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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 10/4/20

Why The Left Should Carry The American Flag At its Rallies

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John Mentzos
Message John Mentzos

Rally against Family Separation - Cleveland, Ohio
Rally against Family Separation - Cleveland, Ohio
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Symbols are very powerful things. One glance at a symbol and a vast array of feelings, memories, reactions and psychological organization can occur. Symbols can subconsciously motivate individual action as well as group-shadow behavior that lurks in the under current of our nation, such as racial animosity. Take the middle finger, for example. It's just a finger. But when the middle finger is pointed at us we are often magically transformed into angry beings, sometimes we even behave with violence. We become controlled like a robot with just one fingera "negative" symbol. The battle over Confederate symbols illustrates my point; it's not the statues of Confederate icons but what they represent in public settings that is motivating people at both the conscious and subconscious levels to act. There is on one side a movement to throw-off the weight imposed by the psychological oppression of racism and a counter movement in defense of the psychology offered those in support of white supremacy. These motivations speak to the heart of the identities of those involved and it is the symbol of the Confederacy that energizes this struggle because the symbol strikes at the core of who we feelwe are.

Symbols seen as "positive" such as the crucifix (most Americans see it as a symbol of good) may be seen by others as a sign of oppression, a cause of fear and rejection. Understanding the power of symbols is very important in movement politics. Symbols not only activate our thoughts, feelings and behavior, but they can be used purposely to activate the thoughts, feelings and behavior of others that we want to support our cause. If the political left wants to build a truly diverse movement, the left must begin to consider using symbols not previously connected to those movements as a purposeful strategy to usurp the power of symbols currently held hostage by Corporate Oligarchy. This requires lots of constituent input and education of course. If a movement's constituents can be brought aboard with using these new symbols, the power that they unleash could be groundbreaking. One such symbol is the American flag.

There is an undercurrent of controversy surrounding the American flag in the United States today. We have seen those from Colin Kaepernick to Abby Wambach who have taken a knee during the National Anthem at sporting events, for example. It is their right and all of our responsibility to point out when our country is not living up to its promise. The Constitution of the United States, that the American flag in part represents, guarantees all of us the right to do so. We The People have fought and died for the rights that the American flag represents, including dissent. But our flag represents more than our rights, it also represents our historymuch of which has been incredibly oppressive. It represents the dark side of our society today including police brutality. Nonetheless, the American flag also represents the promise of democracya true democracy yet to come for future generations. Although I support the right to take a knee during the National Anthem, I caution my progressive brothers and sisters about relinquishing the American flag all together to the likes of neo-Nazis and Klansmen. In my recent observations of social justice movement rallies, particularly those opposing white supremacy, rarely have I seen the activists on the left carrying the Stars and Stripes. Why should progressives let white nationalists be the only side carrying the American flag at rallies? Black Americans elevated that flag through hundreds of years of having their labor stolen, their genius stolen, their lives stolen and yet maintaining an unwavering social conscious that has benefited all Americans. Black America deserves all the privileges and rights that our flag symbolizes. You, the progressives of this nation have fought and died, not only in every American war, but moreover on the battleground of civil, human and worker rights since the inception of this nationthat flag is yours too. Take it back. If you relinquish the American flag to those focused on hate, then that is all it will represent. If you take it back it will represent hope.

Today the politicians that are suppose to represent We The People, in fact, more times than not represent moneyed interests. The symbol that our politicians really pledge alliance to is the almighty dollar bill. The dollar bill is the flag of corporate America: the flag that belongs to Corporate Oligarchy. Corporate Oligarchs have conflated their flag with the United States flag in order to counter the left and coopt white grievance. This cooption is to the determent of poor and middle class whites angry about their loss of economic and political power as well as a determent to those on the political left. The cooption of the American flag is being used to justify the insinuation that "this nation belongs solely to those on the political right." This nation belongs to the people. The Stars and Stripes, that symbolizes this nation, belong to We The People allof the people, the left as well as the right.

The Corporate Oligarchy doesn't want us to truly honor the American flag for the promise it holds, but instead to worship the corporate flag of Americathe almighty dollarand so it has coopted the American flag as it's symbol. It's a personal choice to pledge allegiance to the American flag or not. But we must be clear; it's one thing to pledge allegiance to the flag of the UnitedStates of America, but it's quite another thing to pledge alliance to the money interests that occupy our democracy and hold that flag hostage. Racism and the melding together of corporate and government power is the essence of fascism. Capturing the American flag from fascism is a noble pursuit. It doesn't mean you pledge alliance to the flag ($) of the united state of corporate America, or to the republic for which it standsa nation under fraud, in division with liberty andjustice forestalled. It means America is our countryof, by and for We The People.

There is nothing wrong with patriotism if you honor the right things and not use it as a cover for hate and corporate supremacy.

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John G. Mentzos earned his Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior and Development from the Union Institute. For more than 25 years he has consulted with leaders in nonprofit management, government, foundations, business, education, human services and (more...)

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