I did a double take when I saw the Democratic Party’s campaign flags. There are two of them. Sometimes you’ll see them outlined in the shape of a map of the United States of America. One is red and white striped, with candidate President Obama’s photo on a blue background in the upper left corner. The other bears the President’s campaign insignia where the 50 stars would be on our nation’s flag, and five broad, horizontal orange stripes represent the original 13 colonies.* Blasphemy, was my first thought. Is it legal?
As a Girl Scout, I learned how to display the flag for various occasions and how to fold it into a compact triangle for storage. I was warned against allowing the symbol of my country to touch the ground. I was also cautioned not to wear it as an item of clothing and how to burn it with dignity when it became worn. I was taught nothing about distorting its features.
We first- through fourth-graders stood beside our desks with our hands over our hearts and pledged our allegiance to that flag every morning, extending our arms in salute when we came to the word flag. But that stopped midway of the fifth grade. It was 1942 and the salute looked too much like the obeisance the Nazis showed Hitler. We kept our hands over our hearts after that.
I was a new mother in 1954 when “under God” was added to the Pledge of Allegiance. By the time my firstborn left home, the ACLU had tried and failed several times to remove that “offensive” phrase.
Actually, the Democratic Party’s stylized campaign flags are only the most recent to be used by presidential candidates down through the years.
Abraham Lincoln did a real job on the Old Glory of his day when he was campaigning for president of the then 33 states. “FOR PRESIDENT.” appears on the second white stripe of the flag, and on the one beneath that, “ABRAM LINCOLN.” A bid for Andrew Johnson as Vice President fills the next two white stripes.
Ronald Reagan came close to doing the same thing in 1984.* I wonder what my Girl Scout leader would have thought about that. It makes me uneasy. Sad.
That’s the flag of my country. We’ve been through a lot together. I’ve seen row upon row of them keeping vigil at Arlington Cemetery — thousands of flags with no presidential face or campaign emblem in the corner usurping the rights of their 50 stars. The flag that hung in my classroom helped me teach 30 years’ worth of high school students the meaning of symbolism. Its proud ripples have long added dignity to otherwise ordinary gatherings, and too many of America’s flags have been sacrificed to terrorists’ fires. I wouldn’t change one thing about mine, and a recent email suggests I’m not alone:
“Old People are easy to spot at sporting events during the playing of the National Anthem, or when Old Glory passes by. Old People remove their caps, cover their hearts, stand at attention and sing or pledge their allegiance without embarrassment. They know the words and believe in them.”
MARJORIE ANDERSON is an Edmond resident.