Patriotism and the American flag

By Michael Agnello

Daily Collegian File Photo)
(Daily Collegian File Photo)

A national flag is a symbol of a country’s history. In the United States, the 13 red and white stripes represent the former colonies that revolted from Britain and the stars represent our country’s 50 states. In essence, our flag helps to reaffirm the values of our country: liberty, and justice for all.

But during the two weeks of the presidential conventions, the flag was used as a source of separation, rather than its original call to unity. On the first night of the Democratic National Convention, a sole American flag was positioned slightly off stage, prompting a tweet from Republican nominee Donald Trump on July 27 that read, “Not one American flag on the massive stage at the Democratic National Convention until people started complaining – then a small one. Pathetic.”

This was quickly proven ill-informed, but Fox News contributor Katie Pavlich found new reasons to complain, writing on July 28, “The woman who wants to be the next president of the United States is not wearing an American flag lapel pin tonight.” Both comments were meant to suggest that the Democratic party is anti-American, and in turn make the GOP seem more concerned for the status of the country.

While that seems like a classic ploy to win votes in a campaign season that has featured highly divisive rhetoric, these claims cut deeper. They blur the lines of how patriotism should be demonstrated, and subsequently threaten the continued success of our nation by furthering gridlock in Washington and separation among citizens.

What kind of a message is being sent to the population from such analysis? That you have to visibly display your loyalty to America or else be chastised?

Additionally, the mere attempt to convince the American people that one party is more patriotic than another because of a visible display on one night grossly undermines all the patriotic acts that members of the criticized party have done. Are Secretary of State John Kerry and Massachusetts Representative Seth Moulton, both veterans, not patriotic because their party’s convention stage didn’t have a hundred American flags displayed? Of course not.

Patriotism involves faithfulness, but it is expressed by action. People who enlist in the armed services because they believe in protecting their country’s interests, who vote because they understand the importance of the democratic process or who stand up for the inherent rights of individuals demonstrate more patriotism than someone who is dressed in red, white and blue on the Fourth of July. That might be obvious. But we can’t allow ourselves to forget that the flag only exists because people before us took action to demonstrate their beliefs.

If we want to truly display the flag, we should follow their footsteps and seek the best for our community and nation, sincerely acting on behalf of others and selflessly striving for a positive future. The substance of one’s character is how a patriot should be defined, not how many flags they fly or pin to their lapel.

Michael Agnello is a Collegian contributor and can be reached at [email protected]