Gary Horton | Pledge Your Allegiance to America, Itself

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“I pledge allegiance, to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

If you pay attention to the news you’ve seen clips of the “Yacht Owners for Trump” (or boat owners for Trump for those less tax-relief blessed). Down Florida way, hundreds of boats paraded the shoreline, flying various versions of Trump flags, generally side by side, but sometimes sporting only Trump flags all by themselves. 

The Trump boat float has become “a thing.” Two weekends ago, another Trump boat flotilla headed out in Lake Travis, Texas. While the lake itself was calm, the large number of boats parading closely created cascading wakes that actually sunk five boats. Perhaps the moral of this news story is, “Pride comes before you’re sunk.”

Boats and Trump flags are now knotted together. Right here in Channel Islands harbor every 30th or so vessel sports Trump flags. I’m sure in the South and Midwest, harbors and marinas are deluged with waving Trump flags. Sometimes Trump flags are flown alongside U.S. flags, sometimes below on the same pole (God forbid atop the U.S. flag), and sometimes they are flown proudly by themselves.

Trump flags come in a variety of formats. All-red ones (makes sense with the Trump-Russia connection), all-blue ones (not sure on this one) and, of course, the red, white, and blue ones. Some say, “Keep America Great,” and others the old version, “Make America Great Again” (as in, Trump gets a Tonya Harding do-over after knee-clubbing the nation). But the one that really grabs attention is the version superimposing Donald Trump’s mug OVER a real stars-and-stripes American flag.

Altering an American flag used to be called, “defacing it.” To place a political operative’s image on top the flag is to conflate the two. It’s creepy, really. Donald Trump must love these things. To know that his fan base loves him as much as the American flag itself – which stands for our republic – has to be oh so rewarding for such a narcissist seeking adulation and praise.

As this nation’s citizens, we are called to pledge our allegiance to the flag — and to the republic for which it stands – at countless public events. As kids, we pledged our allegiance every day. Every classroom had an American flag. Auditoriums had American and Californian flags. We grew up knowing there was something special about these things – that you didn’t let them “touch the ground” – they were handled with respect and dignity, and that you were never to deface, burn, or dishonor them.

Well, the Vietnam war brought out the angry flag burners and then “fashion” sliced and diced the flag into bikinis, T-shirts, jeans pockets and country-western jackets. Over time, along with a general reduction in American civics, respect for the uniqueness and sanctity of our flag has been in decline. More importantly, there’s been a parallel reduction in the understanding of what “allegiance to the republic” itself means.

Our allegiance, in brief, means allegiance to the U.S. Constitution. Allegiance to the laws of the land. Allegiance in support of our nation’s efforts… right down to paying legally due taxes. Mostly, I feel, it’s the understanding that above all in our public lives is supporting the Constitution and the nation it framed.

The Constitution, of course, isn’t any one person or candidate or party. Heaven knows, neither is this nation. We are of many, one. And we’re more and more diverse, every day. We are knitted together, sewn as one, through the Constitution, through the Bill of Rights, through the laws of the land, through our battles for freedom, through our 50 diverse states, and through our often complex and challenged history together as this nation.

Knowing our nation’s deep sacrifices and steep prices paid by so many in our history makes our flag that much more special as a unique symbol of who we are and just what we serve allegiance to. The flag’s message is not to be diluted or confused. One would never think to fly a Confederate flag below, atop, or alongside the United States flag. Think of the message that would send and the cheapening it would speak to our principles.

The frightening thing of the Trump flag “thing” is that it messages an “equalness.” An equivalency. That one is the same as the other, and that allegiance to Trump is itself allegiance to the United States. And, if you think I’m running too hard with this – ask some of Trump’s “committed base” and they’ll tell you it is.

Folks may support Trump for reasons of their own choice. But within this, support of the United States, the nation, must always remain supreme over any person or president. No president must be viewed as supreme to the law. Supporting a president over constitutional norms cannot allow to be mainstreamed. Such is the path to a Putinistic degradation of democracy.

It was the sight of flag with Trump’s face imposed over the stars and stripes that really caught my alarm. Whether or not these particular flag fliers are aware, that flag indeed conflates and confuses Trump the man with America itself. 

All this is too scary when President Trump himself speaks of “negotiating” a third term in the White House, and when he says, “we’ll see” whether he honors the election outcome. And when his base cheers these things, none of which are constitutional.

Myself? I’ll fly an American flag all by itself. And stick my Biden sign in the yard, where it belongs.

Above all, regardless of our choice of candidate, should be our common commitment to nation and Constitution first, and let everything else fall in line after that.

Gary Horton’s “Full Speed to Port!” has appeared in The Signal since 2006. The opinions expressed in his column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Signal or its editorial board.

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