Flag Day, Yet Another Chest-Thumping Nationalist Holiday

Americans celebrate Flag Day every year on 14 June. The day marks the adoption of the US flag by the Second Continental Congress in 1777. President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the holiday in 1916; Congress made it official in August 1949.

I took to Twitter to share my thoughts on the holiday.

Flag Day—like Independence Day, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, Patriot Day, Loyalty Day, and a litany of others—is just one more excuse to have yet another brainless, chest-thumping, America-can-do-no-wrong hyper-nationalist US holiday.

One Sam Stickley asked, in response, “Can’t I appreciate the ideals the flag represents without turning a blind eye to the bad things we’ve done?”

I replied noting that US crimes against humanity aren’t just “done” in past tense; they are ongoing. Since 1990 alone, US-led wars have killed at least four million Muslims—almost three million in just Iraq. And this is a conservative estimate.

Stickley countered saying “Yes and that’s terrible, but it’s not like people are waving the flag in support of war crimes.” I noted that nationalist holidays, by their very nature, do not allow nuance. They are about blindly supporting a nation no matter what.

They are about dogmatically supporting your nation’s military and wars. I drew attention to the Physicians for Social Responsibility report that, as I have written about before, found that the US invasion and occupation of Iraq led to, at bare minimum, one million dead.

The ongoing US occupation of Afghanistan, also according to the report, has killed at least 220,000 people. Wittingly or not, Flag Day celebrates this—regardless of the intentions of those who celebrate the holiday. Flag Day is a holiday that exists to bolster nationalism, and to increase support for these crimes.

In all, Arundhati Roy shares my thoughts on Flag Day

“Nationalism of one kind or another was the cause of most of the genocide of the twentieth century. Flags are bits of colored cloth that governments use first to shrink-wrap people’s brains and then as ceremonial shrouds to bury the dead,” Arundhati Roy says.

Or, one can turn to US historian, and World War II veteran, Howard Zinn for further thoughts on a vapid holiday like Flag Day.

“There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people” Zinn famously remarked.