Today is July 4th. In the United States, this translates to Independence Day. I tend to be careful about who I am around and what I say on holidays. My poor dear father, for instance, likes to enjoy holidays and my opinions and thoughts about every holiday make him roll his eyes. But this is my blog and so I am free to cause eye rolling. In fact, I would love it!
July 4th is a holiday founded on the false belief that every one in the United States is free and independent. In fact, it was a small group of elite white men or as bell hooks would say members of the "white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy" who declared their independence this day in 1776 and the rest of us women, people of color, low-income, queer, mentally and physically disabled... have been struggling for rights ever since.
The red, white, and blue of U.S. flags are everpresent in my country this day as they were every day from 9/11/2001 until about last year when it finally started to become popular and acceptable to speak out against the war in Iraq. I have already written an entry about my thoughts on patriotism and flags but these colors stir up so many thoughts and feelings in me that I can always say more.
Last night, I received a thoughtful e-mail from my friend B.. Knowing that I struggle with this holiday, he wanted to let me know that July 4th is also International Flag Burning Day, an anarchist holiday where everyone is encouraged to burn the flag that they love the most. I don't think this cheered me up as he thought it would.
For one, the U.S. flag is not the flag I love most. In fact, I don't even like flags. Flags encourage people to follow their country's leaders blindly and give people permission to commit impardonable acts. Flags also encourage people to put all of their thoughts and feelings towards a country, a nation and its people into a symbol. Can a piece of cloth really do all this? No, but humans seem to do it anyway. It's much easier to follow a visual symbol than it is to define what the symbol signifies to you.
And secondly, burning is destructive and violent. I would rather just get rid of the image of the flag entirely and create a set of values for myself and my country, values that we actually strive to live by every day. If you need a flag, you could write the following words on simple pieces of unbleached muslin:
Respect for Difference
and a big X through Empire.