On the John
Originally published in the Indiana Daily Student on November 13, 2001
On September 29th, I was in Evanston, IL for Northwestern’s first home game of the 2001 football season. Like in every other arena in America, we sang “God Bless America,” held a moment of silence, and fans were given small American flag stickers. I immediately put one on the brim of my visor, and one on the back of my car. I’m not sure what my purpose was, aside from that I felt unified with the rest of the country.
In the month since then, I’ve heard a lot of mixed feelings about flags. Some feel that the sentiment is insincere, and will die down and return to normal within the coming weeks and months. Others have no desire to fly a flag, a flag that for many people represents the hypocrisy, lies, and injustices of the government. My flags are still up, but unlike September 29th, I now have good reasons.
I fly the flag because of what it represents, both ideally and actually. When I look at the flag, I see the hope and promise of a good life, as seen by immigrants who came to this land. I also see the hate and discrimination that so many of our citizens have lived with for generation after generation.
I fly the flag because it reminds me that we have a government that is by the (rich) people, of the (rich) people, and for all the (rich) people in this nation. It reminds me that I don’t even refer to it as “our government” but rather as “the government.”
I fly the flag because it reminds me that the government seems more concerned with problems outside of our boundaries than inside. It reminds me that if they want to help the starving, the impoverished, the undereducated, the unemployed, the oppressed, and the enslaved, that they needn’t look farther than any city in this country.
I fly the flag for all that is good in this country too.
I fly the flag for the people, all of the people, because we’re all in this together. Not just recovering and healing from September 11th, but all of the struggles that our nation has had, and all that we will have. I fly the flag because when I look at it now, I can’t help but think of all the people who died, and I can’t help but think about all of the soldiers who will risk their lives in war. I can’t help but think that, for many people, that is what life has become.
I also can’t help but think about why flags don’t go up for Matthew Shepard, Rodney King, Ricky Byrdsong, or for any injustices that happen every day.
Granted, I do not need a visual cue to remind me about all who died in the attacks, or all who suffer otherwise. But every time I walk to my car and see that flag, a flood of images and thoughts enter my head. And I hope that when people driving behind me see it, that thoughts fill their heads. Living in America is a privilege that I have enjoyed all my life, but one that I must now fight for. I fly the flag because it reminds me not just how far we have come, but more importantly, how far we have to go.
Copyright 2001, jm silverstein