Today is Tuesday, June 7, 2022. Cedar, my wife, and I are visiting her brother and sister-in-law near Boston. As part of my daily wellness routine, I’ve just come back from an hour-plus walk, the last 40 minutes of which I did on my own and could thus walk faster than with family and friends. I did however stop here and there to take photos of New England houses I liked. After all, I’m on a road that runs alongside Lake Boon in Stow, Mass, founded in 1635, just a short drive from Thoreau’s Walden Pond. Midway in my mini-hike I begin to notice American flags of all sizes and configurations, from little ones adorning doors and fences to large ones above garages or atop flagpoles. It’s a veritable festival of red-white-and-blue patriotism. Yet Memorial Day is now behind us, and the Fourth of July is still a month away...
I remember the post-9/11 universality of American flags, an understandable outbreak of national spirit given what had just happened. My late wife, born in Germany in 1931, commented that the last time she had seen such universal flag-flying was during the first 14 years of her life. The red-white-and-black swastika banner was everywhere. Nowadays post-War Germans seem allergic to displays of patriotism. Still acutely aware of the harm National Socialism had visited on their country and others, they limit flag-flying these days to public buildings.
So, the question arose in me, why does the proliferation of U.S. flags on private houses, boats, and automobiles bother me? I guess because I feel this action includes some, viz. one’s fellow flag-flyers, but excludes everyone else. It seems to say, “We’re American and proud, and you’re not!” I on the other hand am someone who firmly believes, as my African American brothers and sisters say, that “God don’t make no junk!” and “All God’s chillen got wings!” If that’s the case, no one should be excluded. Beyond that, our Indigenous siblings when they pass the peace pipe state, “All my relations.” Meant here, I came to understand, are Father Sky, Mother Earth, and all their prodigy, from rocks and plants to sentient beings of every kind. Nothing is excluded. Given that, one has to wonder who the real savages are—them or us!
Consequently, the flags I prefer to fly are the blue-and-white U.N. one, the multi-colored rainbow-coalition/gay-rights one, the Earth flag, and the line of small banners signifying the great religions of the world. To be fair, I did see on my walk one lovely floral flag that simply said “Welcome.” You can see it below. True, nearby was a plethora of small Old Glories. But that’s the point, isn’t it? National flags represent an older glory. Human progress would seem to take us beyond our individual selves, our families, our kin groups, our localities, our states, our nations, our ethnic and religious groups, our races, and our species to all and everything. The Unitarian Church is lucky, for their hyphenated name includes “Universalist.” My hope is that one day humankind will mature to the wisdom of our Indigenous family and realize that we are all related by virtue of sharing the same Universe. To which I’ll add AMEN.