Flying the Flag

Wednesday, 26 March 2003

When the planes hit the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, I didn't rush out to buy a flag. I didn't have to, because I've had one for years. I put my flag on my flagpole outside my house on the afternoon of the 11th, and it flew there for several weeks to honor those who were lost on that terrible morning.

Every year on Flag Day, I put out my flag, and I leave it out until at least the 4th of July, sometimes longer. I also fly it on Memorial Day and on other occasions.

As I drive down the road to my house, I see that many of my neighbors are flying their flags, but I can't bring myself to do it. For me, flying the flag symbolizes a sense of pride in one's country, and I just don't feel it right now. Instead, I feel sad, angry, and even embarrassed by what we've become as a nation.

In violation of international law, we've invaded a country that was no immediate threat to us or to its neighbors. Why have we invaded this country? The administration's claims that they might be a threat in the near future don't hold water. Is it oil? Revenge? U.S. imperialism? Regardless of the reasons, and they may be many, what is clear is that in eighteen short months we have gone from being the object of the world's compassion to the object of the world's scorn. We have snubbed our nose at the United Nations, insulted our friends, and threatened or bribed many of our erstwhile "coalition partners."

We expect others to play by the rules, but we exempt ourselves. We call on Iraq to observe the Geneva Convention and not show our captured soldiers on TV, but we have no qualms about showing large numbers of captured or even killed Iraqi soldiers (in a more impersonal way)--and the number of articles of the Geneva Convention that we are violating in the detention camp in Guantanamo Bay is ridiculous. We say that perpetrators of war crimes will be prosecuted, but we've refused to recognize the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, where our own actions in regard to the war might be scrutinized. We say we want to establish democracy in countries like Iraq, but we continue to ally ourselves closely with dictators (sometimes called kings) who refuse to institute democratic reforms in their own countries. We call for other nations to observe their citizens' civil rights, but we violate our own constitution by snooping into U.S. citizens' e-mails, book purchases, and even library activities.

The U.S. has never been perfect. No country is. But until I can feel proud of my country's actions around the world, my flag will stay on the shelf.

© Copyright 2003, Progressive Theology

Progressive Theology