Flag Day 2012: Modern Politics Has Ruined America's Most Sacred Symbol

“Red, White, and Blue”, “United We Stand”, “One Nation, Under God” — All of these phrases are recognizable by any American citizen, and are all descriptive phrases associated, in some way, with our nation’s flag. 

The stars and stripes are more than pieces of fabric sown together and embroidered to represent our original 13 colonies and our current 50 states, they are unifying pieces that provoke nationalism, pride, reverence, and raw emotion in remembrance of those who have fought for our country with it patched onto their sleeves. Every year, since President Truman signed an act of Congress designating June 14 as National Flag Day on August 3rd, 1949, our citizens, organizations, and government facilities have acknowledged this day and honored it by reflecting on the history and symbolism of what our flag means to us. As our flag has evolved from 13 stars and 13 stripes, our institution and political parties have evolved as well. Through this evolution, one of our most defining insignias has been entangled with our modern political parties, becoming a focal point for political warfare. Have our modern political parties upheld the responsibility of honoring the symbolic nature of our flag and what it represents?  

Not only does our flag hold emotional and historical meaning to our nation’s citizens, it is also symbolic of how our Democratic Republic is to be regarded. Although the colors of the stars and stripes did not have significant meaning when the flag was initially adopted in 1777, they evolved from the American Seal, whose colors did bear significant meaning. The color red stands for valor and hardiness, the color white stands for purity, and the color blue is the color of the chief and stands for perseverance, justice, and vigilance. The meanings of these colors were transferred to the American flag, creating the symbolic nature that we hold near and dear to our hearts. Since the adoption of these sentiments, the United States Code has provided articles, such as, Title 36 Chapter 10 to establish Patriotic Customs. Article 176, Respect for flag, part D, gives a detailed description of how the flag, and colors, should or should not be used. Within part D it states, “ … Bunting of blue, white, and red, [should] always [be] arranged with the blue above, the white in the middle, and the red below … ”. Every political “party animal” or party logo that I have seen follows these guidelines; using red, white, and blue as identifiable party colors. Old Glory combines these colors and meanings to unite American citizens; but, is it possible that the unification of these colors for party logos in political warfare between our two major political parties can demoralize this union?

Demoralization of this union is evident in the evolution of these party logos. In short, the Republican and Democratic party logos were derived from a political cartoon by Thomas Nast in 1874. The cartoon depicted a donkey cloaked by a lion’s skin scaring away animals in Central Park, one of them happened to be an elephant running away with “the Republican Vote”. The depiction stuck with both parties, continually fueling the fire with phrases such as, “Don’t be an ass, vote Republican”. Further division came in 2000, identifying “red” and “blue” states. Both colors are on opposite ends of the colors spectrum, reflecting the polarization and ideological extremism that gridlocks our political arena and plagues our political culture. Our two major parties and our political system have allowed for the purposes of our flag as a unifying force to be distorted. Instead of uniting under the symbolic colors of red, white, and blue that our nation’s flag beautifully presents, we have come up with terms like “purple states” to define bipartisanship. It is time to recognize the growing need to unite as citizens and close the gap between the “red” and the “blue” and allow the white to shine through, the purity of what is meant to be a more perfect union.

Regardless of party affiliation or ideological views, take this June 14as a day to reflect on what our flag, representing the United States of America, means to you. Our citizens fly our flag proudly, our soldiers serve with our flag on their sleeves, and even our presidents, no matter what party they are aligned with, wear flag-shaped lapel pins over their heart to show patriotism. Keep in mind, “red” or “blue”, we all bear the same flag.