Piss on the American Flag
By Steve Gillman
The American flag is revered like no other symbol by the patriotic
citizens of the United States. Of course, it is not an "American"
flag, which would have to represent all the countries of North,
South and Central America, but a U.S. flag. This ignorance is
not an incidental point, because flags are all about ignorance.
I once saw a young boy throw a small American flag on the
ground in front of his father, because his brothers dared him
to do it. It meant nothing to the boy, who hadn't yet been poisoned
with patriotism and sacred symbols. Without hesitation the father
violently grabbed his son and, turning red in the face, shook
him and screamed at him, telling him that he is never to let
the flag touch the ground.
This, I suggest, is the inevitable result of a worshiping
of flags, and even of patriotism in general. Violence and irrationality
come from such bowing before symbols, as well as from any group
identification that is based not on shared values, but only on
membership in the group. Total loyalty to a group or country
precludes loyalty to peace or truth.
What Is Patriotism?
The word comes from the Latin "patria" or fatherland."
It has been defined as: "The loyalty that all citizens owe
to their country or nation." Notice this loyalty is assumed
to be a obligation, and not to ideals, but to a country. Right
or wrong, you are supposed to be loyal to a place and group of
people because you happen to live there.
In practice, of course, such patriotism is used by governments
as a tool of control. It is insinuated or outright stated that
we are allowed to argue about the course of things right up until
a war starts (how generous), but then we must support what "our"
country is doing, without any rational thought about whether
it is right or wrong.
Now, it is true that there are more benign definitions of
patriotism, such as "Love of and devotion to one's country."
In practice, though, the net effect of all forms of patriotism
seems to be a kind of blind following of whatever powers are
best at manipulating the symbols. Some will claim that their
patriotism is based on ideals of their country, like "freedom,"
for example. But they are rarely clear about what freedom means,
and they will stand by as real freedoms are attacked in the name
The other effect of patriotism, even the "positive"
types, is a crude group identification that separates "us"
from "them." If it was true that patriotism was primarily
about political ideals, like "equal rights for all,"
then such "patriots" would feel equally strong feelings
of solidarity with the peoples of all countries that shared such
values. How likely does that seem? It is about us and them, and
that leads inevitably to conflict.
What's Wrong With the American Flag?
Why "Piss On The American Flag?" Why would I use
that title? More on that in a moment, but first let me clarify
where I am coming from.
I love this country, but what do I mean by that? I grew up
here, so certainly it feels more like home than other countries.
I love the mountains here in Colorado. I like some parts of the
culture here. I also love the ideas which lead to the creation
of this nation, and which are still found somewhat in the "American
spirit," of the people here.
I believe in individual rights. I like the concept of property
rights that is a part of the law here. I advocate and enjoy the
right to free speech. I wouldn't want to live where I am not
permitted to say "piss on the flag."
I CHOOSE to live here, and the reasons for that include the
ones above. I have a business I can operate from anywhere in
the world, so I could move to another country more easily than
most. But I am here. I can't relate to intellectuals who seem
to hate the United States and glorify places like Vietnam or
Cuba, yet never leave their comfortable homes here. If I thought
Cuba was a better place for me to live, I would be there.
More than that. If someday Cuba IS a better place for me and
my wife to live, we WILL live there. I have no allegiance to
the land, you see, or to the people living on it. I prefer a
loyalty to right principles. I happened to be born here, and
I choose to live here, but if the United States became a place
where rights are routinely violated and Cuba became the land
of freedom, I would go there.
Now, why did I use that inflammatory title? Because it occurred
to me one day that if I said that in the average bar or public
gathering, I would be in danger. We are unfortunately, a land
of violent people. What that risk suggests, is that many, if
not most people who live here, have more respect for the symbol
than for anything they might pretend it represents.
That is the nature of symbols. They become rallying points
for a crude group mentality that is dangerous, contrary to my
values, and is easily manipulated to bring bad men to power.
It doesn't matter what they originally represent. History shows
that all such symbols eventually are used to justify hurting
The United States was founded on some good principles, even
if they were applied inconsistently from the start. Its government
and people have in many ways and places been a force for good
in the world. But they have also done many evil things. From
the slaughtering of Native Americans to the jailing of citizens
in concentration camps because of their Japanese ancestry, examples
of bad deeds abound.
Now consider how a government gets people to agree to or tolerate
such evils. Appealing to the principles of individual rights
or other principles of freedom wouldn't make any sense. No. It
is by waving the flag and appealing to patriotism that governments
gain support for or acceptance of such crimes. With no patriotism
or flag worship it would be much more difficult to commit such
As a more recent example, consider the attempt to prohibit
"flag burning." There can hardly be a clearer example
of the kind of political speech that the first amendment was
meant to protect. This was no argument about a fire hazard, or
we would outlaw all Fourth-of-July fireworks. The entire point
of the proposed law was to stop individuals from saying something.
That, after all, is what a man is doing when he burns a flag.
More than half of all the people in this country were in favor
of such a law. Understand that this means most "good citizens"
here would put a man in jail for making a political statement
they don't approve of. So much for the American flag representing
high ideals. As all flags do, this one has degenerated into the
hypnotic symbol of the mob. The mob or "citizens" would
happily take away a man's freedom in its name.
So when I say "Piss On The American Flag," it is
to wake people up to its hypnotic power to cause them to do harm.
It is not anti-American, unless you believe that a symbol is
more important than principles. I am saying piss on all flags,
for they do not deserve our respect. Hold up high moral ideals
instead, or else flags will hold them down.