Only One Flag Matters

Only One Flag Matters

I do cherish Old Glory, the Stars and Stripes, the American Flag. My prior posts regarding Flag Day make that clear. See Oh, Say, Americans, Can’t You See? (June 14, 2022), and True Patriotism (June 13, 2023).

Flags are symbols. To me, the Star-Spangled Banner symbolizes American pride, greatness, history, unity, and leadership. More than anything, our flag reminds me of my grandfather, father, uncles, and millions of others who fought (in many cases to the death) to defend the freedoms our striped standard represents. The American flag and the principles it symbolizes matter to me intensely.

But today, I want to explore how some other flags symbolize something not so great about America. Something harmful. Something ugly. Something that undermines our freedom and democracy.

That something is the political partisanship that divides our nation.

The North Star-Spangled Banner

The first flag on my mind today is the one pictured on the right above. For those of you living outside the Land of 10,000 Lakes, or perhaps under a rock along the shore of one of those lakes, this is the new Minnesota state flag. Although flags – including this one – are designed to show unity, the partisan controversy surrounding Minnesota’s flag reflects the opposite.

Minnesota, which is run by Democrats in our governor’s mansion and our state legislature’s two houses, decided to replace the old flag. Why? Because the flag included a white settler tilling land as an indigenous man road on horseback.

Suddenly, to many Republicans, the old flag embodied everything they loved about Minnesota. Stores that had not sold a dozen copies of the flag in a decade could not keep up with the new-found demand. Every proposed new flag was criticized mercilessly. For a while, the possibility of a loon on the new flag became a fighting issue.

In short, the bruhaha evokes a bigger dispute aptly summarized by Bill Maher recently in the Wall Street Journal: “On the one side, the Church of Woke wants to cleanse us of our past, and on the other, the Cult of Trump wants to resurrect it.” I don’t recall Mr. Trump himself weighing in on Minnesota’s flag change, but the point stands.

Personally, I was not concerned enough about the design of the old flag to demand eliminating or preserving it. I never once thought “that’s a great flag to be kept forever.” Nor did I ever think “that’s a bad flag in need of replacement.” I didn’t find the old flag beautiful, racist, inclusive, oppressive, meaningful, or meaningless. To be completely honest, a year ago I would have struggled to describe what it looked like.

And, in the final analysis, I am not angry enough with our Democratic leaders to hate the new flag. Nor am I loyal enough to the Republican party to claim falsely that I loved the old flag. (Perhaps these are further reasons I was not endorsed?) But I also did not think the old flag was offensive enough to spend taxpayer money on jettisoning it. I simply don’t care about any of it.

I do care, however, about unity in our state and country. This political controversy is a perfect example of the disunity that concerns me.

The Upside-Down Spangled Banner

Another recent flag fight also received my attention only because of the partisanship it signifies. This one revolves around U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito and flags flown on his properties.

Justice Alito is a strong conservative. Because of this, left-leaning media and politicians are outraged that an American flag was flown upside down at his home in suburban Washington, D.C., the same way it was flown by some “stop the steal” folks. A few days later, the same sources began reporting that Justice Alioto’s vacation home flew the historic 1775 “Appeal to Heaven” flag that one or more rioters carried into the Capitol Building on January 6, 2021 (along with scores of other political symbols they brought).

Because of this, partisans on the left call for Justice Alito’s recusal, resignation, and removal from the court on some or all cases. This, despite Justice Alito’s statement that he was not involved with the turned over flag put out briefly and ambiguously by his wife, and despite the fact that the “Appeal to Heaven” flag has been revered for 250 years and flown over state capitols.

Although I agree that the U.S. flag should not be flown upside down, I see this anti-Alito hubbub as signifying nothing more than political desperation to win legal cases and – more fundamentally – elections. The point is to smear all things Republican.

This controversy, like the one in Minnesota, should serve as another red-flag warning of the danger of hyper partisanship.

Written by Quentin R. Wittrock, founder of Principle Based Politics. 

Look for his posts each week, as this blog will explore and promote the idea of principle in politics, both as to individual elected leaders and our federal government as an institution.

Principle Based Politics does not endorse or support any particular political candidate or party.

  • Quentin
    Posted at 01:53h, 11 June

    I’d be interested in readers’ comments on this.

  • Gary Hammer
    Posted at 12:40h, 11 June

    Quentin, once again I agree with your blog on this issue. Both major parties are programming their “members” for hatred of the other side. The parties are joining in with CNN, Fox and others to have their followers hate EVERYTHING about any opposing view. For me, it’s un-American and not civil.

  • James Loerts
    Posted at 12:47h, 11 June

    Notice how the so-called “controversy” always starts on the left? They think they are moving up when in reality they are simply tearing other people down. The fight itself seems to be what they live for. It must be a sad existence.

  • Mona
    Posted at 13:06h, 11 June

    Just last night as I saw the Fox9 special report on the new Twins uniform I thought, “wow. The Twins know how to incorporate more Minnesota symbols than the state of MN did”. I’ve never been a fan of MN’s past flag just because it was indecipherable from afar. Since I grew up in CA I could always from the time of early childhood pick out that flag. The new one to me doesn’t seem MN at all so I’m not a fan of the design, even with the explanation.

  • Gary Russell
    Posted at 14:16h, 11 June

    Right on again, Quentin. From someone who lives outside the 10,000 Lakes region but still loves your state, I agree we are losing our logic and reason over such things. Hyper partisanship at its worst, Can you imagine the productivity gain if we focused our thoughts and activities on constructive projects rather than destructive rhetoric? Not to mention the psychological improvement of our moods.

    Like you, I look forward to when “centrist” becomes in fashion and maybe even a bandwagon people want to jump on.

  • Wayne Johnson
    Posted at 15:29h, 11 June

    First, completely agree about the Minnesota flag controversy. As an Iowan, I’m merely a spectator. But your Minnesotan thoughts capture my sentiments on the topic.

    On the other hand, I would take issue with your view of Justice Alito’s flag display’s. These symbols have meaning. Otherwise, why were they used at all. When the symbols are related to the rule of law, regardless of which side is using them, an impartial justice should avoid their display. If the symbols of the left were displayed in such a manner by a court justice, the outcry from the right would be strident, dismissive, and seek political advantage. Nobody is innocent of these blind spots.

    • Quentin
      Posted at 15:44h, 11 June

      Thanks, Wayne. I always enjoy comments from Iowans. Regarding Mrs. Alito’s flags, my concern is that the left (which usually is defending womens’ rights against the conservative likes of Justice Alito himself) must be saying that Justice Alito should have forced his wife to take them down.

  • Connie Schlundt
    Posted at 16:01h, 11 June

    Quentin, I like your point–Alito should have forced his wife conform to his flag wishes? Haha! I think our new state flag is boring and, as others have said, doesn’t distinguish itself as Minnesotan in any way that doesn’t require explanation. But I don’t think it’s worth fighting. We have bigger fish to fry. Like excessive, out-of-control spending and taxation. We are now the #1 highest corporate tax state, and in the top 10 for individual taxes. And our GDP per capita is now lower than the national average (both per Star Tribune.) Thanks Democrats.

    • Quentin
      Posted at 16:22h, 11 June

      I like your Minnesotan point, Connie: bigger fish to fry!

  • Lynn Nehring
    Posted at 16:45h, 11 June

    I agree with you on this. What I wonder is how much the state is spending on this? I assume there are many public places that exhibit our old flag that will have to be changed. The Minnesota State Patrol includes the state seal on squad cars and uniforms.

    I’m hoping we can turn the trifecta in Minnesota around in November.

  • gerald t sicard
    Posted at 00:46h, 13 June

    The new state flag is awful I will never
    fly it. I`ll continue to use the old one.
    I love the Stars and Stripes as a flag and what it stands for.