To be a real patriot

Gavin Gaddis, Opinion Editor

It’s easy to ignore the meaning of our flag, but that doesn’t mean the flag stops representing America.

In this time of politically-charged arguments on Facebook and Twitter about who’s a better American, it’s time to have a talk about a long-running problem here in Evansville and nationwide.

I began writing an opinion on how to respect the United States flag on 9/11. It was primarily inspired by seeing that giant, beautiful flag unfurled over University Parkway a day after seeing a beaten-up truck flying Old Glory and a “don’t tread on me” flag on St. Joe Avenue.

I had a strong opinion on those who claim to be patriots while cradling their genitals in a flag-patterned swimsuit or wiping their greasy faces with flag-themed napkins at a 4th of July cookout (occasionally shouting the insufferable word ‘murica, too).

I shelved that article because I couldn’t find the right words, the right way to say what needed to be said. Then several black men took a knee during the national anthem, sending armchair political pundits into a social media frenzy. Now I know exactly what to say:

A scary amount of my fellow Americans have forgotten what patriotism is.

As a former cub scout, allow me to drop some information:

Our flag, as with all national flags, is intended to be a symbol packed with everything we honor about this country. That’s why one faces the flag when creepily droning out the pledge of allegiance. That’s why one faces the flag when the national anthem is played (and people creepily sing it in the same droning tone).

We loved the flag so much we wrote a detailed yet simple to follow guide for how to properly display it. The United States Flag Code isn’t the sexiest of documents, but scouts across the nation recall having to learn the basics of displaying and hoisting the flag at some point in their scouting careers.

Before hopping on Facebook and discussing one’s respect or patriotism, I recommend reading section 176 of the Flag Code titled “Respect for the Flag.” It makes for some fascinating reading for the inexperienced,

Among its many restrictions, one can find they don’t haven’t a patriotic leg to stand on if they wear flag flip-flops. How can one call themselves a patriot while farting through the 13 stripes of their USA swim trunks?

Flying a flag off their truck because the inevitable tattering of the fabric looks cool to you is a dick move (even doubly so if flying another flag at the same height as ours).

Any disposable item with the flag on it is also right out.

Of course, we live in a modern society that the original authors of the code couldn’t have possibly predicted, where branding is king and everyone wants to rep their favorite things in as many (cheap and effortless) ways as possible. It’s not a crime to want to put a flag bumper sticker on your car, but it is also important to realize when one has gone buck wild and robbed an icon of all of its meaning.

We had a flag 154 years before we had an anthem, and we definitely treated black people as lessers before professional football was a thing.

Before getting riled up about how others express themselves, I advise taking a moment to recognize how 2017’s overblown, ironic and ultimately false interpretation of patriotism can also piss someone off.

Namely me.

The country doesn’t need to be made great again, it never stopped being great, but it seems the average post-9/11 American has conflated the word patriotism with how loudly and obviously they can declare their citizenship.

Regardless of how one feels about those in Congress or the President, a true patriot respects and celebrates what has made America great from the start, and what will continue to make it great.