OPINION | American flag should not be reserved for conservatives

Abe Messing, Staff Writer

Whenever a mass shooting, violent racial conflict or Capitol insurrection scourges American life, flags are lowered to half-mast nationwide, but this is never quite low enough to satisfy most leftists. “Low enough,” to these seemingly unpatriotic Americans, would probably be somewhere beyond the base of the pole, detached from the pulley and completely out of sight — or so it would seem judging by the obvious lack of enthusiasm for red, white and blue that many on the left exhibit. The shame that comes from living in a country where such a high frequency of injustices are permitted prevents them from celebrating the flag in any capacity, let alone allows any zealous pro-America sentiments to develop. 

Leftists ought to reclaim the American flag. (Maggie Pasterz)

Instead, Black Lives Matter signs, LGBTQ+ banners and “coexist” bumper stickers are chosen to represent the emotions felt by leftists in the wake of these national tragedies. This deliberate rejection of the American flag does not actually demonstrate a lack of patriotism. Rather, it is exactly that: patriotism. Leftists express themselves this way because they care strongly about having the U.S. align its values with their own. 

However, leftists seem to forget they are ultimately still fighting for the betterment of the U.S., as opposed to against it. The American flag could be a powerful symbol of virtue in the same way as its substitutes, if only it were embraced with the same fervor conservatives have. America has not reached its final form and the ideology of the flag is yet to be decided. 

One of the primary reasons the flag is not utilized as much on the left is that conservatives have convinced leftists they own it. “I don’t wear or fly the American flag,” Tulane junior Adele Namboodri, who identifies with left-wing politics, said.  “I don’t resonate with what the flag has come to stand for (especially with Trump/Republicans claiming it),” It is understandable that Namboodri does not want to inadvertently promote opposing viewpoints, but the only way to undo this association is to “reclaim” the flag. Conflating disapproval of Conservative politics with disapproval of the entire country works against the cultivation of pride and decency leftists advocate for and which the U.S. needs to survive. 

The objective is not to strip conservatives of their loyalty to the flag, but to consider how it may not be exclusive to them. We all live here. Despite America’s checkered past, the U.S. has gradually become more liberal since its inception and will likely continue to do so. Waiting for every political demand to be met before feeling comfortable with one of the only innately unifying images of American politics is not realistic or productive. 

It will likely feel awkward or traitorous to adorn oneself with the American flag as a staunch leftist, but take solace in knowing this action stifles conservatives from deploying their favorite accusation that liberals hate America. This phrase is a political weapon designed to bait leftists into peacocking their courage. Leftists want to feel righteous, so they agree irreverently, but this is just what conservatives want to hear. The response is artificially generated by the person making the accusation to “prove” that having leftists run a country they admittedly “hate” would be dangerous. 

However, leftists do not hate the country they live in, they simply refuse to accept that it is perfect by accident. America requires work, but the flag can be made to represent the country’s ability to change for the good. As James Baldwin said: “I love America more than any other country in the world and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.”