What The American Flag Means To Me


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An American flag.

Hazel Mewett, Senior Staff Writer

Especially with the recent board meeting surrounding Policy IS – Display of Flags, discussion about the American flag has been coming up more and more recently. The common thought process of a lot of people is that the flag represents unity, freedom, support for our troops, and it stands for everything that the United States does right. However, part of the significance of the American flag, and the entire United States by extension, is that what it means shifts with perspective. Everyone will look at the flag a different way, and some views– mine included– are rightfully less than savory.

For a quick background, I am a Japanese American atheist lesbian trans woman. I am none of the things that people tend to think of when they think of an “average American”; I’m not white, not Christian, and not cishet. My identity forms a major reason why I tend to not look at the American flag in the best light. I don’t feel like the flag represents me, and when I see many people arguing that the flag represents everyone before turning to fight against the flags that equally represent me as commenters did in the Policy IS public comments, it becomes very easy to think that this flag is not for me. The American flag is celebrated as a symbol that everyone can unite behind, as a true factor that every American will get behind, and yet to myself and many like me, it can feel more like a symbol of everything that stands against our existence.

Furthermore, this flag represents a different thing to me as a Japanese American specifically. My ancestors were called alien spies for how they looked during WWII, and this flag flew high as they were betrayed by the government they had looked to as a new hope. It is a flag that, while representing American pride and the good ideals that America hopefully holds at its core, equally represents dangerous nationalism and often straight, white Christian “true Americans” who would want nothing more than to see me gone. It is a flag that stands equally as a sign of unity to many, but also as a sign of America’s hatred and cruelty to many others. Not just to me, but to Indigenous groups and descendants of enslaved people, who enter this school building and are expected to pledge allegiance to the country that brutally murdered and attacked their ancestors without thinking twice.

The beauty and silver lining is that the American flag can still represent the good of the United States, and it stands for more than the hatred and oppression that many promote. It stands for the United States’ determination to try to become a more perfect union, and stands for the selfless sacrifices of America’s troops who fight for freedom each day. But despite all of this, it’s hard to look at this flag as a positive icon, and I know I am not alone in this. It is truly difficult to see the American flag as one that stands for me.