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Tardy Flag Day

Yesterday I intended to celebrate Flag Day by sharing some great old poster images I found at the virtual Library of Congress, each bearing images of the stars and stripes. But, I was behind, as is so often the case, and I wanted to get another post off my chest. In light of that MIPOTW post, however, I thought these images were still appropo. Most are from war eras back when patriotism was cool, and you know how I love the old illustration styles. (Details are at the end.)

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I’m reminded of a quote from the fictional president, Andrew Shepherd in Aaron Sorkin’s 1995 movie, The American President:

“America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, ’cause it’s gonna put up a fight. It’s gonna say “You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours. You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country can’t just be a flag; the symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then, you can stand up and sing about the ‘land of the free’.”

Yep, America isn’t easy. That’s for sure. Our ten core enumerated rights mean that dissenting speech, even hate speech often has a place on the podium alongside everyone else. This whole shebang was founded on the principle that everyone doesn’t have to believe the same thing. In fact, long before 1776 the continent was invaded by Europeans willing to stake their life on that principle–at least the principle that MY way of thinking has the right to exist. It’s always easy to demand the right to my own way of life.  The inevitable fruit of that freedom, however, is differing opinions, each vehemently promoting action.

It was interesting to me to note that last Friday was the anniversary of the 1967 Loving vs. Virginia U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding the right to interracial marriage–6 years AFTER our President was born into one such marriage. It’s an issue the vast majority of Americans now see as obsolete, even ridiculous. Sadly, Wednesday’s Holocaust Memorial shooter probably didn’t agree. America isn’t easy. For those coming late to the party, speech has power. It inspires laws and defiance of laws. It motivates action (at times horrifying) and thus bears a responsibility, making it all the more important for me to step to the mic. If I’m to wave the flag, I want to take full advantage of it–not while away the voice I have the privilege of raising.

The images:
1. “Our Flags Beat Germany” showing U.S. and Allied flags, 1918
Adolf Treidler, artist

2. “Teamwork Wins”, 1917
Hibberd V. B. Kline, artist

3. “Elmhurst Flag Day,” 1939
WPA Federal Art Project
Library of Congress Works Progress Administration Poster Collection

4. “140th Flag Day”, 1917

5. WAC poster, 1943
Bradshaw Crandall, artist

6. “Forward America!”, 1917
Carroll Kelly, artist

7. “The Spirit of America” Red Cross poster, 1919
Howard Chandler Christy, artist

8. “Fight or Buy Bonds”, 1917
Howard Chandler Christy, artist

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