Flag Day and Patriotism

June 14, 2009 at 10:00 pm 3 comments

Today is Flag Day here in the United States. So, what does that have to do with Paganism?  Well, I am part of a small movement called Religio Americana or American Paganism which  grew out of a discussion on the Beliefnet Hellenismos & Religio Romana forum sometime around 2002. Erik Dutton and some others were talking about how in ancient Rome there was a state religion, the Religio Romana, and how even though in the United States we have separation of church and state, we have a kind of Judeo-Christian flavored civic religion- a Religio Americana. That we might further develop a pagan form of this- religious celebration of civic holidays, pilgrimages to sacred sites like state capitols and honoring heroes like George Washington and Lady Liberty as our goddess. Some of the participants of this discussion went on to start the Religio-Americana yahoo group and the American SIG in ADF. Pax, a member of the list suggested doing synchroblogging on civic holidays- here’s his take on Flag Day.

While there are other civic holidays, like Independence Day and Thanksgiving that have more meaning to me, Flag Day is one that I tend to overlook. I admit that have some mixed feelings about my country’s flag, that I’m working on getting over.

I remember in Girl Scouts when we’d raise the flag and salute it. It made no sense to me. Why salute a piece of cloth? Why show it respect? After getting into the more traditional forms of polytheism I realized the treatment of the flag is a form of orthopraxy (right practice) The flag is treated as a sacred symbol of the nation. “The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing.” – Section 8.j. The Flag Code, a list of rules governing the proper display and disposal of the flag, is vaguely reminiscent of Kosher laws. Outside of the military and perhaps the Boy Scouts, post-Baby Boomer generations are pretty oblivious to this protocol. The website I linked to above has a “Wall of Shame” with photographs depicting violations of the Flag Code. Ironically, quite a few of these took place after September 11 when people were trying to be patriotic!

So what’s the problem? The liberal discomfort with the American flag probably goes back to Vietnam, with burning the flag and re-hoisting it upside down as acts of protest. There were various efforts to ban flag burning. While I oppose these bans as violating freedom of expression, I wouldn’t participate in flag-burning myself. Not only would this be unpatriotic, but also an ineffective form of protest, too divisive.

There’s been a tendency to see display of flags as implying conservative and pro-war views. The flag should transcend all these political divisions. It does not represent the government, but the country itself. Patriotism is not about blindly following ones’ government. In fact, dissent is quite patriotic, if intended to improve or help ones’ country.


Entry filed under: Holidays, Politics/Culture.

Deafness as Disability Sources of Values

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. seerkind  |  June 18, 2009 at 7:46 am

    I just happened by your blog through another blog and I’m glad I did. I’ve taken many political philosophy/ethics classes where we talked about this same exact thing and now I’m happy to be able to discuss it in a pagan context.

    First of all let me say that I completely agree with you on the whole pagan civic holiday thing. Me and my boyfriend are desperately trying to get pagans to rally together and come to a “common” understanding of simple practices and beliefs (such as we all care for the earth) in hopes to bring the pagan community to a united front instead of a scattered one where we rip each other apart over trivial details. I believe this makes us weak in the context of getting equal religious rights (such as having the right to have our holidays off, and maybe even on the calendars one day!). Anyways, I would love to discuss more of that with you.

    In regards to the whole flag burning idea…I have been deeply conflicted over this question too. I realize that to honor the flag isn’t to believe in your country, but the idea of your country. But I also believe that this country was built on lies. Freedom only meant certain people were free. Women, Blacks, Minors, and Non-Land Owners were not free, and you were only allowed freedom of religion if it was of a Christian sect. Our country was bulit on the land and of the Native Americans, and the blood of the Slaves and the poor immigrants (especially the Irish). So is the flag representing a false idea and selling an illusion? I think so becuase we are not free. However, I do believe that dissent is the highest form of patriotism and that America can re-define itself, but is it too late? I’m seriously considering moving to Canada because I just can’t justify bearing children in a country where they will never have a good gov’t., are lucky if they have health care, and probably will not have a retirement….

    I don’t actively burn a flag everyday, but I understand when it is an acceptable form of civil disobedience. It doesn’t hurt anybody, it allows them to avert their eye, but it also makes a point. Some feel that is the only way to get people to listen to them in a non-violent way. In the Vietnam situation I think it was absolutely acceptable because it was in response to the government lying to the people about exactly how many were actually dying and shielding the public from pictures that would make them realize something just ‘aint right.

  • 2. caelesti  |  June 18, 2009 at 8:21 am

    I agree there is too much petty infighting in Pagan communities, and we need to find common ground. Recently I was quite inspired to see many kinds of pagans unite over to lobby for getting the pentacle on Pagan veterans’ headstones. So it is possible!

    Re: the flag/country: It’s true not all had equal rights when the country was founded, and still don’t- but I like to think of ideals like Freedom and Equality as being ideals we are working towards. The United States like any other nation will always be a work in progress. I agree dissent can be patriotic- though the best kind of dissent is constructive criticism- saying what’s wrong while coming up with a better alternative.

    Please don’t give up on the U.S. of A! It’s far from perfect certainly and I often get frustrated but for idealistic folks like ourselves to leave just makes the situation worse.

  • 3. Independence Day Linkfest | The Lefthander's Path  |  July 8, 2014 at 1:32 am

    […] from Politics, Flag Day & Patriotism- old posts of my […]


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