Taking the Gadsden back

This post was semi-inspired by that awful Clerks 2 movie, wherein Jay was trying to take the phrase “porch monkey” back because he didn’t realize it was a racist epithet; he thought it was something everybody called everybody else.

For those that don’t know, this is the Gadsden flag:


Think about the last time you’ve seen this flag used.  Chances are it was used in some association with the tea party, if you remember it from recently.  I’ve talked about the tea party and my feelings for it before, but as a refresher: in theory I agree with what they’re about, but in practice the lose me.  That’s because in practice they appear – to me – to be nothing more than a branch of the republican party.  I don’t think they started out as that, but like most organizations – labor unions, the ACLU, the KISS Army – once they established some power they were corrupted.  Power corrupts, and right now the tea party is in the full bloom of its power.  Its message is being co-opted by extremist nutjobs on the far right, and while they don’t represent the whole they are the squeaky wheel getting the media grease.

For me, it’s also semantics: while I tend toward conservative views in some areas, I also like thinking of myself as a liberal and progressive, even if my ideals don’t always match with what the reality of those words has come to mean.  Much as the left has mostly succeeded in painting the tea party as racist rednecks, the right has succeeded in making “liberal” and “progressive” into words with shame attached to them.  Fuck that.  To me, both of those words mean having an open mind and accepting that change – evolution, if you desire – is a part of life, and that my views are subject to constant introspection and even modification.  I feel differently about certain issues now than I did 20 years ago, and I may feel different about them 20 years from now.  Very little in life is black and white, and keeping an open mind is crucial to progress.  Progress isn’t always a good thing, but it isn’t always a bad thing either.

That’s why I want to take the Gadsden back.  That flag doesn’t belong to one group; it belongs to America.  Again, think of the last time you saw that flag.  What kind of reaction did it provoke in you?  Depending on your views, it may have been support and pride, or it may have been disgust.  The same reactions may be invoked by flying the American flag or the Confederate flag.  I would guess that most of the people flying the stars and bars do so out of respect for their country.  Confederate flag, maybe not so much; it’s become charged with meaning beyond its cloth and is provocative due to the reactions it provokes.

I think the Gadsden flag isn’t there yet, but it’s getting close.  It’s being used as a symbol for a certain group of people and will soon come to be associated so strongly with them as to lose whatever meaning it may have had before.  For me it makes me think of my time in the Navy; it was the first Navy jack and to me that’s what is always my first thought when I see it.  That’s why I want to take it back.  Like any other symbol of America, it belongs not to one group but to everybody, and everybody equally.  That’s why I don’t want to see it become the totem of the tea party and nothing else.  Like all symbols of America, I think it deserves better than that.

If I said my intentions with this are 100% pure, I’d be lying, and I only lie in this blog to impress the ladies.  Sometimes.  Yes, a part of me knows that it would piss some people off to see liberals bearing this flag, and I don’t mind that.  To that extent, I’m no better than anybody else who uses it as an agent provocateur, and I cop to that.  But, to a much greater extent, it’s about what this flag means to me.  I served in the Navy for 20 years; never out of a sense of great patriotism but because for the most part I enjoyed it and it was a decent career.  I also enjoyed the chance to represent my country abroad, and that was why I enjoyed doing community service gigs at least one day in every port visit (later in my career, after I got the partying out of the way).  I wanted to put a good face on my country and give some people a positive memory of the USA.  This flag makes me think of those days.  Again, that’s why I’d like to take it back, before it becomes too late.

So, I’m sending out the call to my liberal-leaning brethren: fly the Gadsden.  Be proud of your country and do your part to make it into what you want it to be.  Show that while every flag has only one face, it has two sides and can represent many different viewpoints.  Don’t let it become private property.

As always, I welcome feedback.


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