Last February I acquired a Black History Month flag at an event in town. I taped it to the railing of my front steps. Then in June I acquired a Pride flag at an event in a nearby town. I taped that to the other side of the railing. At some point, I decided that both flags could remain on the steps after their requisite month was over. And why not? In this country, Black history is U.S. history, and shouldn’t be relegated to just one month out of the year. And the rights of LGBT folks to live lives of equality and safety should extend throughout the year.
My neighbor is not happy with my flags, however. Incongruously, he is an active member of a local fundamentalist mega-church. Like many people on the hard core right, he is in favor of discrimination against gay people, and truth be told, Black people. People like my neighbor live in a whirlpool of cognitive dissonance: claiming to be Christian while ignoring the most crucial teachings of Jesus. They use their fake religion as a fig leaf to cover their bigotry and immorality.
But, remarkably, what upset my neighbor most is when I added an American flag to my collection. This one is slightly larger, which I assumed he would appreciate. Not so. To him the Black history and Pride flags proclaim my excessive inclusiveness, which rules out his take on patriotism. While I am an American citizen, he believes I have renounced my claim to the American flag.
There is no doubt that the MAGA folks have fashioned the flag as an icon, as an object to be worshipped. At last year’s CPAC, Donald Trump hugged and kissed an American flag. (With his predatory history, I felt sorry for that flag.) They look to the flag as proof that America is a perfect country, obviating any need for national self-reflection. Which they see as yet another reason why they have to keep it White.
I, on the other hand, love my country enough to recognize its flaws. To try to look clear-eyed at the evils of genocide, slavery, and white supremacy. To look at the effects of unbridled capitalism, lack of access to health care, inadequate housing. William Sloane Coffin pointed out that the true patriot maintains a lover’s quarrel with his country.
So, I’ll keep flying all my flags. Understanding my inadequacies as a White, straight woman, I will continue to try to stand in solidarity with my Black and LGBT neighbors and fellow citizens. And I’ll continue to love my country – with reservations. The way I try to love myself – with reservations.