Dissent of the Day

(My apologies, first off, for not covering the truly most important story of the weekend—the Iran elections. I can’t top the coverage of real bloggers, though, so I might as well talk about things where I can make a legitimate contribution to the discourse.)

That said: at Bilerico, Monica Roberts writes:

Since today is Flag Day, starting like yesterday, the TBLG community should make sure Old Glory is front and center at every protest, every march, and the backdrop at every press conference that’s held from now until the next electoral showdown in 2010 and beyond.

One factor as to why the GLBT community continues to lose is that it hasn’t forcefully made the unassailable case that we are AMERICANS who deserve and are demanding our constitutional rights.

And how do we do that? The easiest way to prove that we are is by flying the flag.

[…]

Face the facts that no American civil rights movement agitating for the constitutional rights of a minority group has been successful or done so without consistently flying and prominently displaying the American flag at its myriad events.

[…]

Failing to fly it makes the rights case a non starter with persuadable people who do believe in mom, apple pie, fairness, the American Dream and tear up when they hear the Star Spangled Banner.

And if you won’t do it for yourselves, do it for the TBLG veterans who served and the GLBT service members who died defending it on foreign soil so you can use it.

I’m going to have to respectfully disagree on this one. I am as patriotic as the next person, and I wouldn’t be devoting so much of my time and energy to writing and thinking about LGBT rights if I didn’t believe in fighting for American constitutional principles such as equality under the law. However, my experience with the Stars and Stripes is, I sense, a very different one from Roberts’: as someone from a younger generation whose first real political memory was the outpouring of empty gestures of patriotism in the wake of September 11, I am cynical about the use of the flag to make a “we are all Americans” point to folks who might not otherwise be on board with LGBT rights. My experience with the flag in middle and high school in a predominantly conservative neighborhood is that it was used to shame me and mock me, to call me un-American because I did not reflexively display it or engage in other apparently patriotic gestures. To me, the American flag represents little—and I don’t believe that makes me any less American or any less a patriot; I don’t believe that it means I have any less support for the men and women in the armed forces or that I believe any less in the ideals of freedom and equality. It just means that, to me, the flag does not represent those ideals.

I’m not any more enthusiastic about the rainbow flag; I’m really just not a flag-waving kind of gal. But I suspect I’m not the only person out there for whom the American flag represents something more exclusionary than inclusionary, and for whom singing all the verses of “This Land Is Your Land” is a more meaningful patriotic gesture than displaying the American flag. Of course, one of those great American ideals I’m going on about is the freedom of expression, and I wouldn’t dream for an instant to suggest that Ms. Roberts, if she is so inclined, should not bring an American flag to any rallies, demonstrations, or celebrations she attends. But I also bristle at the suggestion that all of us should be doing the same, because for me (and granted, this is a very personal reaction) the last thing that I want to do is to brandish a piece of cloth because it means something to someone else that it does not mean to me.

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