I'm Proud to Be an American. Are You?

I don’t know about you, but I’m actually proud to be an American. Can someone please tell me when it became taboo to display the American Flag as symbol of that pride?

As I was sitting in Washington, D.C.-area-inside-the-beltway traffic on Friday afternoon, I saw some middle school children walking home carrying Mexican and El Salvadorian flags, apparently participants in the nationwide trend of Latin student "walkouts" protesting pending immigration reform legislation. It brought back the images of the 500,000 Latin protestors of the previous weekend who defiantly waved thousands of Mexican flags in the street of Los Angeles claiming their right to exist ILLEGALLY in the United States. I thought to myself, "Are these people serious? If Mexico is so wonderful, then why are they risking their lives everyday in droves to come to the United States?" Last time I checked, they were allowed to protest thanks to the freedoms guaranteed on AMERICAN soil. They find work here and send back over $200 million a year to their families.

They have access to FREE medical care and schools thanks to law-abiding AMERICAN taxpayers who provide said services.

As I drove through the streets of my suburban D.C. neighborhood, I noticed a few American flags hanging from flagpoles scattered very few and far between. I looked around at the cars and SUVs for that unifying symbol that could be found on virtually every vehicle four short years ago, but couldn’t find one. What happened?

After 9/11, American flags were on display everywhere as a symbol of collective American pride, protector of our freedoms, emblematic of our resilience. The New York Times printed full-page flags with the phrase "Display Prominently-Defend Freedom." Even USA Today published instructions on proper flag etiquette, never allowing the American flag to touch the ground etc. When those three brave firefights hoisted the American flag amidst the burning rubble of the World Trade Center, the entire world was touched by this beautiful, yet powerful act of patriotism. For many of us who call the NYC Metro area home, it was the ultimate act of defiance in the face of the terrorists who tried to destroy our American spirit.

But what has happened since then?

When did Old Glory become such a symbol of hatred and intolerance on our soil? Did I miss something? Over the years, we’ve seen the desecration of the American flag in protest over wars or certain social injustices. But never has there been a time when the average American citizen couldn’t fly the flag just because. Over the weekend, I saw a news story about a high school in Colorado that has banned the display of the American flag because of fears of violence over the immigration debate. So, it’s okay for thousands of ILLEGAL aliens to take to the streets and symbolically spit in the face of American laws, but it’s not ok for American high school students to wave the American flag? What is wrong with this picture?

Some may downplay the significance of flag waving, but since medieval times, flags have always been powerful symbols. Wars have started and ended with the display of a flag. During the civil rights movement, it was the American flag black protestors carried. It was the raising of the Stars and Stripes by a band of Marines atop Mount Suihachi at Iwo Jima in 1945 at the end of a battle that took 6,000 American lives that is forever immortalized in statue.

A country’s identity is born by the flag it flies. Ralph Waldo Emerson recognized this concept in his 1837 Concord Hymn:

By the rude bridge that arched the flood/
Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled/
Here once the embattled farmers stood/
And fired the shot heard round the world.

Yes, the United States of America is a land built on the backs of immigrants. It’s almost automatic and emblematic for almost every immigrant group to cross the flag of their country of origin with that of the U.S. It is an entwinement-each identity reinforces the other. But that doesn’t mean we should apologize for being proud of our country.

We should not allow the current debate on immigration dissuade us from perpetuating the American symbolism of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Celebrating our differences is what makes America great. Affirming our solidarity is what makes us Americans. After all, isn’t that what this is all about?

Cross-posted at The Anamoly