26 Mar Ever Yet Wave
As the saying goes, “you never know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone”. This is especially true of freedoms. It isn’t until a right is threatened or taken away altogether that you truly appreciate its significance. For instance, the American flag. Most of us don’t give it a second glance when we drive past government buildings, schools, or car dealerships and see it flying out front. In fact, most of the time, unless you are intentionally looking for it, the American flag fades into the background of our everyday lives.
But what if that freedom, the freedom to fly an American flag, was suddenly taken away?
As you may have heard, earlier this month the Student Council from University of California at Irvine banned the display of all flags, including the American flag, in the Associated Students lobby. (I want to stress that this ban was not school-wide and only applied to the common area of the student-government suite). However, due to the national outrage that ensued after knowledge of the ban spread, the flag ban was quickly vetoed by the Student Council’s Executive Committee, and the American flag was returned to its post.
What intrigued me most about this debacle was the reasoning behind the ban. Namely, that members of the student council wanted to make the space as “inclusive” as possible and felt that the flag might come across as threatening to some because it is a symbol of “exceptionalism and superiority” (Prager).
When I think of the American flag a few iconic images come to mind: George Washington crossing the Delaware, Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima, and Raising the Flag at Ground Zero. In each of these instances the flag represented our country’s unbreakable spirit despite the losses we had endured. It was a symbol of determination, hope, and trust that democracy would prevail. We revere these images because they stimulate a sense of patriotism and unity in all of us.
What would these moments have been without the flag?
The flag inspires pride amidst distress. So what if we think America is better than other nations? What is so wrong with having pride in our country? True, not all university students are U.S. citizens, but if they aren’t, there is a reason they came here to gain an education. And we needn’t diminish our sense of national pride to accommodate to the minority. Especially when our nation is historically one of the most “inclusive” and tolerant in the world.
However it seems that this point is lost on Millennials, who are altogether more reluctant than past generations to be defined by larger institutions (Sappenfield). In fact, “Millennials have been found to be less “patriotic” than any other generation of Americans– at least by the traditional gauges of patriotism. Various surveys have found that:
“According to the Pew Research Center, just 32% of Millennials say US is “the greatest country in the world,” compared with 48% of Gen Xers, 50% of Baby Boomers, and 64% of the Silent Generation.
“Pew also found that 70% of Millennials agree with the statement “I am very patriotic,” compared with 86% of Gen Xers, 91% of Boomers, and 90% of Silents.
“American National Election Study found that 45% of Millennials say the American identity is extremely important, compared with 60% for Generation Xers, 70% for Baby Boomers, and 78% for Silents.” (Sappenfield)
Notice a trend? With each generation, our citizens identify less and less with our nation.
Why is this? A couple of reasons…
One, because we don’t realize just how good we have it.
And two, because you can’t be truly proud of something unless you had some part in making it what it is, and with each generation less and less of us have had to sacrifice to maintain the freedoms we enjoy. Therefore, the flag and other such symbols of patriotism have lost value in the eyes of the up-and-coming.
Let’s not allow the flag to become obsolete. Let us strive to teach the next generation the value of freedom and the price that has been paid by our forefathers to ensure our right to fly that Star Spangled Banner.