Welcoming flags

President* Trump,

I wonder how many people have noticed the flags outside of the Fab Fives’ (Queer Eye) Philadelphia home base – there’s a gay pride flag and an American flag. There might be a Pennsylvania state flag too; I can’t remember now and I’ve not been able to pull up a picture of their front door. I know for sure, though, that they have both the pride and American flags up.

Our friends up the street also have an American flag up and it looks really nice with their “Black Lives Matter” sign.

I think I’ve made clear bunches of times before that I’m not especially into patriotic symbols or pride in nation stuff. The easier, US centered, reasons include our deeply racist history and present, our persistently shabby treatment of women, our shameful neglect of so many of our children, and the vapid consumer culture that threatens our civic engagement and our planet. I also think there’s a somewhat harder to pin down, scary slippery slope aspect to patriotism, which is that it all too easily can end up so distorted and engorged with fear-fueled rage that we can find ourselves aghast at a party’s national convention that’s all about spewing fire and brimstone. Clearly, if we aren’t careful, pride in country can turn into a cult-ish sort of deal like the “one true religion” idea that would just as soon wipe everyone who doesn’t believe the same things in the same ways as the OTR off the planet. Basically, the seeds of a selfish, greedy, nihilistic way of viewing the world are buried in patriotic soil and they can take off like kudzu if we aren’t careful.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

At least up until now, most people have seemed to need to organize themselves in more or less cooperative collectives to survive, and ideally, to thrive. What if pairing the American flag and the pride flag outside the home base of a show starring four gay men and a non-binary person is telling the world’s inhabitants that this country is big enough, secure enough, welcoming enough, and loving enough to give a home to everyone and we’ll figure out how to get along so we can all survive and thrive? It’s the big, patchwork quilt tent idea of country (albeit one that still needs to engage in a truth and reconciliation process around systemic racism and sexism/misogyny) as opposed to the “we are THE best exclusive club on the planet and if you don’t look (act, love, think, believe) like us you are NOT welcome” model you all clearly prefer.

Maybe there’s a future path for humanity that will involve completely dissolving all the nation-state boundaries and ideologies; John Lennon thought it possible and Star Trek is sort of based on this premise (though it really just took the good country/bad country paradigm and blew it out to the galaxy so maybe not). Maybe, but almost certainly not on any timeline I can currently imagine.

Maybe it’s my conditioning, but still, it warms my heart to see the American flag paired with such explicitly welcoming symbols. It’s pretty likely that I can’t help but be predisposed to feel something positive when I see the American flag and my warmed heart deal is more a reflex than a considered response, but I do think it’s good for all of us (really, all of us) when our flag is paired with symbols of tolerance and inclusion. When we fly welcoming flags atop our ginormous, colorful, eclectic tent we make clear that everyone who wants to be in here, can be.

May we all be safe to fly our welcoming flags.
May we be happy when there are explicit efforts to reclaim the American flag for all of us.
May we be strong in our opposition to misappropriations of our symbols.
May we adopt a stubborn resolve not to cede what is good about US to any exclusive cult.

Tracy Simpson

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