There is much controversy surrounding the idea of patriotism and the iconography of the American flag in today’s society. Some believe patriotism is simply the act of supporting the decisions of the leaders of the country. Others say, to be patriotic, people should be outspoken and voice their oppositions to what is going on in the government. Opinions also differ on the idea of what the American flag represents. One opinion of the flags representation is that the flag represents our history, and the formerly mentioned idea of patriotism. Others believe the flag also represents our history as a nation, but these beliefs focus much more heavily on the negative aspects of our history; such as slavery and other injustices carried out by our nation. These people often believe we should find a new iconography for our country’s ideas of patriotism. As Barbara Kingsolver states in “And Our Flag Was Still There,” “Patriotism seems to be falling to whoever claims it loudest, and we’re left struggling to find a definition in a clamor of reaction” (Pg. 1). Therefore, every American’s duty is to define patriotism amongst the clamor of reaction, recapture the American flag’s representation, and create a new icon for the flag.
In times of war, such as these, the importance for everyone to know where they stand on the idea of patriotism so they can voice or enact their opinion to the government and the people around them in a more clear and fair fashion is multiplied. The idea of patriotism can often be an obscure one, and during times of heightened security patriotism is a more spoken upon subject. Discussing the many different views of what patriotism means is a key step in better defining patriotism for all people. Barbara Kingsolver says in her article, “My patriotic duty is to recapture my flag from the men now waving it in the name of jingoism and censorship” (Pg. 2). What she means by this is that the idea of patriotism is being morphed into something it is not. She believes patriotism should encourage free speech and criticism of our leaders in times of difficult decisions. Instead, what is happening is patriotism is suggesting more fascist ideals than democratic ideals. Barbara believes her duty is to recapture the true meaning of patriotism and let everyone know what that meaning is. She wants everyone to feel open towards voicing their opinion, even if that opinion does not match the one of the “angry mob”. The previously mentioned statement Barbara Kingsolver made is supposedly a controversial one, but I could not agree more. All Americans should find their opinion on patriotism and voice that opinion. There are many different views of patriotism and many will clash, but if we continue to talk and use our minds instead of our fists or guns, we can eventually come to a compromise of both ideas, which will best represent everyone’s opinions on patriotism. Through more clearly and fairly defined ideas of patriotism we can better understand the actions of our fellow Americans and avoid more unnecessary conflicts caused by extremist ideas being the only ideas heard.
Another vague subject of patriotism brought up in times of war is the iconography. In America the most commonly known icon of patriotism is the American flag. Unfortunately, what the flag represents is ambiguous and unclear to most people. Kingsolver pleads, “We desperately need a new iconography of patriotism” (Pg. 2). When examining why she says this we should look at what other people believe the flag represents. Some, traditionally conservative or republican, feel the flag is a physical representation of supporting their country. An abundance of flags are often seen during times of war or tragedy. Flags signify peoples care, concern, or support for what is going on. The absence of an American flag can often result in persecution. People who do not openly display their so called patriotism are often ridiculed and even threatened by those who carry the red white and blue with pride and sometimes ignorance. This is why I believe the flag is not a symbol of patriotism, but a bigot’s weapon and an insecure American’s security blanket. These reasons convince me there should be a new iconography of patriotism. I agree with Barbara’s plea for a new icon of patriotism just as wholeheartedly as I did concerning her last statement. The American flag is not what I want as my patriotic icon, because the flags representation of patriotism is unrepresentative of what I believe.
In order to create a better icon of patriotism we must find tangible objects that represent what I believe to be patriotism. Kingsolver suggests stripes of clothing from the uniforms of public servant who rescued the injured and panic-stricken, the red glare of candles held in vigils everywhere as peace-loving people pray for the bereaved, the blood donated to the Red Cross, the stars of film, theater and music who are using their influences to raise money for recovery, and the small hands of schoolchildren collecting anything they think might help the kids who’ve lost their moms or dads (Pg. 2). Although some of these suggestions are not tangible items, they definitely give me a sense of patriotism, and make me feel good about what is going on in our country today. These people and objects truly, in my opinion, represent patriotism. If we were somehow able to take these objects and ideas and put them into an icon of patriotism I know I would solute it, but until then, I will keep these peoples actions in my mind as what I believe to be true patriotism.
The exploration of what patriotism is and what represents patriotism is an important one more people should embark upon. If Americans are to examine patriotisms true meaning, we will be able to abolish this faux patriotism, which is represented by intimidation, censorship, and majority rules attitudes or actions. This can be replaced by feelings and actions of caring, compassion, acceptance, rationality, and nonviolence, or in other words, patriotism.