Flags and Nationalism

Flags are seen as symbols of countries and the ideals that supposedly stand for. In reality they are symbols used by governments to build blind nationalism. The United States government is so in love with their flag that they have written insanely detailed codes regarding it. Mind you, most of these codes are broken on a daily basis by some of the most patriotic of individuals:

(d) The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery. It should never be festooned, drawn back, nor up, in folds, but always allowed to fall free. Bunting of blue, white, and red, always arranged with the blue above, the white in the middle, and the red below, should be used for covering a speaker’s desk, draping the front of the platform, and for decoration in general.


(i) The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever. It should not be embroidered on such articles as cushions or handkerchiefs and the like, printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkins or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use and discard. Advertising signs should not be fastened to a staff or halyard from which the flag is flown.

(j) No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform. However, a flag patch may be affixed to the uniform of military personnel, firemen, policemen, and members of patriotic organizations. The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing. Therefore, the lapel flag pin being a replica, should be worn on the left lapel near the heart.

Regardless, my point has nothing to do with people ‘disrespecting’ the flag. In fact what I’m about to say is quite the opposite of such nonsense, I’m going to ‘disrespect’ the flag. The picture above is a quote by Indian novelist Arundhati Roy who has said some very intelligent things beyond that short quote above. I agree with her regarding what a flag really is. Throughout my early school career we were made to stand up, put our hand over our heart, and mindlessly recite the following words:

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

At the time I merely recited the words because we were told to and we were told to recite those words because it was hoped we were impressionable enough to be brainwashed into mindless nationalistic robots. I’ve briefly mentioned my distain for the Pledge of Allegiance before:

The Pledge of Allegiance was a marketing ploy to instill nationalism. Since nationalism is one of the planks of fascism I’m not too fond of practicing it. Furthermore I’m none too inclined to recite a piece of propaganda written by a socialist.

Setting aside the fact the Pledge of Allegiance was written by a socialist we need to stop and analyze the words. First, the pledge is to the flag and the republic it represents. We’re not pledging our allegiance to ideals like liberty or opposing tyranny, we’re pledging it to a republic. Whether that republic is the freest country on Earth or the most tyrannical isn’t even touched upon, you’re just supposed to be an obedient citizen who will ally yourself with the state.

Arundhati’s quote above rings true. The flag is first used to shrink wrap your brain before it is used to ceremoniously cover your coffin. You are supposed to die for your republic, even if your republic is a tyrannical dictatorship. This is what bothers me, the United States was supposedly founded on the ideal of liberty. We’re not supposed to be subservient to the state, the state is supposed to be subservient to us. Unfortunately it’s easy to build nationalism in a population, in fact it probably has something to do with our innate tribalism. You must first create a national identity, then you must create a divide, and finally you need only send good men and women to die.

In the United States nationalism is create continuously and through many different methods. The Pledge of Allegiance is only one way, we’re also constantly bombarded with concepts like respecting various political offices (I’ve written my thoughts on that subject before), we’re instructed to worship “civil servants” such as the police, etc. Hell, an entire section of federal law is dedicated to respecting the flag!

Then we have the divide. Before today various enemies of the state were created. First people living in the United States were supposed to be afraid of the “savage” Native Americans, later it was the Spanish, after them it was the anarchists, followed by the communists, today it’s Muslims. In every case the state used the national identify they created to also create a divide. It’s “us” versus “them.” “They” want to destroy our way of life. “They” want to kill our children. “They” want to take our freedom. You’re either with “us” or you’re with “them.” After the divide is created the state merely has to send armies to fight “them” and use the deaths of “us” as further proof of “their” barbarity. It worked during manifest destiny, it worked during the Vietnam War, and it’s working today with the invasions of the Middle East.

As I’ve said, I don’t pledge my allegiance to a flag or a republic. I pledge my allegiance to individuals I deem worth of it, I pledge my allegiance to ideas I believe in, I certainly don’t pledge my allegiance haphazardly or without good cause. Saying this is tantamount to heresy. You are proclaimed a witch and demands for your trail are raised. Self-declared patriots will scream “How dare you disrespect our flag!” or “How dare you not say the Pledge of Allegiance!” In their mind your unwillingness to pledge your allegiance to the flag means you’re with “them” and if you’re with “them” you’re against “us.”

What so many people are too blind to see is the fact there is no “us” or “them.” There are only individuals, all of whom are unique. We’ve been raised our entire lives to swear mindless obedience to the state. Public education is all about obedience, you’re not supposed to think critically, you’re supposed to do and believe what you are told. Teachers, the chief propagandists, are described as gods and you’re instructed to kneel down and worship them. Their word is law. If they say two plus two equals five you’re suppose to nod your head and mindlessly repeat “Five!” whenever asked the sum of two and two. When your teacher tells you the United States is the greatest and freest country on Earth you’re supposed to nod and accept it as fact, you’re suppose to stand up and swear your undying love and allegiance to your flag, you’re suppose to be outraged when anybody disrespect your country or its symbol.

Some will eventually see the situation for what it is and break free of the trap while others will not. In the eyes of those who haven’t broken free of the trap I’m a pariah who is to be shunned. Frankly, I stopped giving a damn what other people think of me long ago because I realize they view me as part of the nebulous “them” and thus their hatred is irrational and without basis.