Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Flag Waving

With Flag

Another Quaker queried, on one of the Facebook threads, about what the Quaker read was on the pledge of allegiance. For background, Quakers have issues with taking any kind of oath to begin with, as there begins a double standard (under oath and not) and "forked tongue" as a native language.

My answer was esoteric. As a child I learned the pledge as a classroom ritual and have said it many times. A pledge is a pledge unless somewhere retracted right? So insofar as I'm obliged to accept the burden of childhood promises, I'm pledged to the Republic for which it stands, Banana or otherwise.

Nowhere in the fine print does it say we can't do due diligence and unearth the distant past of said flag. Yes the USA took it over, modified by stars in varying patterns, signifying states of the Union (more on that shortly).  Took it over from whom?  That's not a verboten topic for exploration.

As a matter of logic, the flag's standing for a certain Republic does not preclude it having many other meanings, including those resonating with a certain past. A Republic has a prehistory. The pledge might keep going back, in that case, to even before the Republic and its symbol.

Some states tried to secede and flew a new flag, abandoning the more Yankee-flavored East India Tea motif.  Their attempt at secession occasioned a great Civil War, during which time, a pledge of allegiance to that specific symbol could be considered traitorous to a warring side.

Forcing a Yankee ethic on the loser states, newly suffering other losses of specific icons, is what the Trump Tower edicts appear like to some in the NFL.  He's making the Confederate States pay homage, now that he has defended their right to be defiant, in an almost ACLU type position.

I saluted the flag in Portland, where dad was in some pitched battle over how to route the future freeway. He was not a fan of its hugging the shoreline, obliterating the riverfront.

He was a city planner back then, with a hankering to work overseas, the focus of his PhD thesis.  He'd been trained at Johns Hopkins for international work, so why not?  Let the locals have their freeway battles.  He'd be in a small plane over the Sahara (not flying it, part of the overview crew), not looking back.  Lots of oases.

He was a consultant, not telling anyone how it had to be (not bossy), just applying what he'd learned, at University of Chicago and elsewhere, as the state of the art insofar as the US practiced it (city and regional planning).

This explains my transplant to Rome, Italy at a young age, to resume my academics at the Junior English School of Rome, and later the Overseas School of Rome (OSR).  I came to more appreciate my identity as a USA citizen according to some macro-melodrama one could scarcely understand.  We'd have to learn about Rome first, and Greece before that.  "It's a long story" the adults said, rolling their eyes sometimes.

Fast forward and I'm almost sixty and still couldn't tell you exactly what's up with all this flag business.  Symbols play a deep role in human consciousness, is what the anthropologists are telling us, historians too.

I'm hypothesizing that recent Civil War tremors (aftershocks) have newly awakened us to the fragility of the Union.

The spectacle of Puerto Rico needing rescue, as part of a big triple whammy (Harvey, Irma, Maria), just adds to our sense of disorientation, if not outright disunion.

There's a need to bond over something.  As far as secular symbols go, Old Glory still carries weight. I'm not gonna walk on stage and tell people how their symbols don't matter.  Of course they matter.

However I've always been taught graceful ways to stand aside on oath taking, using "affirm" or other language.  As a Quaker, I enjoy the practical consequences of walking an ethnic talk.

To me, that's the glue of the Americas: an understanding of our melting pot role, an acceptance of varying ethnic practices, yet getting the job done anyway.

People were already here; people came here from everywhere.  The flag belongs to Chief Crazy Horse as much as to General Custer.

With a history like that, one shouldn't be apologetic if "allegiance" means something nuanced.  Ben Franklin would understand.

Betsy Ross got in trouble with some Quakers, many of them still loyal to their King, in Revolutionary War times.  Free Quakers broke off from the mainstream, in taking a pledge of allegiance.

Later, Quakers as a sect forbade the practice of slavery among its members, well before the USG deemed slave-holding illegal. We're in a similar position today with our support for the UN treaty banning nuclear weaponry.  We also remember the Kellog-Briand Pact.