Patriotic Symbols

In honor of Flag Day, I’d like to do a little piece on our national symbols. But first, a Demotivational!

It should come as a surprise to no one that I get on well with my mother. She’s a brilliant painter, a reluctant businesswoman, an enthusiastic member of the local Episcopalian congregation, and an old hippie (not that she’s old!). I love hearing her ideas for her next art project or entrepreneurial move, and she loves hearing about my books and my enthusiasms.

All the same, we do disagree. You might be wondering why I started a treatise on patriotism by talking about my mother. Here’s why.

I salute the American flag, or put my hand over my heart, whenever I pass one. I stand and recite all but two words of the Pledge of Allegiance. I sing patriotic songs by heart. I’m proud to be an American.

My mother, when she found out I saluted the American flag, felt uncertain about it. She wasn’t sure if that was really a good idea. And when she said that, I laughed.

My mother runs the California version of C-SPAN, AGP Video, and built it up with my father to “bring government to you.” She’s involved in her community and loves it, what could be more patriotic than that? And she’s troubled that I salute the flag?

And then I started to think about it. There’s a disconnect between American liberalism and overt displays of patriotism. Flag waving has become the property of the right. And this makes absolutely no sense to me.

I’ve met as many unpatriotic conservatives as unpatriotic liberals. I’ll insult no one’s intelligence to say that all of one or the other is patriotic. But the best liberals I know, the ones I talk to and the ones I listen to, my mother included, their liberalism is love of country. They love America, they just want to fix what’s wrong with it.

How is that unpatriotic?

And why are we all buying into this notion that waving a flag makes you a conservative, a teabagger, or a warhawk? Half the patriotic songs in our repertoire are liberal to the core. Like this one. Or this one. Or, hell, even this one.

How about our national symbols? Can you think of any American symbols that represent and celebrate the rights and liberties of the individual, the hope of a better tomorrow and a pro-immigration stance?

I can’t either. What about the beauty of the natural environment, and the promise to keep it safe for tomorrow?

Made by this guy.

TR - When 'conservatism' included 'conservation.'

How about historical figures? Founding fathers? Men (and women) who said that individual liberty and dignity was right, and when they were told by the states, or the government, or the company, or their friends, that they should stand aside, they said, “no,  YOU move”?

"I want you Union boys to show the Confederates one thing, and one thing only - respect."

"Remember the women, John!"

"The Quakers made the only Indian treaties never sworn to...and never broken."

"Who ya gonna call? TRUSTBUSTERS!"

"I could have shot Jefferson and kept the White House to myself, you know. I had friends who suggested it."

These are our symbols, our songs, our figures, and they belong to us just as much as they do to the Republican party, the teabaggers, or anyone else. That was the point. The stark beauty of the Grand Canyon, the right to privacy, the songs of freedom are for every single American.

And the right wing nicked them. All of a sudden, owning and waving a flag means you support the war in Iraq, deregulation, privatization, compulsory religious schooling, and the Arizona immigration law.

TAKE IT BACK! I’m tired of having to explain why I voted for Obama and feel I have some kind of right to sing “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” So salute the flag that fought all the way to Dixie to free the slaves, sing This Land is Your Land at the top of your lungs, and quote Jefferson on atheism and (Franklin) Roosevelt on welfare. They’re yours, too, and they were stolen. So TAKE IT BACK!


About R. Jean Mathieu

They say he speaks five languages, was conceived on a chess board, and once seduced a tong boss' daughter and lived to tell the tale. All we know is, he's called Roscoe. You can find more scurrilous lies at and buy his books at View all posts by R. Jean Mathieu

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