Today I had to help someone take a flag down at work. It’s a huge flag. I have no idea exactly how large it is, but it’s way too much flag for only two people to be working with. During our handling of the flag, one corner touched the ground, unbeknownst to me.
“Uh oh,” says my coworker.
“You let the flag touch the ground!”
Lord in heaven, no! How will I ever be able to live with myself?! Yes, I’m well aware that, according the US Flag Code (which is a real thing), letting a flag touch the ground is “disrespectful to the flag.” Really? IT’S A FUCKING FLAG. It’s just a piece of cloth, a symbol. It represents an idea–it isn’t valuable in and of itself. The only value a flag has is the abstract one we psychologically project onto it.
So I let a flag touch the ground. Does that mean I’m a commie loving, anti-American socialist? Are Thomas Jefferson and Betsy Ross going to rise from the grave and maul me in my sleep? Get the fuck over yourself, flag. All of this uber patriotic, nationalistic bullshit is tiresome and pointless. Why do I need to take my hat off for the flag? Why does an inanimate object care if I take my hat off? It doesn’t, of course. But the people around me care. Because apparently if you don’t respect the flag, you don’t love America.
Where the hell is the logic in that? Why is worshiping an inanimate symbol so important to people? But more to the point, what does “respecting” the flag in the “proper” way even prove? Absolutely nothing, of course. I could be a communist who hates everything about America and take my hat off and salute the flag with a smile on my face. And nobody would ever know. How would they? I could essentially lie to the faces of everyone watching me every time I was around a flag and it wouldn’t make a difference. Same thing with swearing on the bible in court. Who the fuck cares? Is this supposed to mean anything? Consider the following: everyone who testifies in court swears on a bible; not all people who testify have or will tell the truth. So why the fuck make people swear on the bible?! It obviously doesn’t guarantee truthfulness.
“Country first.” Wasn’t that some republican presidential candidate’s slogan a few elections back? Boy, our politicians sure do love nationalism. You know who else loved it? Hitler. And Stalin. And probably every other leader that’s ever existed. Don’t you think that everyone in every other country thinks the same things about their country? “We’re the best!” Nationalism and everything that goes along with it–the flags, the saluting, the slogans, the maps, the anthems, etc–are all just ways to control people, to keep them invested in an idea. In the real world there are no magical lines separating individual countries, flags don’t mean anything, anthems are just words set to music, and a salute is just a gesture. And every country has these things. They’re empty of substance. They’re pageantry, regalia. They don’t speak the character of a nation.
And quite frankly, the character of a nation is all I’m concerned with. I don’t care how many stars are on the flag, how cool the anthem sounds, where it is on the map, or any of that other silly bullshit. I care how the country acts on the world stage. I care what the people value, what their actions are, their goals. The sentimental patriotism that flags and other paraphernalia represent aren’t indicative of anything other than a desire to make us all feel like one unit, a unit to be governed by the people who control the symbols of nationalism. This isn’t a bad thing in and of itself; it’s impossible to have a modern nation-state without some type of nationalism. But the degree to which some people carry the symbolism is ridiculous, and quite frankly a mostly blind gesture.