The Soiling of Old Glory

1976
2020

I was 30 years old in 1976 during the Boston Busing Crisis when a young white man weaponized Old Glory to lance a black lawyer.

I am now 73 living through not only a pandemic but the year when our President fondled the American flag at a CPAC conference. The two flag incidents may have occurred 46 years apart, but to me they convey the same sordid message: Use the American flag to stir up hate and division. 

For me as a child, our flag was a symbol of freedom, justice, the American way. As an adult, I remain proud to be an American but I recognize that there is injustice and inequality in our country, too. That’s why I work for change. That does not mean I hate America. 

My fear today, though, is that our flag has been highjacked. It is being used to spawn hate and divisiveness by the very leader of our own country and his pack of “Make America Great Again,” red-capped, “patriotic” followers. 

Consider the slogan, “Democrats hate America”! It seems pervasive at Trump rallies. It’s bandied about on Fox News and other far-right media. Heck, it’s a meme on social media. There’s even a “Democrats Hate America” page on Facebook.

My husband and I are Democrats. The flag is posted outside our front door. I sometimes wonder, though, what people may think. Do they perceive us as genuinely patriotic or as purveyors of the Trump party line? Has this symbol of democracy become for too many a political weapon? Does posting the flag sometimes carry a subliminal message: “We are proud patriots (aka supporters of Donald Trump and all he stands for).

I have to admit that when a flag on a pickup truck comes into view, Old Glory is not what I see. I see the twisted pride of a Trump enthusiast. In 2016, I drove by a barn in rural Vermont. It was a breathtaking Andrew Wyeth painting come to life. But on its side was a humongous American flag. What flashed through my mind? Not “great art,” but “Oh, Lordy, another Trump-lover”! Okay, I know. Of course I could be wrong. Democrats drive pickups. And I’m sure there are many Democratic farmers, too.  But I also know that I’m not the only Democrat who feels this way, not by a long shot. 

The other day, a friend of mine shared a novel idea. “Democrats, take back the flag.” Build a movement. Mobilize fellow Democrats, other non-Trumpsters, too. Let us fly Old Glory as a badge of honor. Not to celebrate a man, but to honor a country we love. 

Well, that’s a campaign I could definitely get behind. Body and Soul.

~ Jane Casler

“The Soiling of Old Glory is a Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph taken by Stanley Forman during the Boston busing crisis in 1976. It depicts a white teenager, Joseph Rakes, assau lting a black man—lawyer and civil rights activist Ted Landsmark—with a flagpole bearing the American flag (also known as Old Glory).” ~ Wikipedia

3 thoughts on “The Soiling of Old Glory

  1. Very interesting, just between us Dems, on Jerusalem Day in Israel, I saw Jewish Israelis march through Arab neighborhoods waving the Israeli flag like a weapon, a provocation, an assertive, aggressive statement. It felt like a tragic misuse of a positive symbol.

  2. I recall Trump’s embracement of our flag with crystal clarity and after reading your article, better understand why I was angered. I saw Trump as a child who had exhibited naughty and despicable behavior, embracing the flagpole as if it provided him amnesty and protection from discipline. I realize that it a very unsettling way it has provided him with not only protection, but also motivation to abuse any law that he wishes which is evident by his behavior.

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