In the United States June 14th is National Flag Day, so as I was leaving for work this morning I took the flag out from behind the door, unfurled it and hung it up outside. I had a reminder set on my phone to do with since the calendar told me it was Flag Day and another reminder set to take it down tonight. As I was hanging it up though I thought to myself that I don’t know much about the history of Flag Day and decided to do a little research when I got to work. This is what I learned; according to History.com, on June 14th 1777, “During the American Revolution, the Continental Congress adopts a resolution stating that ‘the flag of the United States be thirteen alternate stripes red and white’ and that ‘the Union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation’.” (History.com). It wouldn’t be until 1916 that then President, Woodrow Wilson, would proclaim Flag Day an observed event across the United States; and Congress wouldn’t officially make it a designated day of celebration until 1949. There is a little history lesson for myself and everyone else. In the almost two hundred years between the resolution from the Continental Congress regarding the American flag and the modern day Congress officially recognizing the day, the American flag has under gone some changes but what the flag stands for hasn’t. The history of Flag Day and the flag itself that I hung this morning had me thinking about other flags around the word and what they symbolize.
According to an article for Best Life Online, author Ashley Moor states that “Before flags represented countries, they were used for two main reasons: to rally troops in battle, and to connect ancient people with a supernatural power (generally, a god or deity).” (Moor, 2019). I am immediately drawn to the first reason for the flag, to rally troops. When I think of the American flag I feel a sense of patriotism, remembrance, and gratitude for those who rallied and charged at the sight of the American flag; for those who have fought to protect both the flag itself and what it stands for. I can only assume that people of other countries look upon their flags in the same way and how flags can be seen as a reason for a rallying cry and a symbol for unity. One recent example of a flag being seen as a symbol for unity and support is the Ukrainian flag as it’s image spreads around the world in an effort to raise awareness for the people of Ukraine who are suffering at the hands of Russia.
A flag doesn’t necessarily have to represent a country in order to rally support or serve its purpose as a symbol. How about some examples of non country flags that are used for these reasons. A black flag with a skull and crossbones on it would have us thinking of piracy on the high seas and lost treasure chests, a white flag with rings of different colors would make us think of the Olympics, the medals and the sometimes crazy sports you have never heard of or seen on ESPN; sports teams also flags with their logos on them to promote team spirit and fan fare, and communities of people sometimes have flags of their own such as the LGBTQIA+ community has.
Going further than communities and groups of people; individually we have flags of our own. When I say this I am reminded of the saying “Let your freak flag fly.” According to Urban Dictionary, that saying is an “Idiom that refers to the moment when a person with unconventional manners or mode of life feels comfortable enough to be himself/herself in front of others.” (Urban Dictionary). When I think of people living within “conventional manners or modes of life”; I think of old television shows like The Andy Griffith Show or Leave It To Beaver. Those were just television shows and not the times we live in. The world we live in now is one where we should all be at least encouraged and more often applauded for being individualistic, for “flying our freak flags”. We should all have the opportunity to feel comfortable enough to be who we truly were created to be, ourselves.
To bring it back to the American Flag on National Flag Day, I am respectful of the American flag and what it stands for. I follow the rules as to they are described as it pertains to how it is to be flown. I am also not a fan of the recent trend of kneeling during the national anthem, but I respectf that under and because of what that flag stands for we have the right to free speech and the right to peaceful assembly. All of these things remain true when it comes to our individual flags. We should be free to fly our own flags while time being tolerant and respectful of others expressions, views and beliefs.
June 14th may be National Flag Day in the United States, but every day, around the world, we should feel free to fly the flags that proudly represent who we are. So raise your freak flag and let it fly, be respectful of other’s flags and embrace the differences that make us unique and bring us together under our flags.
History.com (n.d.). This Day in History: June 14. History.com. Retrieved from https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/congress-adopts-the-stars-and-stripes
Moor, A. (2019, June 6). This is Why Countries Have Flags to Begin With. Best Life. Retrieved from https://bestlifeonline.com/why-countries-have-flags/
Urban Dictionary. (2018, January 17). Let Your Freak Flag Fly. Urban Dictionary. Retrieved from https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=let%20your%20freak%20flag%20fly