Whenever my boat, Genesis, leaves port she flies the American flag off the stern rail. It’s a Coast Guard regulation and I have never thought much about it. I just do it. But as the fourth of July rolled around this year I wasn’t feeling terribly patriotic. Being proud of America is not high on my list right now. And as I mused on that, I got to thinking about what it means to fly the flag.
When I fly the flag I am not applauding the country, I am protesting. I am protesting the policies of the current administration and the general direction in which our country is moving. I am protesting the rising tide of nationalism that holds a philosophy of “my country right or wrong”. I am protesting the cuts (proposed and enacted) to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Food Stamps, SNAP benefits and more. I am protesting the potential appointment of a conservative judge that may put Roe v. Wade on the chopping block. I am protesting a government that is waging war on the poor. I am protesting the anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies that separate children from their parents. I am protesting the gerrymandering of voting districts in ways that benefit political parties and undermine the voting system of our nation. I am protesting a president whose primary agenda is undoing everything his predecessor did out of spite.
When I fly the flag I am re-framing the dominant cultural message and seeking a pathway of patriotism that loves my country and doesn’t take its crap lying down. I am mindful of the first commandment to have no other gods and I am trying to keep my priorities and my allegiances in proper order.
This means the prophetic task is crucial for our time. It is about speaking truth to power. It is about bringing basic human decency to bear on the most vulnerable members of society and assuring they are cared for. It is about the rights of all people and the need for justice in a system that increasingly marginalizes people of color. It is about the wholesale slaughter of innocent bystanders and children because our legislators can’t get out of the NRA’s pocket long enough to pass meaningful gun legislation. It is about this country going off the rails and needing voices of reason, compassion and accountability to get it back on track before it is too late.
I am seeking a way to speak truth to power, to find others who are of similar mind and to raise our voices as one in opposition to growing tyranny. The White House occupant is a dangerous man who is playing fast and loose with our country, its people and its resources.
I fly the flag in part because I have to, but mostly because I am protesting and reframing what it means to be a patriot in times of growing nationalism. I won’t be silenced; I won’t be bullied; I will not stop loving my country; and because I love my country, I will not stop criticizing and speaking against what is wrong.