The American flag has strayed from its original meaning for many in the country and become a political symbol that divides people in the United States, The New York Times reported on Sunday.
The American flag’s very design at its 1777 inception symbolized unity, the joining of the 13 colonies, said John Vile, a professor of political science and a dean at Middle Tennessee State University, who added that politicizing the flag is a perversion of its original intent.
“It’s E Pluribus Unum — from many, one,” he said, citing the Latin motto on the Great Seal of the United States. “If the pluribus overwhelms the unum, then what do we have left?”
Approximately 70% of Americans say the flag makes them feel proud, according to recent YouGov survey, but while 66% of Republicans said they associated the flag with their own party, only 34% of Democrats said the same.
The New York Times illustrated this divide by speaking with people in Southold, on the North Fork of Long Island’s Suffolk County.
Peter Treiber Jr. has the American flag painted on his potato truck on the side of the road as a way to draw attention to the produce he sells on his family’s farm.
He recalled that at a local greenmarket where he sells produce, he had difficulty making a deal until, he said, he allowed his liberal leanings slip out in conversation with a customer.
“She said, ‘Oh, whew. You know, I wasn’t so sure about you, I thought you were some flag-waving something-or-other,’” Treiber, recalled the woman at the greenmarket saying and citing the flag on his truck.
“That’s why she was apprehensive of interacting with me,” he said, adding that “it shows the dichotomy of the country that a flag can mean that. That I had to think, ‘Do I need to reconsider having that out there?’”
Illustrating the point is David Surozenski’s home just across the street from Treiber’s farm, according to the Times.
Surozenski, a Republican, has on his flagpole in his front yard the American flag, as well as those of the Marines and the Coast Guard, where he has children serving.
He said he was pressured by friends to add Trump banners and “Make America Great Again” signs to his display, but has refused, saying “That’s not the way I was brought up. The American flag political? No.”
John Hocker, a Republican who said he sometimes votes Democratic, told the Times that he also felt the flag had lost its meaning of unity.
He said that too many Americans were alterting the flag to fit their own identities, citing as examples with rainbow stripes as a symbol of gay pride, or blue stripes to show solidarity with the police.
Hocker said he flies the American flag, because “There is a lot of history with this country, some that maybe people don’t like today, and some that people are being judged for today for what they did 300 years ago.”
But he insisted that “It’s still our country and every good and bad thing made it our country,” stressing that is what the flag represents.
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