Ideas and Images: Why I Don’t Fly the U.S. Flag

Saluting the Flag

Somehow I let it slip to a co-worker that I don’t have a U.S. flag, and I admitted that I do not pledge allegiance to the U.S. flag, nor do I salute it. All of this has brought about quite a kerfuffle amongst several people at work. So, here is my attempt to clear the air.

In the very first place, in my defense I am Presbyterian, not of the sort to allow two men to get married by a woman pastor, but rather the Old Line Presbyterian in the tradition of John Knox, the 16th century Scottish Reformer who studied under Calvin in Geneva.

Of the many reforms that came in the Scottish reformation was to follow not just the letter but also the spirit of the second commandment:

“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.”

Exodus 20.4-6

In the mind of the reformers, and particularly the Scottish reformers, spirit of the command extends to simply giving honor to things, be it a crucifix, a flag, or whatever.  Things are things, and no honor is due them.  The very closest is the sacrament of the supper, wherein the bread and wine does not become the body and blood as the papists believe, but it is set apart, and as far as I understand, made holy for the purpose of Holy Communion. Yet, it is common wine and simple bread, and when the worship service draws to a close, there is no sin committed by throwing the uneaten bread in the trash and pouring the undrunk wine down the sink.

This line of thought is consistent in rejecting saluting statues, pictures, or flags, whereas a salute is a gesture of honor or reverence, in the same way as a bow.

The U.S. Flag

Pledging Allegiance

Since it is customary to salute the flag while pledging allegiance, one might understand if I don’t pledge my allegiance to it on the grounds laid out above, but I’ll confess that though my religious convictions are preeminent, I had stopped pledging allegiance before I was reformed in my theological views.

About 10 years ago, I began reflecting on what was being said. In particular, “One nation, indivisible.” This I do not hold to; I believe it is within the right of any people to break their ties with the government that rules over them, to break away and form their own separate government that is in line with their own customs, beliefs and values.  To drop a bomb, I think it would be very wise and advantageous for us to separate from the Union, to form a better country, one that perhaps protected the lives of the unborn and didn’t sanction homosexuality through the sanction of state recognized marriage.

Now some may decry this as un-American, but that would be to say that nothing is as quite as American as abortion and homosexuality.  When one puts his mind to it, he is hard pressed to say exactly why the political boundaries that now exist should always exist. After all, if Oklahoma, Florida, California, and Vermont should now and always be bound up together, then why shouldn’t Massachusetts and Georgia still be part of the British Empire as they once were?

I also did some research on the origins of the pledge and it turns out it was written by a socialist named Francis Bellamy. His motivation was to place the central government as the highest institution and indoctrinate schoolchildren to esteem it over and above their community, church, state, city, and even their own family.  This was the first brick laid in a very Orwellian road to serfdom.  Since I learned of this, I’ve never again recited the pledge.

Most Free in the World; Then and Now

One might point to the fact that the U.S. is the most free country in the world despite its flaws, and that were it to be dissolved would put our liberties in jeopardy.  To this, I wouldn’t disagree, though I would greatly discount the dangers posed to our freedoms through disunion. This was the same arguments of the loyalists in the colonies prior to and during our first revolution.  The truth is, in 1776 the Englishmen of the British Empire enjoyed far greater freedoms and more liberties than any people anywhere else in the world, by a far greater margin than our freedoms exceed those of other countries today.    That is, we can look at the similarly free countries of Canada and Switzerland, Australia, and New Zealand. Their liberties are not curtailed very much more than our own and even less in some areas.  In 1776, the distance was much greater. France was under a near absolute monarch, and Spain was in the same boat. The only countries even in the running were the Dutch Republic, and the Swiss Cantons.   Patriotism is more than nationalism. A nationalist is content to claim that his government or country is better than all others, while the patriot is interested only in Liberty and prepared to sever the ties with his government in order to attain more liberty. This is what the patriots did, and this is why we call them patriots.

The Country and the Government

This ties into another question. A few folks, upon learning that I am not sentimental to the U.S. flag, jumped to the conclusion that I must not love my country or that I am un-American. Of course, this is ridiculous. I would be offended at the suggestion if it were not so far removed from the realm of reality. My family has been in Oklahoma alone for 5 generations. We were here as Sooners before the territory was opened up to settlement by the federal government. I have ancestors who settled in Virginia in the 1650’s, coming over well before the outbreak of the English civil war, and hardly any kin that came over after the revolution. Whatever a piece of cloth counts for, that should count for more. As far as military service, I’ve had a relative serve in every major military conflict going back to the French and Indian Wars. All I can say is, when your family has been here as long as mine and has given so much, a flag isn’t as big of a deal to you as to those whose great grandparents have just stepped off the boat a mere 100 years ago, who may not be quite as secure in their own national identity and need a safety blanket of sorts. 

So, let me assure everyone, I do love this country. As I’ve said, my family has been here long before this government was established, so it is the country that I love, and not the government. It is the land itself, the character of the people, the culture, and the way of life I love. Not the DEA, OSHA, BLM, USDA, or USPS that I love. I do not care for the president, or for congress. If we are treating this as a confession, I’ll admit I have zero respect not only for the individuals, but also for the institutions themselves. They have simultaneously neglected powers entrusted to them, and usurped other powers that were forbidden them. This didn’t just start since Obama or Bush. We’ve had a long run of this sort of thing going back several generations at this point.

Of course, blood isn’t what really matters. It doesn’t really matter how long a person has been here, not in my estimation. However, if owning a flag does make a difference, if waving a piece of cloth does matter, then blood matters more.  What matters is understanding and principles, not flags and pedigrees.  How many have an understanding of the background of the constitution? Who else has read John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon? Who has read John Locke or the letters by Robert Yates, Richard Lee, and Patrick Henry? Or, who has even read the summaries of the ratifying conventions? I am made indignant almost to the point of anger by accusations that I am un-American made by people who haven’t the foggiest idea of why Jefferson considered the 10th amendment the cornerstone of the constitution. They are entirely ignorant of the principles of ’98 and probably couldn’t name a single president prior to the ratification of the Constitution.

Armies and Trade 

Beyond this, those who call me un-American for not having an “American” flag hold views that are antithetical to American values themselves. For instance the insistence upon high taxes out of a “necessity” to provide for a large standing army. We spend more on our military than the next 7 or 8 countries combined.  At the same time Jefferson warned against standing Armies.  They hold the view that trade should be restricted to within the states of the union, while the men of the Revolution understood that trade caused men to live more prosperously and improved the standard of living. This is why the patriots threw such a fit over the navigation acts and why the prohibition against duties on goods and services from neighboring states was prohibited by the constitution. The founders realized they couldn’t keep foreign countries from throwing up protective tariffs, but they made sure the states in the union wouldn’t do that to one another. This is without a doubt the greatest benefit of union, that trade flows freely without restriction of tax between states. It would be better if it traveled in the same way also between whole countries, and that view is the very foundation of the interstate commerce clause (which was intended only to keep states from impeding trade).

Condemnations

As I said, I love my country; it’s the only home I’ve ever known. But, as I read back over our founding documents and our history, I quickly come to have a disdain for the government that rules over this land.

In the first place, the constitution itself, besides allowing slavery, also compels citizens of the Free States to return self-emancipating slaves as if they were wondering cattle. The slave trade persisted legally until 1810, and only nominally illegally until the end of slavery.

The Government initiated an unjust war against Mexico, then another unjust war against the separated Southern States who had exercised their God-given right to secede and establish their own government.  Far from being a just war aiming at the liberation of a slave class, the war was one of naked aggression aimed at retaining the Southern States as a source of tax revenue for the central government. Lincoln himself supported the Corwin Amendment, which would have protected slavery forever, and he said there would only be bloodshed if the Southern states didn’t pay their taxes. Besides, this secession would have been a deathblow to slavery, given that the fugitive slave laws would have been made null and void. Meaning, instead of a slave having to make it all the way to Canada, they would have only had to make it across the Ohio River.

I can’t even close out this chapter yet, because the war was fought by the north in a manner unseen in the history of Christendom up until that time. There was wanton destruction of life and property, degradation of civilians, the burning of crops, and the starving out of civilians. It was the first time since the Harrying of the North by William the Bastard that cities without military defenders were razed. I hate the thought of it, and I hate the men who did it, for the injustice that they did to unarmed civilians. Not to mention the inhuman conditions that they perpetuated by refusing to swap prisoners of war.

The plains Indians didn’t get much better treatment, who knows how many Indians faced a similar fate as those trapped inside Vicksburg. And the wholesale slaughter perpetrated by the U.S. army.

Who knows that the Japanese had already surrendered before we dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki? The only issue was that the terms were not approved by the U.S., who insisted Japan give up having an Emperor. So for the cost of over 100,000 civilian lives, the U.S. government made sure Japan didn’t have an Emperor.

As late as the 1990’s, the sanctions imposed on Iraq directly led to the death of some 500,000 children in Iraq, to which Madeline Albright, when asked about it, explained she thought it was worth it.

We are not the government. I know not a single person capable of the barbarity that the U.S. has systematically and habitually carried out over the last 150 years.

Oligarchy Not Republic

This is obvious, but it is beyond all doubt when we consider what the constitution provided, that we have one representative in the House for every 30,000 people, which in those days amounted to 1 representative for every 10,000 voters.  That’s a republic.   Today the average representative has a constituency of 787,000 people, which is altogether unrealistic.  With numbers like that, it is undeniable the republic is lost and we now live under the rule of an oligarchy.

Liberty Lost 

The time is quickly approaching that the burdens of the U.S. government outweigh whatever benefits we might get from it. Consider how invasive the government is, involving itself into every aspect of our lives, from regulating the fuel economy of the cars we drive, to the gallons per minute that come out of our shower head, there is barely an aspect of life that isn’t controlled by the federal government. Set a pot of water on a fire and watch it, keep saying that the water isn’t boiling, and at some point you’ll be lying.  

So. it is with the course we are on and the statement that we are free under the rule of the U.S. government.  

We all know that a free man doesn’t hand over 100% of his earnings at the demand of another. But what about 50%? What about 25%? What about 15%? Until 1913 there was no income tax whatsoever.

Free men are not under subject to being conscripted to fight as the serfs under the Tsars of Russia, but this started under Lincoln, in his attempt to deny the right of self-determination to the people of the Southern states; and the tradition continues, in principle, down to the resent with the selective service.

In the final analysis, I am the patriot, willing to make a break with the status quo for the sake of liberty, while those who are hung up on a flag are loyalists. Like slaves, they will serve blindly to whomever their master is at the time, with not the flame in their heart to be free.  Had they lived in 1776 they would have condemned Patrick Henry as a discontented whiner. They would have told him if he didn’t like it he could leave, and they would have disdained Jefferson for being disloyal to the government that had done so much for him. “The British Empire was the greatest in the world and fresh from a victory against the French in the 7 years’ war. It was the empire on which the sun never set. How could anyone reasonably advocate giving that up!? As part of the empire we are safe, free and prosperous, let’s pay our taxes and get on with it.”

I dare you to come back at me with an argument of substance, something besides name-calling.  Leave your comment below.

My Relationship to the Flag

I have so far explained mostly what I do not do. I do not pledge to the flag, nor do I salute it, or even fly it.  However, I also don’t stomp on it, nor do I burn it, or in any other way disrespect it.

It is enough for me not to participate in the cult of the flag. If others do, that is their business. My own convictions led me to not do certain things, but if other peoples’ moral compose leads them in another direction that is their business.  It is enough that I not have any graven images, there’s no need for me to go around smashing the gods of other people. As I’ve written elsewhere, I know that plenty of people in the military did enlist for noble reasons. I don’t mean any harm or disrespect to them. I was in the military at one time, and my family has a tradition of involvement in the wars of the U.S. going back to the Revolution with the lone exception of the Mexican war, down through the present.

I don’t make a show of not participating in the pledge, I show up just barely late to events where they recite it. I show up just a few minutes late so as not to cause unnecessary strife.

Also, I am not a total iconoclast. Statues of men and crosses are acceptable as art. But not as objects of reverence. In the same way, it is fine to fly a flag, as long as there is no moral hang up with the state with which it is associated.

I prefer flags of the past.

The Gadsden

gadsden flag

Or the first Navy Jack

The First Navy Jack is flown at the Center for Information Dominance Detachment, Monterey.
The First Navy Jack is flown at the Center for Information Dominance Detachment, Monterey.

There is a big difference between a flag that represented the U.S. over 200 years ago and the flag that represents the central government today.

I also like the Bonnie Blue, which was a flag of secession dating back to 1810 when the English speakers of West Florida seceded from the Spanish Empire.  It got more action again in 1836 when Texas used it as a symbol of secession from Mexico.  And when the growing division led the Southern States to secede in 1860 and early 1861 they raised up the Bonnie Blue. Perhaps one day in the future we’ll see it flying again.

bonnie blue

2 thoughts on “Ideas and Images: Why I Don’t Fly the U.S. Flag”

  1. I agree with pretty much everything you said. It is quite an eyeful, though. It’s kind of a primer for all subsequent blog posts you might do later, so if you’re going to keep posting, you might consider sticking some version of this into an ‘about’ page.

  2. Well put. I already had decided years ago to not display or even own the USA flag due to a number of reason that you had included. After reading this article I have even more reasons.
    Tomorrow is Independence Day and my wife’s family always thinks it odd I call myself a patriot but don’t subscribe to all the Red, White, and Blue adornment of the holiday. I’ve considered getting a Betsy Ross flag (13 stars in a circle).
    Before my current beliefs I displayed an Arizona flag over the USA flag to symbolize state sovereignty.

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