Recently I saw a post about an officer in Aransas Pass, Texas who braved Hurricane Harvey, the deadly wind storm ravaging the Texan coast this weekend, in order to rescue a US flag left out to languish in the rain, high winds, and perilous floods. The official Facebook page of the viral article lauds the man as a hero for braving the weather in order to save the flag from “desecration and dishonor”. After glancing at the comment section of the article of the aforementioned Facebook page I couldn’t help but to wonder what in the world is wrong with conservatives and why do they care so much about the flag anyway?
Looking more in depth, the demographics of the page consists mostly of middle aged to older white men and women applauding the admirable decision, with comments ranging from calling the man a hero to all caps cheers for “RESPECTING AND HONORING OUR FLAG”. On the flip side, the same article has been parodied on popular Twitter accounts garnering thousands of views with captions ranging from “what in the world is wrong with white people” to “imagine valuing a piece of fabric more than you do literally anything else”. The juxtaposition between how conservatives and democrats view the American flag and America in general is another article all together, especially when you consider minority vs. majority opinions, though suffice it to say, the difference is fairly overt.
Conservatism has more recently been linked to irrational nationalism ever since the end of the election. The idea that any valid critique of the government and what it historically has represented for marginalized communities is inherently disloyal, disregards those of us who look at America with a more wholistic, past and present viewpoint. The nation has certainly seen it with the rise of Colin Kaepernick’s silent kneeling during the playing of the national anthem. Vitriolic, “go back to Africa if you hate it so much here” rhetoric, reminiscent of those who jeered black Americans like Jackie Robinson as they integrated into main stream sports, has become the go to response to any democratic disdain for the current political climate. These acts of conservative dismissal are prohibitive to any thoughtful discussion of why different Americans view America differently and are a blatant contradiction of what the GOP has recently made their party platform. The same people who question and even defend the removal of racist and staunchly, anti-American Confederate statues are the same people who call Kaepernick and other dissenters of “American” values, traitors, disrespectful, and yes anti-American. Patriotism by these illogical standards is carried by an empty worship of things or archaic ideals. You must stand up for the pledge or national anthem because to not do so indicates a displeasure in the status quo and that’s simply ungrateful and therefore, traitorous. This definition doesn’t offer any marginalized voices a differing viewpoint on the horrendous history that those symbols indeed have stood for historically, but also contemporarily. The American flag has flown as women didn’t have the right to vote, as minorities were treated as inferiors, and as LGBT persons have had their rights denied and even more recently, rescinded. It seems that those who denigrate those facts would rather ignore that history as a way of staying “patriotic” rather than acknowledging minority grievances and fixing contemporary issues which would allow for every American to share the same sort of pride within their nation and its flag (though still not at that level of “lets die trying to save this symbol” because that’s still just illogical).
To answer the entitled question, conservatives care so much about the flag because it represents everything that America has always been…only just to them, fair, non-discriminatory, white, and patriotic to a nationalistic fault. To value a manufactured piece of fabric, more than likely mass produced in a foreign country if we’re being honest, so much so that you would genuinely be willing to brave hurricane winds rather than seek out human beings or hell, even a stray dog to assist, is objectively asinine. It’s important to take into consideration how many conservatives view patriotism with an impassioned but often myopic gaze, though regardless of the sentimental value that you personally place on the American flag, individual human life isn’t replaceable. Walmart brand loincloths with polished sticks attached however, certainly are.