mother country had first foisted enslaved Africans on white Americans and then attempted to incite them against their patriot owners. In an objection to which he gave 168 words – three times as many as any other complaint-- Jefferson said George III had encouraged enslaved Americans 'to purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them, by murdering the people upon whom he also obtruded them.' Numerous other white Southerners joined Jefferson in venting their rage at the mother country for, as one put it, 'pointing a dagger to their Throats, thru the hands of their Slaves.' Britain really had forged an informal alliance with African Americans-- but it was the slaves who initiated it. In November 1774, James Madison became the first white American to report that slaves were plotting to take advantage of divisions between the colonies and the mother country to rebel and obtain their own freedom. Initially the British turned down African Americans’ offer to fight for their king, but the slaves kept coming, and on November 15, 1775, Lord Dunmore, the last British governor of Virginia, finally published an emancipation proclamation. It freed all rebel- (patriot-) owned slaves who could reach his lines and would fight to suppress the patriot rebellion. The Second Continental Congress was talking about Dunmore and other British officials when it claimed, in the final draft of the Declaration, that George III had 'excited domestic insurrection amongst us.' That brief euphemism was all that remained of Jefferson’s 168-word diatribe against the British for sending Africans to America and then inciting them to kill their owners. But no one missed its meaning."
Fascists, white nationalists and domestic terrorists have appropriated our flag as their symbol. A protest by about 200 Patriot Front flag-waving white supremacists (from Texas) marched in Philly near city hall last night. A KKK-type group, they claim that "their ancestors conquered America and bequeathed it solely to them." Philadelphia ran them out of town.