I’m ticked off.

Every day, I see people flying American flags, holding them high as a symbol of solidarity toward a particular cause. The problem is, the flag is supposed to represent an entire country, not one segment of it.

I grew up proud to be an American. I still believe in the freedoms established by our Constitution and I long to see them equally and fairly applied. So do most people. Most of the time we just disagree on how to do it.

As much as I believe I’m right and think everyone should share my opinions, no one has to. Anyone can wax poetic from a position 180° out and has the right to do it. (Much to my chagrin, of course.) That’s one of those liberties we all say we believe in: freedom of speech. It’s what I see when I look at the flag.

At least, I used to.

The flags I saw on a news clip yesterday didn’t represent any broad Constitutional freedom. They were being waved in support of a protest I don’t endorse. If I had been there holding a flag, people would have assumed I shared that position. No flag for me.

This isn’t new. Somehow American patriotic symbols have come to represent a particular faction of our society. If I raise a flag, I signal agreement. If I don’t, I’m un-American. My flag, our flag has been appropriated by a cause.

I won’t argue beliefs, positions, or ideologies here. We can debate all day over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, but I won’t do it online. In fact, I welcome the academic challenge. But that’s not my point.

The ability to freely debate (and have that freedom protected) is one of the principal reasons we have the Stars and Stripes. It doesn’t belong to one side or another, but to the debate itself.

Yes, this land is your land, but it’s also my land. So go ahead and have your protests. Even if I disagree with what you’re saying, I’ll defend your right to say it.

Just give me back my flag. It belongs to a country, not a cause.

Image courtesy of Noah Wulf, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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