A case of flag-waving hypocrisy

For the Monitor
Friday, October 06, 2017

The most important words in the Pledge of Allegiance are “indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” The American flag is a symbol of how we, as one people, are united in a common cause that benefits and protects all of us equally. But symbols are subject to manipulation, and thus are dangerous in the hands of dividers, deceivers and demagogues.

In the 1800s our government waved our flag as it practiced genocide on the Native Americans. In the ’50s Joe McCarthy waved our flag and wrecked the lives of hundreds of innocent people with his obscene witch hunt for communists. In the ’60s and ’70s Johnson and Nixon waved our flag and gave us over 50,000 coffins returning from Vietnam. In 2003, Bush waved the flag and invaded Iraq, a costly war based on deception. Now Trump is waving the flag as he attacks athletes for carrying out a peaceful protest against the inequality of our system of justice.

There are thousands of quotes about patriotism but two stand out in my mind. In 1775 Samuel Johnson said, “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.” More recently Gore Vidal wrote, “When tyranny comes to the United States she will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a bible.” How stunningly appropriate those quotes are today.

Trump seems to think that wrapping himself in the American flag makes him a great patriot. It no more makes him a great patriot than going to church on Sunday makes a woman abuser a good Christian. It is deeds that count, not tweets. A patriot would use our flag to unite our country, not as a weapon against those who have different views or different skin colors. Trump may be Commander in Chief but he is also Divider in Chief, Deceiver in Chief and Demagogue in Chief.

Trump uses the Oval Office to bully and rally his supporters. But the athletes he attacks know that they, like Colin Kaepernick, risk their jobs and their security by kneeling to protest the hollowness of the words ‘and justice for all.’ They, and Kaepernick are the true patriots in America. Those who bravely stand up for our democracy and justice are what has always made America great long before Trump arrived. Trump is just a tiny man who gets smaller and shallower with every tweet, day after day.

Steve Metzger lives in Concord.