As a child, I was asked to participate in one of the nation’s longest running traditional transfer of flag ceremonies. I still remember a part of my speech. “This flag, a symbol, unites the living and the heroic dead into one great cause – freedom and liberty….”
I pledged allegiance to the flag throughout my public school years, and to one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. In my early school years, we recited the lord’s prayer along with the pledge of allegiance. I did not understand the necessity to separate church and state. I did not understand that indivisible meant unable to be separated. I did not understand that freedom included the freedom to not be irrevocably harmed. I did not understand that justice for all meant equal justice for all, equal rights for all, equal protections for all, equal opportunity for all.
I did not understand what it meant to pledge allegiance to the flag – not direct allegiance to the principles of one nation offering liberty and justice for all. I did not understand that about half of the adults in America do not believe in one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. That about half of the Supreme Court do not believe in one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
I did not understand that most of my classmates faced challenges and visible identities that made them divisible from our allegiance to liberty and justice for all. They,we, I, were different from some athletic male white normative standard figment.
On bad days, I thought my school was some form of insane asylum – where nurture and equality and truth and systemic understandings were banned. On good days, like the escapees from theKing of Hearts, I would find some whimsey, a bearable lightness of being, sung and danced to the tune of Doris Day’s Que Sera, Sera.
A flag carries an identity. It is semiotic. But its fabric and form do not translate into principles or challenges or investments in what will be. Or what should be.
There’s a certain magic that comes with moving under your own power. It’s freeing. Being able to sustain your own transportation requirements releases you from the constant care and maintenance of gas-powered vehicles. It means you aren’t bound to someone else’s schedule or the price of oil. There’s nothing else quite like it.